Storm Imogen brings gales to southern areas of Britain

7 02 2016

An area of low pressure, which will bring some very strong winds across southern parts of the UK as it moves eastwards on Monday, has been named as Storm Imogen.

Gusts of 60-70 mph are possible in southern England and parts of south Wales with 80 mph gusts possible in exposed coastal districts. Some very large waves are also likely along some coasts, especially along the north coast of Cornwall and Devon.

The Met Office has today (Sunday 7 February) issued an Amber “be prepared” National Severe Weather Warning for for wind for Storm Imogen which is valid from 3 am until 6 pm on Monday.  There is also a larger Yellow “be aware” Severe Weather Warning for wind valid from 3 am to 6 pm on Monday.

Surface Pressure Chart Monday 8 Februrary

Surface Pressure Chart Monday 8 Februrary

There remains some uncertainty just how far north and east the strongest of the winds will extend. However, you can keep up to date with the latest for your area using our forecast pages and by checking the Severe weather warnings.

Storm Imogen follows Storm Henry, which passed close to the north of Scotland through Monday 1 February 2016 into Tuesday 2 Feb.

Winds are expected to ease through Tuesday leading to a short drier, quieter and colder interlude for many on Wednesday before more wind and rain follows later in the week.





World weather roundup

21 01 2016

In this blog we take a look at what’s happening around the world where the weather is straying away from what’s normal or has the potential to bring disruption.

North America
A deep area of low pressure will bring the threat of severe weather across the Gulf States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia with heavy rain and severe thunderstorms combined with gale force winds. This rain may lead to more flooding in the lower Mississippi River basin.

Further north and east this system a ‘nor’easter’ will bring a risk of disruptive snow combined with gale force winds. Areas from Washington and Philadelphia up to New York are most at risk, and the US National Weather Service have issued blizzard watches for the risk of 8-12 inches of snow. There is also a risk of coastal flooding with the strong winds leading to rough seas too. Impacts on travel in the area could be significant.

Asia
Across eastern and southeast Asia a large surge of cold air will spread across China and Taiwan with further heavy falls of snow anticipated across Japan. Parts of China and Taiwan will experience temperatures some 15 degrees below the average for January, with Taipei seeing highs of 6C instead of the low 20s Celsius. Some snow is also likely here over fairly modest hills.

Further south the unseasonal weather will bring a spell of heavy rain across northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, bringing a risk of flooding.

Australasia
In the South Pacific Ocean, Tropical Storm Victor lies to the east of Tonga and is expected to pass just to the south of the islands on Friday, bringing a period of gale force winds, heavy rain and thunderstorms and a risk of coastal flooding. The weakening storm is then expected to head towards New Zealand over the weekend.

Official warnings for the latest tropical cyclones in the South Pacific are produced by the Fiji Meteorological Service. 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. We also provide updates on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter.

Europe
A large blocking area of high pressure over central and southeastern parts of Europe, which until recently also brought cold weather to the UK, will persist across these areas into the weekend.

Forecast pressure chart for midday Saturday 23 January 2016

Forecast pressure chart for midday Saturday 23 January 2016

Across Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Poland and Western Russia very cold conditions will be maintained with temperatures around 5-10C below average, but with dry weather expected.

Much of southeast Europe will also continue to feel the effects of this cold air with temperatures across inland areas well below average by day and some areas struggling to rise above freezing. Overnight minimums widely in negative double figures will compound the cold. Snowfall is also likely to lead to some disruption over Romania and then parts of Turkey, Serbia and Croatia over the coming days as weather fronts affect these areas. Next week should see a return to conditions more typical for the time of year as milder air arrives from the south and west.

Further north, the cold, still conditions are the perfect recipe for fog and freezing fog with parts of France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany being affected by this during Thursday and Friday before milder air arrives over the weekend.





December on track to be the mildest on record

24 12 2015

Mowing the lawn has been the reality for some so far this December, with unseasonably high temperatures. It looks as though the UK is on track to break the record for the warmest December since records began in 1910 and some areas have also seen their wettest.

The latest temperatures for December (1st to 22nd) reveal that the month so far has been far warmer than normal. Early provisional figures* reveal that the mean temperature for December in the UK has so far has been 8.1C, which is 4.2C above the long-term average for the month and well above the previous record of 6.9C set in 1934.

