So what happened to our summer?

28 08 2015

Our Chief Scientist Professor Dame Julia Slingo OBE FRS reflects on this summer’s weather and what has influenced it:

No-one can deny that we have had a pretty disappointing summer with a lot of unsettled weather and only a few warm spells, especially through July and August. Our weather has been dominated by low pressure over and to the west of the country that has brought us periods of heavy rain from the south – what we call the Spanish Plume. So what has been happening?

If we look beyond our shores there have been some big changes in the global climate this year. El Niño is in full flight, disturbing weather patterns around the world. The low pressure that has dominated our weather is part of a pattern of waves in the jet stream around the world that has brought crippling heat waves to places like Poland and Japan. And, looking back over past El Niños, you could have expected that a more unsettled summer might be on the cards for the UK. Closer to home the North Atlantic is more than 2 degrees colder than normal. It seems quite likely that the unusually cold North Atlantic has strengthened and pushed our jet stream south, also contributing to the low pressure systems that have dominated our weather.

So could all this have been anticipated? Seasonal forecasts for this summer suggested that temperatures and rainfall would be near normal. However, as the season progressed all the leading models around the world failed to capture the signal for unsettled weather over the UK. We all know that forecasting months and seasons ahead is still in its infancy and much more research needs to be done. On the other hand our day-to-day forecasts have been really successful in allowing us to warn of bad weather, highlighting yet again the benefits of our research that has delivered year-on-year and decade-by-decade improvements in forecasting skill. Our 5-day forecast is now as accurate as our 1-day forecast was when I started my career. This enables us to make so many decisions that keep us safe, protect our property, keep our infrastructure running and even when to go out and enjoy the sunshine!

All of this cannot happen without improvements to research and technology, and this week the first phase of our new supercomputer went live, five weeks ahead of schedule. This will enable us to provide even more accurate and relevant weather and climate forecasts to all of us, our government, emergency responders, and our many other customers at home and abroad.

The news that the BBC has decided that the Met Office won’t be their main weather provider when the current contract ends has raised the question of where will the new provider get their information from. It’s important to understand that no weather forecasting organization, whether it is a National Met Service like the Met Office or an independent company, can provide a service without a forecast, and that it is the leading meteorological agencies, like the Met Office, that build and deliver those forecasts. So whoever the BBC chooses to deliver their weather services in future, you can be sure that Met Office observations and forecasts will continue to be at the heart of them. We are committed to driving forward the skill and usefulness of our forecasts and ensuring that all of us benefit from the advances the Met Office makes in the coming years with our new supercomputer.





Met Office in the news – BBC weather contract

23 08 2015

You may have seen reports in the media today that the Met Office won’t be the BBCs main weather provider when the current contract ends.

Obviously everyone at the Met Office is disappointed that we won’t be supplying weather presenters and graphics to the BBC in the future.

MetOffice

As a trusted British institution we work at the heart of Government, with a wide range of customers, and with emergency responders to maintain resilience and public safety. We will be working with the BBC and others to ensure the nations official weather warnings are broadcast in a consistent way; and that our advice underpins forecasts when it matters most. We are also supporting our popular team of presenters to ensure clarity on their future.

Steve Noyes, our Operations and Customer Services Director, said: “Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.

“This is disappointing news, but we will be working to make sure that vital Met Office advice continues to be a part of BBC output.

“Ranked No 1 in the world for forecast accuracy, people trust our forecasts and warnings. There are lots of ways to access these both now and in the future – via the Met Office app, website, and video forecasts, as well as through television and other digital news providers.”

Much of our 93 years of working with the BBC has been based solely on radio and television forecasts. The world is changing though, and nowadays people access weather information in many ways.

As ever, everyone will be able to access trusted Met Office forecasts and warnings on our own digital channels like our app and mobile website, delivered as text, symbols and videos. You can embed that information easily in your own website too. We continue to provide our expert forecasts on independent television networks and there are also now many other news organisations increasingly sharing Met Office content online.





