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.





A wet and sunny January, but very average for temperature

4 02 2015

January 2015 saw above-average amounts of sunshine and rainfall right across the UK, but with temperatures averaging out to near-normal.

The first half of the month was largely unsettled, with mild, wet and windy weather interspersed with colder and drier spells.

From mid month, the colder conditions turned more persistent, with snow in places and some extensive snowfalls across the Scottish mountains.

This change of weather type led to some large temperature variations through the month, with a high of 16.5C at Exeter Airport on the 9th and a low of -13.7C at Loch Glascarnoch on the 19th.

Even though Loch Glascarnoch is in the Scottish Highlands and so is prone to very low temperatures in the winter, this was the lowest temperature recorded across the UK since 2012.

Rainfall amounts were above average across the UK, especially so in Scotland where it was the 4th wettest January in the series since 1910.

Shetland was particularly wet with Lerwick recording over twice the average rainfall; it was the wettest January here in a 100-year series.

Conversely, sunshine amounts were also above average. Nottingham, Waddington and Dyce each recorded their sunniest January in over 60 years of records.

Across the UK, it was the fifth sunniest January since 1910, with 60 hours of sunshine (compared to an average of 47 hours).

January 2015 sunshine anomaly compared to the 1981-2010 average

January 2015 sunshine duration as a percentage of the 1981-2010 average

Despite the cold end to the month, temperatures for the month as a whole were very close to average, with a mean temperature of 3.7C across the UK (just 0.1C above the 1981-2010 average).

Here are the weather extremes that we saw across the UK throughout January 2015:

You can find out more about the weather in January 2015 on the climate pages of our website.





First half of November sticks with mild theme

18 11 2014

Early statistics up to the 16th of November show that month so far has followed the generally warm theme of 2014. Some areas have also been very wet.

Map shows the UK mean temperature for 1-16 November compared to the whole month average.

Map shows the UK mean temperature for 1-16 November compared to the whole month average.

The mean temperature for the UK was 8.1C, which is 1.9C above the long-term (1981-2010) average for the whole month.

As we’re heading towards winter, which starts for meteorologists on 1 December, we would normally expect the first half of the November to be warmer than the second half – but even still, the month so far is above average. There have been few air frosts.

The mildest places compared to average have been in the South East of England and East Anglia – which are both around 2.5C above average.

Perhaps more significant is the rainfall so far this month. After 16 days of the month you’d expect about 53% of the full-month average to have fallen in a ‘normal’ November, but the UK has already seen 77% (93.1mm).

Northern Ireland has already had more than its full-month average with 150.8mm so far compared to the November average of 112.5mm. This is more than it had through the whole of October.

Looking at regions, some parts of southern England, south Wales and eastern Scotland have also received around their whole-month average rainfall after just 16 days. South-eastern parts of Northern Ireland have recorded over 200% of their average.

Overall, the UK is on course for a mild and wet month – but it’s too early to say exactly where we’ll end up after the full-month figures are included.

  Mean temp Sunshine Rainfall
1-16 Nov Deg C Diff to avg Hours % of Nov Avg Actual mm % of Nov Avg
UK 8.1 1.9 32.9 57 93.1 77
England 8.9 2.0 36.6 57 74.1 84
Wales 8.5 1.7 37.7 67 130.9 81
Scotland 6.7 1.7 24.2 53 104.3 63
N Ireland 7.6 1.1 39.3 73 150.8 134

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





Dual Warnings

12 11 2014

Today for the first time we have issued a new dual National Severe Weather Warning for wind and rain.

What is a Dual Warning?

A dual warning is one warning, covering one geographical area, over one period of time in the way a single warning does – but it combines two different types of severe weather. They would only be combined if they were both at the same warning level.

Any of the five types of weather warnings, Wind, Rain, Snow, Ice and Fog, can form a dual warning in any combination. So in theory Wind and Snow could be a dual warning. In practice there are certain weather types that are more likely to form a dual warning; the most likely is Wind and Rain, which is what we see today.  More information on our dual warnings can be found at the bottom of our Weather Warning page.

These new dual warnings have been developed following extensive two-way conversations with emergency responders and feedback we have recieved from the public over the past twelve months.

Until now, we would have issued multiple severe weather warnings to cover the range of warnings in place. Quite often however, situations arise where multiple impacts occur and these can now be shown on one map. This should make the information we issue easier to access.