The December figure for England has so far been 9.5C, that’s 5.1C above the same long-term average and 2C above the record of 7.5C set in 1934, and the other UK nations have been similarly warm:

  • the mean temperature of 9.3C in Wales, higher than the previous post-1910 record of 7.5C set in 1934, and 4.8C above average
  • the mean temperature of 5.6°C in Scotland is 2.8C above average, but is so far slightly lower than the previous December record of 5.8C set in 1988
  • the mean temperature of 7.5°C in Northern Ireland is 3C higher than average, and marginally higher than the 1988 December record

Tim Legg of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre said: “With no sign of any significantly cold weather to come in the remaining 9 days of the month, we’re on track to break the warmest December record which was set back in 1934.”

Rainfall 1 - 22 Dec 2015

Rainfall 1 – 22 Dec 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 - 22, 2015

MeanTemperature Dec 1 – 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainfall and sunshine figures so far confirm December has been dull and wet across most of the UK, with sunshine well down on the long-term average while precipitation (which of course has fallen mainly as rain) has been well above.  Some places have seen record breaking rainfall:

  • Cumberland 310.9mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 248.2mm 2006),
  • Westmorland 474.4mm 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 365.1mm 2006)
  • Dumfriesshire 314mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 307.5mm 2013)
  • Carnarvonshire 441.3mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 376.6mm 1965)
  • Roxburghshire 237.8mm rainfall 1 – 22nd Dec (previous record 219.7mm 2013)

 

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-22 Dec 2015 Act Anom Act Anom   Act Anom
  Deg C Deg C hours % mm %
UK 8.1 4.2 17.7 43 148.0 123
England 9.5 5.1 19.8 42 86.5 99
Wales 9.3 4.8 16.3 39 237.1 143
Scotland 5.6 2.8 14.1 46 229.1 140
N Ireland 7.5 3.0 20.7 56 130.4 114

 

You can find out what the rest of the year has been like on our climate pages.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.





Mild start to December

16 12 2015

Looking at figures dating back to 1960 this has been the mildest start to December for Wales (8.7C), south west England (9.8C) and south east England (10C), and the 4th warmest for the UK as a whole (7.1C), with 1979, 2000 and 2006 being marginally milder.

Early provisional figures* (1-14 December) show the first half of December has been very mild across England and Wales with the maximum daily temperatures 3.2C above average for the UK as a whole.

However there has been a sharp north-south contrast at times with much colder air over Scotland and some frosts.  Elsewhere the humid south-westerly airflow means the weather has remained similar to last month: cloudy with very few clear nights, mild nights and very little sunshine for most areas.

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

Mean Temperature 1 -14 December 2015

 

The main talking point so far this month has been Storm Desmond, bringing record-breaking rainfall totals over the Lake District and a lot of rain over many northern areas.

Around 200% of the whole month’s normal rainfall has already fallen in a few places in the Pennines and the Lake District, it has also been wet in Snowdonia and parts of southern & central Scotland.  There has been near-normal rainfall across many other areas, and actually below average, for this point in the month, in parts of southern England.

EARLY mean temperature sunshine duration precipitation
1-14 Dec 2015 Act deg C Anom deg C   Act Hours Anom %   Act mm Anom %  
Regions            
UK 7.1 3.2 13.4 33 100.2 83
England 8.6 4.3 15.7 33 56.7 65
Wales 8.7 4.2 11.0 26 140.9 85
Scotland 4.2 1.4 10.4 34 161.6 99
N Ireland 6.1 1.6 13.1 35 99.0 87

 

Despite the mild start to winter following on from a mild autumn, it looks like 2015 will be an average year as far as weather is concerned.

This year’s damp and cool spring and summer mean that despite the current mild spell, the rainfall, temperature and sunshine statistics for the year as a whole are all hovering around average, with just 17 days left until the end of the year.

Indications are that the unsettled weather will continue through Christmas and into the new year. Showers or longer spells of rain are expected across all parts, with the heaviest and most persistent rain in the north and west, and the best of the drier conditions across south-east England.

We can expect gales at times, again especially in the north and west. Temperatures will be closer to average than of late, but still generally above, with any snowfall restricted to the high ground of Scotland and northern England.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

*Data from the Met Office’s UK digitised records dating back to 1910.





Did climate change have an impact on Storm Desmond?

7 12 2015

The exceptional rainfall in Cumbria over the past few days saw the fall of numerous records and has led many to ask whether it is linked to climate change. The records are based on digitised data going back to the 19th Century.

A gauge at Honister Pass recorded 341.4mm of rainfall in the 24-hours up to 1800 GMT on 5 December 2015, making for a new UK record for any 24-hour period. This beat the previous record of 316.4mm set in November 2009 at Seathwaite, also in Cumbria. A new 48-hour record (from 0900 to 0900 hrs) was also set, when 405mm was recorded at Thirlmere in Cumbria in just 38 hrs.