Win the chance to be a weather presenter for the day!

10 08 2015

Are you interested in why rain has fallen, where the sun is shining or how strong wind gusts are – and what this means? If so, the Met Office’s WOW – Weather Observation Website – enables you to be part of the weather forecast from your own back garden.

The Weather Observation Website is the perfect way to stay occupied during the summer holidays, whether you’re interested in being a meteorologist, presenter or scientist, or you just want to know what the weather is doing in your area.

Picture_blogWe’re giving one lucky winner (aged 8-13) the opportunity to present the daily weather forecast from the Met Office’s TV studio. The weather forecast is watched online by hundreds of thousands of people every day through the Met Office’s home page, social media and websites such as Yahoo! and MSN.

As part of the experience, the winner will get the lowdown on how the weather works from one of our meteorologists – detailing how forecasts are created and how this is turned into the weather report seen on TV.

After some training the winner will receive a tour of the Met Office – including getting to see our supercomputer; one of the top ten most powerful computers in the world. Finally, their skills will be put to the test in the Met Office’s media centre as they present the weather forecast for the following day.

Entrants need to go the Met Office WOW website to find the answer to this question:

What example search is on the WOW homepage? Is it:

  1. Exeter, UK
  2. Manchester, UK
  3. Bristol, UK

Answers must be sent to MetOfficecompetition@3-monkeys.co.uk, and we will contact the winner by the 1 September 2015 to confirm their prize.

The competition goes live today (10 August) and closes on 28 August 2015. To find out more about the competition, visit the First News website.

Entrants must be between 8 and 13 years of age and the winner must be accompanied by a parent, family member or legal guardian over the age of 18 years old.

Good luck!

Met Office Terms and conditions

  • You must be between the ages of 8-13 to enter the competition
  • Met Office will provide travel expenses up to a value of £100
  • Overnight accommodation will not be provided
  • The winner presenting the actual Met Office daily weather broadcast is subject to the winning child being able to present the weather in a clear and competent fashion, although it is also intended to entertain. The winner will be trained on the day to do present the weather, but if the final presentation is deemed to be of a standard which cannot be aired, the winner will instead receive a copy of their presentation to take home and keep
  • The Met Office will endeavour to accommodate the winner at a date suitable to the winner. However, they must be able to get to the Met Office’s headquarters in Exeter on a weekday, for the hours of 10am-4pm before the end of November. The date must be mutually agreeable to the Met Office
  • The winner must be accompanied by a parent, family member or legal guardian over the age of 18 years old
  • The winner is able to bring a friend should they wish – however only the winning child will have the chance to present the daily weather broadcast




Met Office in the Media – 7 August 2015

7 08 2015

Earth from space

An article published today makes a number of claims about Met Office weather and climate science.

It would be difficult to cover all the points raised in this blog, but here we look at the science and facts behind a few of the assertions.

The first decadal forecast issued in 2007

We did indeed publish the first groundbreaking decadal forecast in 2007. It had two headline statements:

  1. that half of all years after 2009 would be warmer globally than the record year at that time (1998) – This is doing well so far with two out of five years (2010 and 2014) warmer than 1998 and given current temperature levels, it’s likely this will be 3 out of 6 by the end of this year, consistent with our forecast for 2015
  2. that 2014 would be 0.3 °C ± 0.21 °C warmer than 2004 (giving a range of 0.09 °C to 0.51 °C) – WMO figures show the global temperature for 2014 was 0.13 °C higher than that in 2004; which is within the range of the forecast

Adjustments to global temperature data

The article says we adjust our temperature figures ‘without justifying why it is scientifically appropriate’. In fact, numerous peer-reviewed science papers from research centres across the world provide detailed explanations of how and why datasets are adjusted to ensure they are as accurate as possible. This is available for anyone to view and analyse.

The conclusion that the world has warmed is supported by independent analysis of global temperature data.