Today’s Warning

Dual wind and rain warning

Dual wind and rain warning

The warning for wind and rain issued today covers Southwest England, Western Scotland and the Irish Sea between 07.00 and 23.45 on Thursday 13 November. A small area of low pressure will move quickly northwards throughout the day bringing a short-lived period of gales and severe gales and spells of heavy rain.

We encourage everyone to keep up to date with the latest forecasts and national severe weather warnings and to stay weather aware this winter by following the Met Office on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for the latest weather information. You can also sign up for severe weather alerts from us through the Twitter Alerts programme, providing critical information directly to your phone. Find out more about how to sign up for Met Office Twitter alerts.





Warm and wet, but October is no thriller

30 10 2014

Early Met Office figures up to the 28th of October show it has been a warm and rather wet month compared to average, but it’s not going to break any records.

The UK mean temperature for the month so far is 11.0C, which is 1.5C above the long-term (1981-2010) average.

Map showing the UK mean temperature for 1-28 Oct compared to the long-term (1981-2010) average.

Map showing the UK mean temperature for 1-28 Oct compared to the long-term (1981-2010) average.

While well above average, that’s well short of the record of 12.2C set in 2001 and would currently rank 11th warmest in our digitised national records dating back to 1910.

Last year’s October (11.2C), and that of 2011 (11.3C), were both warmer than this year’s early figure.

As ever there are regional variations within the UK for this year, with the far north west of the UK hardly above normal while much of England has seen mean temperatures around 2C above normal.

This October continues the theme of above average temperatures for 2014. Nine out of the ten months this year have seen above average mean temperatures, with only August having been below average.

It’s a similar story with UK rainfall in that it is wetter than average, but with no chance of breaking any records.

There has been 148.1mm of rain for the UK up to the 28th of the month, which is 116% of the long-term full-month average (you’d expect about 91% of the average after 28 days in a ‘normal’ month).

This would rank it around mid-table in the records – nowhere near the October record of 194.8mm set in 2000. While the rainfall will go up when the final few days are added, it’s not going to top that.

Again there are regional variations, with some parts of Scotland, the Isle of Man and Cumbria much wetter than average while some parts are slightly drier than average.

Sunshine hasn’t been too remarkable, with figures below average for most areas.

  Mean temp Sunshine Rainfall
1-28 Oct Deg C Diff to avg Hours % of Oct Avg Actual mm % of Oct Avg
UK 11.0 1.5 77.8 84 148.1 116
England 12.2 1.8 86.6 84 100.8 110
Wales 11.4 1.6 73.1 79 160.2 94
Scotland 9.2 1.2 62.6 83 226.7 129
N Ireland 10.3 0.9 86.7 99 124.0 104




What is the wettest city in the UK?

20 10 2014

We often get asked the question about where is the wettest town or city in the UK – and there are some news stories on this subject circulating in the media at the moment.

While the current stories use some of our figures, this isn’t an analysis by us and wasn’t done using our complete records from across the UK.

When it comes to answering what, on the face of it, is a relatively straightforward question – the reality is that it’s a lot more tricky than it first seems.

First of all, which measure should you use? There are rain days, which denote every day which sees more than 1mm of rain. Then there is total rainfall, which denotes the total accumulated rainfall over a period of time.

Which gives the better picture of a rainy city? There’s certainly room for debate.

Secondly, we have thousands of weather observation sites spread across the UK providing data on temperature, rainfall and other factors.

Map shows the 1981-2010 average annual UK rainfall based on individual station data - but it doesn't highlight individual towns and cities.

Map shows the 1981-2010 average annual UK rainfall based on individual station data – but can’t be used to make conclusions about individual towns and cities.

Towns and cities are generally quite large features on a map and one area could potentially have numerous weather stations.

Let’s take Huddersfield as an example. There are two rain gauges in the town that we have averages for – one on the west side sees 1028 mm a year, while another station further east sees 843 mm a year.

This demonstrates the fact that local features such as hills, or even mountains, as well as coasts and other features can all play a role in local rainfall – so there may be differences across a town or city.

It is possible to do a detailed analysis, but this would always require a clear basis for comparison.