The weekend’s record rainfall was associated with a persistent, south-westerly flow bringing a ‘river of moisture’ from as far away as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean temperatures in the West Atlantic are currently well above normal and may well have contributed to the very high levels of moisture in the air masses which unleashed rainfall on the Cumbrian fells.

Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Met Office Chief Scientist, says “It’s too early to say definitively whether climate change has made a contribution to the exceptional rainfall. We anticipated a wet, stormy start to winter in our three-month outlooks, associated with the strong El Niño and other factors.

“However, just as with the stormy winter of two years ago, all the evidence from fundamental physics, and our understanding of our weather systems, suggests there may be a link between climate change and record-breaking winter rainfall. Last month, we published a paper showing that for the same weather pattern, an extended period of extreme UK winter rainfall is now seven times more likely than in a world without human emissions of greenhouse gases.”





Wind and rain records for Storm Desmond

6 12 2015

Storm Desmond, the fourth named storm of the season, bought widespread heavy rain and storm force winds to areas of northern England and Scotland.

The rainfall experienced in many parts of the north west of the UK is thought to have been exceptional and early provisional rainfall statistics indicate many places have seen totals widely over 180 to 200 mm in the Lake District. It is thought very locally event totals may be in excess of 300 mm locally.  The Met Office issued a Red ‘take action’ severe weather warning for rainfall yesterday, the first red warning since February 2014.

48 Hour UK Rainfall Total 0900 4th December – 0900 6th December
Site Name Area Rainfall Total mm
Shap Cumbria 262.6
Keswick Cumbria 178.4
Blencathra Cumbria 174.8
Capel Curig Gwynedd 170.6
Tyndrum Perthshire 141
Eskdalemuir Dumfriesshire 139.2
Bainbridge North Yorkshire 136
Cluanie Inn Ross & Cromarty 132.8

The rainfall caused some rivers to flood and homes had to be evacuated in areas of Cumbria and in Northumberland. The Environment Agency still has a number of flood warnings in place.

An Amber ‘be prepared’ warning for wind was in place for parts of  SE Scotland and NE England as wind speeds were expected that could potentially cause disruption, structural damage and disrupt transport.  Gusts of over 80 mph were experienced in more exposed locations, with the strongest recorded gust of 99 mph at Great Dun Fell, a high level site in Cumbria at 847m.

Max Gust Speeds 5 December 1800 – 6 December 0900
Site Name Area Max Gust mph
Capel Curig Gwynedd 81
Needles Old Battery Isle of Wight 78
High Bradfield South Yorkshire 77
Redesdale Camp Northumberland 73
Loftus Cleveland 70
Aberdaron Gwynedd 69
Charterhall Berwickshire 68
Valley Gwynedd 67

 

There are no weather warnings in place for the rest of today (Sunday), however the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) still have a number of flood warnings in place as water courses are still reacting to yesterday’s rainfall. A warning is in place for Monday and will be updated as required.

You can keep up to date with the latest forecast using our five day forecast pages, the latest weather warnings on our National Severe Weather Warnings pages and find out what to do in severe weather.





Met Éireann names Storm Clodagh

28 11 2015

The current unsettled spell of weather continues and the low pressure system that is forecast to affect Ireland and the UK on Sunday has been officially named Storm Clodagh by Met Éireann.

This makes it the third officially named storm of the joint Met Office Met Éireann pilot project to name storms that affect the UK and Ireland through the autumn and winter 2015/16.

Storms can be named by either the Met Office or Met Éireann.

Met Éireann named the storm on Saturday 28 November having issued an Orange warning for severe gales across Eire for Sunday.

The Met Office has issued a yellow be aware National Severe Weather Warning for wind for a medium likelihood of low impacts from severe gales across some parts of Northern Ireland, Wales, England and parts of southern Scotland.

Pressure chart for Sunday 29 November 2015 at midday

Pressure chart for Sunday 29 November 2015 at midday

The strongest winds are expected to reach Northern Ireland around dawn on Sunday, and most areas by the end of the morning, before gradually subsiding from the west during the afternoon and evening.

There remains some uncertainty with the track of this low and the precise wind speeds and areas to be affected. You can keep up to date with the latest on our forecast pages.





What are the prospects for the weather in the coming winter?

29 10 2015

Anyone who has read the newspapers lately can’t have failed to notice this winter’s weather is in the headlines. Justification for claims of a ‘big freeze’ has come from sources as diverse as the plucky Bewick Swan settling into the comfort of the WWT reserve at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire earlier than ever before, to the strong El Niño and cool North Atlantic Ocean.

But what can we genuinely say about prospects for the coming winter, and what is the influence from phenomena like El Niño? Jeff Knight, from the Met Office Monthly to Decadal Prediction team explains.