European heatwaves

We published a paper stating heatwaves like that seen across Europe in 2003 would become more frequent under climate change. Subsequent observations back up these conclusions; 2006 saw comparable heat in the UK, 2010 saw intense heat across eastern Europe, and there’s been a prolonged heatwave across much of Europe this year (although not in the UK).

Weather extremes

Met Office research supports climate research centres around the world which concludes we expect more extremes of heat and rainfall as the world continues to warm. The article says this ‘simply hasn’t happened’ but in fact, research shows there has been an increase in both. While here in the UK, we have also seen an increase in the number of temperature and rainfall records.

The article also states ‘the Met Office did all it could to claim the rain that caused last year’s exceptional flooding… was the worst ever recorded.’ We’ve done studies (here and here) of the exceptional rainfall in winter 2013/14., which across southern England was one of the, if not the most, exceptional periods for winter rainfall in around 250 years. Here’s a fuller research piece about the winter 2013/14 storms.

Greenland ice

The article says that we claimed Greenland ice would melt in future due to global warming. We did, and we were clear that it would take thousands of years to happen, not ‘any time soon’. Observations show Greenland has been losing 300 gigatonnes (1 gigatonne is 1000,000,000 tonnes) of ice a year over the last 12 years and research shows surface temperatures have clearly risen.

Other claims

A series of other claims are made in the article, mostly focusing on our forecasts over seasonal to decadal timescales. The Met Office is at the forefront of this pioneering area of research and we are increasing skill in this area.

According to standards set by the World Meteorological Organization the Met Office is ranked as the most accurate global met service in the world. We will continue our research in collaboration with our global scientific partners to improve this vital area of science.





Wet and dull July

31 07 2015

UPDATE: The figures below have now been updated to include data from the 1-31 July 2015.


July 2015 was cool, dull and wet across the UK according to Met Office statistics for 1-31 July.

The month began with a record-breaking heatwave, with hot, humid air moving in from the continent.  36.7 °C was recorded at Heathrow 1 July, the highest recorded temperature in the UK since August 2003.

However the rest of the month has been characterized by cooler and often more unsettled conditions, particularly in the north, as a result of a westerly Atlantic air flow.  Rainfall has been above average in most areas, particularly across parts of East Anglia, central and eastern Scotland.

MeantempJuly2015 RainfallJuly2015

minimum temperature mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
Jul 1 – 31 2015 Act (°C)   Diff from avg (°C)   Act (°C) Diff from avg (°C) Act (hrs) % of avg Act (mm) % of avg
UK 10.3 -0.6 14.4 -0.7 164.8 96 109.5 140
England 11.2 -0.4 15.8 -0.5 191.9 99   82.3 131
Wales 10.8 -0.3 14.4 -0.8 175.1 98 112.4 121
Scotland 8.7 -0.9 12.2 -1.0 125.3 89 152.4 153
N Ireland 9.6 -1.1 13.3 -1.3 117.4 84 116.8 144

The south-east has seen some drier and more settled weather with temperatures near average, although there has also been some changeable weather here with over 20mm of rain falling on the 24 July and some cooler temperatures and strong winds on 26 and 27 July.

Elsewhere temperatures have been below average, particularly in the west and north, and it has been a rather dull month with sunshine totals being below average across much of the country.

Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910. You can explore our climate data on our website.





A summer forecasting challenge for Friday

22 07 2015

Forecasting rainfall for the UK during the summer has always posed a more difficult challenge than other times of year – and the weather for this Friday is a perfect example.

The various computer models the Met Office uses to forecast the weather differ on how a low pressure system forming to the west of the UK will behave.

We know that it will bring some wind and rain to the southern half of the UK, but there is no consensus on exactly which track it will take across the country and precisely when it will arrive.

Below you can see the area most likely to see some persistent rain during Friday and into Saturday. There is a 30% chance that rainfall could extend further north than this. The system is likely to bring up to 15-25 mm of rain and winds of up to 30 mph, mainly in exposed areas.