It’s a lot more straightforward to look at individual stations. Using this data, we can see that the UK rain gauge in our archive with the highest average annual rainfall total is Crib Goch (Gwynedd) with 4635 mm of rain followed by Styhead (Cumbria) at 4562 mm.

For rain gauges located at elevations below 200 m the wettest place is Glenshiel Forest (Ross and Cromarty) at 3778 mm, but none of these are located in major towns or cities.

You can explore more about UK climate averages and statistics in our UK Climate pages.





Cool, wet August ends fairly average summer

29 08 2014

After a dry and warm start, summer 2014 is set to end on a rather average note – with temperatures and rainfall close to normal levels for the season.

Using figures up to 27 August and then assuming average conditions for the final few days of the month, Met Office statistics show the UK mean temperature for this summer will be around 14.8C. This is just 0.5C above the long term average (1981-2010).

Rainfall overall is close to average, with the UK having seen 246.7mm of rain – which is just over the long-term average of 241.0mm. Rainfall from the final few days of August will add to this number, so overall the summer will be slightly wetter than average.

As ever when looking over a whole season, the statistics mask some big variations between each month.

June and July were both characterised by drier and warmer than average conditions across the UK which meant the summer was already one of the best we’ve seen in recent years.

UK rainfall as a percentage of the long-term (1981-2010) average

Map showing August UK rainfall as a percentage of the long-term (1981-2010) average for the month

August bucked that trend, however, with cooler and wetter than average weather. Taken together, this has led to the fairly average final statistics for summer.

Looking specifically at the early August figures, also released today, the UK mean temperature up to the 27th of the month is 13.8C which is 1.1C below the long-term average. This ranks it as currently the coolest August since 1993, but that could change when the final few days of the month are added.

August is also the first month since November 2013 to have been cooler than average, breaking an eight month run.

In terms of rainfall, August has been much wetter than average, with 127.1mm of rain which is 142% of the long-term average (89.5mm). This makes it the 18th wettest August in the records, but it may climb higher when the figures for the whole month are available.

 

Mean Temperature Rainfall
Summer* Actual (°C)
Diff from Avg Actual (mm)
% of Avg
UK 14.8 0.5 258.2 107
England 15.9 0.4 211.6 109
Wales 14.8 0.3 257.5 90
Scotland 13.1 0.6 338.4 111
N Ireland 14.3 0.4 244.6 96

*Please note these are projected numbers that include statistics from 1 June to 27 August, then assume average conditions for the final few days of the season. They may not accurately represent the final full-season figures.

 

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall
August** Actual (°C)
Diff from Avg Actual (hours)
% of Avg Actual (mm)
% of Avg
UK 13.8 -1.1 154.2 95 127.1 142
England 14.9 -1.2 169.7 93 103.4 149
Wales 13.9 -1.0 152.3 91 128.2 119
Scotland 11.9 -1.1 132.4 99 169.0 145
N Ireland 13.3 -1.0 134.2 99 112.8 116

** Please note these are preliminary statistics from 1-27 August. The final figures will change once statistics from the final few days of the month are included.





A wet start to August

15 08 2014

The UK has already seen nearly its entire ‘normal’ rainfall for August in the first half of the month.

Figures up to the 13th of August show there has been 86.1mm of rain so far in the UK, just short of the 89.5mm long-term (1981-2010) average.

Looking at individual countries, Scotland has already seen more than its full-month average with 121.4mm of rain so far compared to the average of 116.7mm. The Inverness and Moray areas have been particularly wet, with significant flooding from ex-hurricane Bertha on 10 to 11 August.

Rainfall for England and Northern Ireland so far is just under the full-month average, while Wales has been the driest relatively speaking – with 83.2mm of rain making up 77% of its full-month average. Normally at this stage you would expect about 42% of the average to have fallen.

With regards to temperatures and sunshine, the month has been much closer to average so far.

The UK mean temperature is currently 15.2C, which is 0.3C above the full-month average.

UK sunshine hours are at 77.8 hours, which is 48% of the full-month average – so just ahead of where we’d expect after 13 days of the month.

While these figures are interesting, they don’t tell us where the month will end up overall – we’ll have to wait until the full-month figures are in before deciding where this August fits in to the records.

As we head in to next week there should be a good deal of drier weather but with northerly winds bringing in cooler air it will feel colder than of late, especially at night.