In the Met Office we produce outlooks for the UK weather as a whole over three monthly periods. These outlooks are not forecasts in the conventional sense, although they are still made using computer prediction models. While a forecast might say ‘it will rain tomorrow’, the chaotic nature of the atmosphere beyond a few days ahead leads to growing forecast uncertainty, making it meaningless to try to make the same kind of forecast for a day in three months’ time.

Fortunately, atmospheric chaos is only part of the story and, when we consider the broad characteristics of the weather over a three month period, we can see influences from a range of global climate factors that we can endeavor to predict. While the unpredictable part means there is always a range of possible outcomes, the part we can try to predict allows us the opportunity to identify which types of weather are more likely than others. As a result, our outlooks are more useful for professionals who need to assess risk, such as contingency planners, than the public generally. Our current outlook covers the period from November to January.

So what are the global drivers that might influence our weather this winter?

El Niño is the biggest news story currently in global climate. This episodic warming of the waters of the equatorial Pacific Ocean occurs every few years – the last event happened in 2009-10. This ocean warming covers an area about 1,000 km wide and 13,000 km long, stretching along the equator from the South American coast to the West Pacific. El Niño events release a vast quantity of oceanic heat into the atmosphere so it is not surprising that El Niño has effects on weather across the globe.

This year’s El Niño started to grow in April and it has now become a strong, mature event similar to the landmark 1997-8 event. Typically, growth will peak around the end of the year and decline during the first half of the following year. We have already seen its effect on global weather systems: this summer’s Indian monsoon rainfall fell to drought levels and very hot, dry conditions in Indonesia have contributed to widespread forest fires.

Currently, the outlook for El Niño is for further growth over the next two months. Events are often ranked in terms of sea surface temperatures in Central Pacific, and by this measure, this year’s El Niño is more likely than not to become the strongest on record. Temperatures further east near to South America are likely to be not quite as exceptional as in 1997-8. No two El Niños are identical and even very similar events have slightly different characteristics.

What does El Niño imply for the UK this winter?

Unlike some parts of the world, the effect of El Niño on Europe is relatively subtle. In El Niño years there is a tendency for early winter to be warmer and wetter than usual and late winter to be colder and drier. Despite this, it is just one of the factors that influence our winters, so other influences can overwhelm this signal – it is relatively straightforward, for example, to find years where these general trends were not followed.

What about the Atlantic Ocean?

Closer to home, sea surface temperatures to the west of the UK have been notably lower-than-average in recent months. While it is true the westerly winds that we typically get in winter would have to pass over this region, it is unlikely that this will directly have a strong bearing on expected temperatures. This is because temperatures at this time of year are strongly affected by the direction of the wind. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia are 10-20°C colder than the Atlantic Ocean in winter, so our weather will depend much more on how often winds blow in from the north and east than whether the Atlantic is 1-2°C cooler than usual.

More broadly within the North Atlantic Ocean, sub-tropical temperatures to the south of this cool region are widely above average. This combination results in an increased north-south temperature gradient, which is expected to provide greater impetus for Atlantic depressions. For the UK, this would favour relatively mild, unsettled weather conditions.

Global sea surface temperature anomaly 28 October 2015

Global sea surface temperature anomaly 28 October 2015

Our weather is also affected by changes in the stratosphere

European winters are also sensitive to what is happening in the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere between 10 and 50 km up that lies above the weather. The equatorial stratosphere is home to the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), a cycle that sees winds switch from easterly to westerly and back roughly every 27 months. First noted by Met Office scientists over 40 years ago, the link with European winter weather has stood the test of time. This year, the QBO is in a westerly phase, which implies an increased chance of a mild and wet winter at the surface.

A considerable part of the year-to-year differences between UK winters is related to the occurrence of sudden stratospheric warmings (SSWs). In these events, the polar stratospheric vortex – the fast moving circulation of stratospheric air that whirls around the North Pole in winter – abruptly breaks down. They occur one winter in two on average, and events are most common in January or February. In the majority of cases SSWs lead to the establishment of cold easterly flow at the surface across Europe and the UK. The last SSW was in January 2013, and this event contributed to the cold late winter and early spring in that year.

Whether we get an SSW or not depends on a number of influences, such as El Niño and the QBO. Currently our models suggest an increased likelihood of an SSW from January onwards. If this were to happen, its effects would not be felt much before the end of our November to January outlook period. At the moment, therefore, this is still a long way off, and we consider this suggestion to be tentative.

So what can we expect in the UK this winter?