Forecast uncertainties 24-25-July

Currently there are no plans to issue a weather warning for this event, but clearly it has the potential to affect people’s plans for Friday now summer holidays are in full swing.  You can hear more about Friday’s forecast in the video below.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation as it develops to ensure everyone has the clearest picture of what’s likely for Friday, so it’s worth staying up to date with the forecast over the next couple of days.

The current situation is a good example of why summer is tricky because at this time of year the details are vitally important.

Will the showers be inland or at the coast, when will low cloud clear to let warm sunshine through? In winter this might not be so important, but in summer when many are outside making the most of all the UK has to offer it can make a huge difference to your day.

Familiar features of our landscape such as hills, valleys or the sea can cause subtle variations in heat and moisture and therefore dominate the local weather outcome.  This can result in big differences in the weather in quite small areas, it can be sunny on the beach but raining inland or a village fair could be rained off while the next village down the road is dry.

At this time of year it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on the forecast as the situation can change from day to day.

We’re always harnessing new science and technology to make forecasting ever more accurate and summer forecasting is a major focus for future gains.





One year on – A look back to last winter

17 02 2015

This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day storm, which also marked the end of a particularly stormy three-month period. A new review article – ‘From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014’ – written by 16 Met Office co-authors reviews the accuracy of our forecasting and warning of severe weather during winter 2013-14, and assesses its performance.

The paper concludes that the “prolonged period of high impact weather experienced in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013/14 was very well forecast by the operational tools available across space and time scales.”

Here Huw Lewis, the paper’s lead author, and Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service, look at the extreme weather last year and the role of the Met Office in communicating severe weather through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Analysis chart 1200 GMT 26 January 2014

Winter 2013/2014 in the United Kingdom was remarkable. The country was battered by at least 12 major winter storms over a three month period and was officially assessed as the stormiest period that the United Kingdom has experienced for at least 20 years.

The series of storms resulted in the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766), significantly wetter than the previous wettest winter in 1914/1915.

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

Snapshot of UK rain radar surface rainfall rate for 2200 GMT on 23 December 2013

The extreme weather caused widespread flooding throughout Southern England and coastal damage – most notably in the South West and Norfolk coasts. The impact of the severe winter storms on individuals, businesses and the government were substantial, including several fatalities, widespread power cuts and damaged infrastructure.

Recent advances in forecasting, technology and the scientific developments in meteorology have been considerable. These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago. During the course of last winter, the Met Office was able to use these forecasts to warn of any severe weather well in advance. In the case of the St Jude’s Day storm at the end of October 2013 warnings went out to the Government and the public five days before the storm even existed.

rainfall

As the accuracy of weather forecasts has evolved, so has the communication of the potential impacts of severe weather. The National Severe Weather Warning Service enables more ‘weather decisions’ which in turn help to minimise the consequences of severe weather. The Met Office was at the heart of the government response to the storms, providing advice on weather impacts through the National Severe Weather Warning Service and Civil Contingency Advisors. The Met Office also worked very closely with both the national and regional media, who in turn played a key role in ensuring that the public were fully informed about the potential impacts of any up-coming weather.

In addition to the Public Weather Service, commercial partners and customers were also provided with detailed updates throughout the period in order for them to plan effectively for logistical issues. Together, these advanced warnings helped authorities, businesses and individuals to be better prepared to take mitigating actions.

Driving further improvements in accuracy and therefore reducing the lead time and increasing the detail of severe weather warnings is one of the Met Office’s key priorities . The ultimate aim is to improve the potential for users to plan preventative measures for severe weather events much further ahead. Underpinning all of these developments is a continuing programme of scientific research and access to enhanced supercomputing over the next few years.





White Christmas?

26 12 2014

Most people woke up yesterday to a green Christmas rather than a white one.

Snow was recorded at our observation site at Lerwick and some sleet was also recorded at Wick between 11am and 12pm, however for the rest of the UK it remained dry and clear throughout Christmas Day.