This will feel noticeably cool in the wind, so people heading out in the evening may want to take a few extra layers.

Mean temperature Sunshine Rainfall
1 – 13 August 2014 Actual

Diff from 81-10 average

Actual % of 81-10 average Actual % of 81-10 average
Celsius Celsius hours % mm %
UK 15.2 0.3 77.8 48 86.1 96
England 16.5 0.4 91.8 50 64.7 93
Wales 15.3 0.3 85.1 51 83.2 77
Scotland 13.2 0.2 55.3 41 121.4 104
N Ireland 14.5 0.2 61.9 46 92.7 95




Mild wet winter continues in early January figures

16 01 2014

Provisional half-month statistics up to the 15th of January show a continuation of the generally mild and wet theme of the UK’s winter thus far.

The mean UK temperature up to the 15th of January is 5.1 °C, which is 1.5 °C above the long-term (1981-2010) average.

The mild January so far follows on from a mild UK December, which had a mean temperature of 5.7 °C, which is 1.8 °C above the long-term average – making it the eighth mildest December in records dating back to 1910, and the mildest since 1988.

It’s a similar story with UK rainfall. We’d normally expect about 48% of the January average rainfall by the 15th of the month, but the UK has seen 87.9mm so far – which equates to 72% of the January average.

As usual, there are regional varations. England has been particularly wet so far this month, having already seen close to its full-month average, and Wales is not too far behind. Scotland and Northern Ireland, however, are closer to the ‘normal’ amount of rain we’d expect at this stage.

The wet January so far once again follows the theme set in December, which saw 184.7mm of rain – which is 154% of the average for the month.

While this means January, and winter, so far have been mild and wet, it doesn’t mean they will finish that way. We often see half-month or half-season figures which then change dramatically by the end of the period. So the message is, it’s too early to judge how January 2014 or winter 2013/4 will finish up.

The main reason for the mild and wet weather so far is that we have seen a predominance of west and south-west winds, bringing in mild air from the Atlantic – as well as generally unsettled conditions.

The table below shows provisional figures from 1-15 of January, with actual figures so far compared to full-month averages. We would normally expect rainfall and sunshine to be about 48% of the full-month average at this stage.

Mean Temperature Sunshine hours Rainfall  
January 1-15
Actual Diff from Avg Actual % of Avg Actual % of Avg
  degC degC hours % mm %
UK 5.1 1.5 26.1 55 87.9 72
England 6.0 1.9 34.7 64 80.4 97
Wales 5.8 1.7 20.6 42 137.7 88
Scotland 3.6 1.0 15.4 43 91.2 51
N Ireland 4.4 0.2 14.6 33 62.8 54




October set for top ten warmest

1 11 2013

5 November 2013 Update – The full month figures are available in our latest blog

Early statistics for October up to the 28th of the month suggest this October is likely to be one of the warmest in records dating back to 1910.

Map showing relative warmth of October temperatures across the UK.

Map showing relative warmth of October temperatures across the UK.

The mean temperature for the UK from the 1st to the 28th is 11.6 °C, which is 2.1 °C above the long-term (1981-2010) average. It’s currently ranked joint fifth warmest in the records, but this could change once the final three days of data have been included.

Mild temperatures were experienced across all parts of the UK – with October currently being in the top ten warmest for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, it was particularly mild in Wales, with this October currently ranked as the joint warmest on record alongside 2001.

There were no autumn heat waves through October, just a persistence of mild conditions – particularly mild nights – and frost has been rare through the month.

October 2013 is also notable because it was dull and, for most places, relatively wet. Sunshine hours are currently below the long-term average, while rainfall is already above ‘normal’ levels for everywhere apart from Scotland – which is about average.

Below are figures from 1-28 October, and we’ll update on the full-month figures early next week.

Below is a table showing statistics for 1-28 October, and we’ll update with full-month statistics early next week.

Mean temp Sunshine Rainfall
October 1-28 Actual (°C) Diff to Avg Actual (hrs) % of Avg Actual (mm) % of Avg
UK 11.6 2.1 67.3 73 147.6 116
England 12.6 2.2 74.4 72 131.6 143
Wales 12.3 2.4 66.7 72 208.9 123
Scotland 9.7 1.8 52.7 70 157.9 90
N Ireland 11.2 1.8 84.1 96 145.6 122







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