Most of the global drivers discussed above tend to increase the chances of westerly weather patterns during our November to January outlook period. Our numerical prediction model, being sensitive to these drivers, also predicts a higher-than-normal chance of westerly conditions. This results in an outlook for an increased chance of milder- and wetter-than-usual conditions, and a decreased chance of colder and drier conditions, for the UK. Our outlook also indicates an increase in the risk of windy or even stormy weather.

It should be noted that these shifts in probability do not rule out the less favoured types of weather completely. Also, a general tendency for one type of weather over the three months as a whole does not preclude shorter spells of other types of weather.

Finally, there are hints that the outlook might be rather different in the late winter, with an increased risk of cold weather developing. Nevertheless, it is currently too early to be confident about this signal.





How much does the weather influence what we put in our grocery basket?

14 10 2015

What do you think determines what we buy when we go food shopping? Whilst the odd item may catch our eye and lead to one of those ‘impulse purchases’, British consumers can in some ways be rather predictable when it comes to what influences their choices.

For example, when Christmas comes around, it isn’t hard to predict that we’re going to be looking for turkey and sprouts. And when the economy is doing well, the chances are we’ll be buying a few more bottles of expensive wine.

But one of the most important factors – in fact one which around half of the decision makers at UK retailers and suppliers would count in their top three – is the weather. And whilst Santa’s sleigh may come to town once a year like clockwork, us Brits – more so than most – know that the weather doesn’t quite work in such a predictable manner.

Capture

The weather can have a significant impact on what we choose to buy when in store, and ultimately on retailer performance. For example, a four degree increase in temperature can lead to sales of burgers increasing by nearly half, according to one leading supermarket.

When the weather changes, retailers risk losing millions through low stock levels, empty shelves and disappointed customers. It can lead to unexpected fluctuations in store footfall and sales, shortages in availability, and impact the costs and efficiencies of the whole supply chain – this is particularly true for fresh, chilled and seasonal products.

We wanted to understand a bit more about how the UK grocery sector as a whole accounts for the weather in its planning, so we have developed a new report based on opinions of key executives and managers across over 200 food suppliers and retailers in the UK. The report looks at just how much the weather impacts their business – and how they use weather products to make those all-important stock predictions. After all, no one likes going to the supermarket to find that their favourite food item is sold out.





Do swans herald snow for the UK?

13 10 2015

There has been some speculation that the UK may be in for a cold winter after the arrival of a migrating Bewick’s swan from Russia.

The swan arrived at the WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire on Sunday 11 October, the earliest date since records began at the site in 1963.  It is thought low temperatures, snowfall and north easterly winds in Russia have encouraged Bewick’s swans to start their westwards migration through Europe early this year. The swans have also been spotted gathering on lakes in the Netherlands.

First Berwick's swan spotted in Gloucestershire. Credit: MJ McGill

First Berwick’s swan spotted in Gloucestershire. Credit: MJ McGill

WWT studies have shown that the weather is a major influence on when Bewick’s swans migrate from Russia, with the wind direction being a particularly crucial factor.

Unusually cold weather has developed over a large part of continental Europe and is likely to persist through this week with temperatures around 5-10 degrees below average. Daytime temperatures in Russia on Monday were around 3-4C which is more like the average nightime temperature for this time of year. The cold weather is extending further west and south going as far south as the Mediterranean coast of France and north east Spain. Snow has fallen over southern Poland, western Ukraine and eastern Slovakia.

Eur Coldwave 131015

 

WWT’s Julia Newth said:
“Apparently there’s a Russian saying ‘the swan brings snow on its bill’, because they tend to move just ahead of the cold weather. Of course, we can’t infer much from the arrival of a single swan but it’s certainly exciting this bird has arrived so early.
“It’s only a year old and, because it’s made it all the way here on its own, we assume that it must have come to Slimbridge last year as a cygnet with its parents. We record all the Bewick’s swans that come to Slimbridge each winter by their unique bill pattern as part of our study and give them a name. This one needed a name, so we’ve called him Record Breaker.”

The public can see the Bewick’s swans at WWT Slimbridge where they are fed daily from November 1 to the end of February. They can also be seen via the webcam.

Will the cold weather in Europe affect the UK?
High pressure is currently dominating the weather over the UK with winds from the east bringing cold air. Many places will stay dry with bright days and chilly nights with temperatures around, or a little below, average for the time of year. However, there will be some showers, especially along eastern coasts and in the southeast of England over the next few days.

Eur Cold 131015

There is no sign of any snow for the UK, but low overnight temperatures will allow some localised frost and fog to form. Take a look at our forecast pages for the latest weather for your area. At this stage it is too early to speculate what weather this winter may bring to the UK.








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