To find out what the forecast for your area is for the next five days visit our website: metoffice.gov.uk





Cyclone Quartet Straddle the Pacific Ocean

8 08 2014

In the last few days a quartet of tropical cyclones have been active across the Pacific Ocean. For a period of time all four were simultaneously of hurricane intensity (winds greater than 74 mph). This is the first time this has happened in the Pacific Ocean for 12 years. Here we take a look at each of the storms and their likely impact.

Typhoons Halong and Genevieve and Hurricanes Iselle and Julio seen on 7 August 2014 Original images courtesy of University of Wisconsin

Typhoons Halong and Genevieve and Hurricanes Iselle and Julio seen on 7 August 2014
Original images courtesy of University of Wisconsin

Typhoon Halong formed near the US island of Guam and has been active in the west Pacific for over 10 days. It is now heading north towards south-western Japan and is set to bring strong winds and heavy rain this weekend to the area only recently affected by Typhoon Neoguri.

Typhoon Genevieve originated in the east Pacific and for a long time was a weak storm, even weakening to a remnant low pressure area at one stage. However, in the central Pacific Genevieve rapidly strengthened as it traversed an area of warm waters and gained hurricane status. As it crossed the International Dateline Hurricane Genevieve became Typhoon Genevieve. There is no difference between hurricanes and typhoons except that the former is used to describe tropical cyclones east of the Dateline and the latter to the west of the Dateline. Genevieve looks set to end its life as a tropical cyclone in mid-ocean well away from land.

Hurricane Genevieve as it crossed the International dateline and became a typhoon on 7 August 2014.  Image courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory.

Hurricane Genevieve as it crossed the International dateline and became a typhoon on 7 August 2014.
Image courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory.

Hurricane Iselle formed in the east Pacific just over a week ago. Iselle was downgraded to a tropical storm just as it made landfall over Hawaii today, but is still bringing strong winds, surf and heavy rain. Tropical storm or hurricane strikes directly over Hawaii are very rare. The last hurricane to make landfall over Hawaii was Iniki in 1992.

Rainfall radar showing Tropical Storm Iselle approaching Hawaii 8 August 2014. Image courtesy of NOAA

Rainfall radar showing Tropical Storm Iselle approaching Hawaii 8 August 2014.
Image courtesy of NOAA

Hurricane Julio is following hard on the heels of Hurricane Iselle in the east Pacific and has become a ‘major hurricane’ with winds in excess of 115 mph.

 

Julio is also heading in the direction of Hawaii, but looks likely to track a little further north than Hurricane Iselle. However, the US state could still feel the affects of Julio as it passes by on Sunday.

Official warnings of west Pacific tropical storms are produced by the Japanese Meteorological Agency . Central Pacific warnings are issued by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and east Pacific warnings by the US National Hurricane Center. The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance.

Met Office StormTracker provides a mapped picture of tropical cyclones around the globe with access to track history and six-day forecast tracks for current tropical cyclones from the Met Office global forecast model and latest observed cloud cover and sea surface temperature. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.





May Bank Holiday – Fine and dry for most

29 04 2014

Despite some reports, Met Office forecasters are expecting pleasant weather for many over the Bank Holiday weekend, with a good deal of dry weather, rising daytime temperatures and some spells of strong sunshine at times.

Although air of polar origin moving southwards will cause much colder nights on Thursday and Friday this week, bringing air frost to some northern parts, daytime temperatures are set to recover quickly and most parts of the UK will begin to feel pleasantly warm in the sunshine this weekend.

After a chilly start on both Saturday and Sunday, many places will see dry conditions with clear and sunny periods. The best of the sunshine will be in southern and eastern areas. Some northern and western parts may be cloudier with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. However, where conditions are brighter on Sunday and Monday temperatures should be above average making it feel pleasantly warm.

Although it is too early to be certain, indications are that many parts of the country will have a fine and warm Bank Holiday Monday.

Check our local 5-day forecast for the weather forecast in your area.








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