International Women’s Day

Stephen Belcher, Met Office Chief Scientist

We are joining organisations from around the world in marking International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and to support a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

As the Met Office Chief Scientist I recognise that there is often a gender gap across science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and would like to take the opportunity today to celebrate the achievements of women working in these areas with a view to widening participation of women in STEM subjects and careers.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the heart of the Met Office and underpin our reputation for providing world-leading weather and climate science and services to government, businesses and the public. Our female scientists are world class in their fields, as reflected in their international leadership roles and by the awards they have won. On International Women’s Day I’d like to highlight a selection of their achievements and the contribution they make to weather and climate community, not just in the Met Office, but around the world.

Rosa Barciela, the Met Office’s first female Principal Consultant, has been working for many years on the impact of weather and climate on human health. In recent years she has been forging a closer scientific relationship with Public Health England and the Medical Research Council in the south west. Recently she has been made an Honorary Professor at the University of Exeter Medical School.

Claire Bartholomew is a specialist in aviation meteorology. In 2017 she travelled to the USA to participate in the aviation weather testbed on behalf of the Met Office. We ran an experimental high-resolution (sub km scale) model for the testbed and Claire assessed how well this model performed in terms of improving real-time forecasts for visibility for San Francisco airport. Her work helped to demonstrate the value of this approach and we received exemplary feedback on her contribution to the testbed experiment. 

Nick Rayner is a Met Office Science Fellow and leads a team of Met Office scientists looking at observations of the oceans and atmosphere. She was the winner of the 2017 L G Groves Award for Meteorological Observation for her work on HadISST, which is recognised as a world standard dataset for sea surface temperatures and sea ice concentration.

Lizzie Kendon is an international leader in the field of km-scale resolution (so called ‘convection-permitting’) regional modelling for climate and climate change. She recently led a high profile paper in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) on ‘Do Convection-Permitting Regional Climate Models Improve Projections of Future Precipitation Change?’ reviewing work in this frontier of climate modelling.

Chiara Piccolo has recently been appointed as the Strategic Head of Satellite Applications in Weather Science, leading a team of around 35 scientists and software engineers. Following postgraduate work in remote sensing at Oxford University, Chiara joined the Met Office to conduct research in data assimilation. Since that time, she has held two management roles, coordination of the EUMETSAT NWP Satellite Application Facility; and managing the Met Office Academic Partnership Programme, before taking on her current role.

Fiona Carse works in the Met Office’s Marine Observations area and is co-manager of the UK Argo programme, representing the UK on the Argo Steering Team (which manages the global Argo Network). Argo floats measure profiles of temperature and salinity to a depth of 2,000 metres every 10 days for about 4-6 years and are deployed mostly in the Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans from UK and South African research vessels. Fiona has also been working in partnership with the Sea Mammal Research Unit and British Oceanographic Data Centre to obtain near-real time observations from seals foraging around the UK’s coastal seas.

Joanne Robbins is a senior weather impact research scientist, working on high-impact weather, impact-based forecasting and landslides. She is an active member of the World Weather Research Programme Working Group on Societal and Economic Research Applications (SERA), which aims to advance the science of the social and economic application of weather related information and services.

Maureen Smith is the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurement (FAAM) Operations Manager, providing essential expertise and logistical support to enable the UK’s atmospheric research aircraft to operate worldwide. Maureen was awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List for services to atmospheric science.

Jacqueline Sugier is currently acting as the Strategic Head for Observations Research and Development. Her work revolves around defining and directing research activities in the field of network engineering, signal processing, and product development for the purpose of improving our real-time observation of potentially high impact atmospheric phenomena such as severe storms, lightning activity and volcanic ash clouds. These observations are used in real-time by our forecasters, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Flood Forecasting Centre.

I’ve highlighted here only a small selection of our talented female scientists to give a flavour of the contributions of women to the Met Office Science Programme. I congratulate them on their achievements and thank them for their contributions.

Whilst I have focussed on our female scientists in this blog post, it would be remiss of me not to also acknowledge the fantastic achievements of women across a wide range of other professions and disciplines at the Met Office. Find out about some of these on our International Women’s Day webpage.

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A review of our long-range outlook for the recent cold snap

Various media reports have been commenting on our longer-range warnings in the run-up to the recent cold snap.

This period of severe weather was very well predicted and the first signs appeared around one month before the start, when we were able to offer broader advice about the likelihood of a cold signal. Our advice to government and the public ramped up in confidence and detail starting from the early signs in late January as events became clearer in our forecasts:

  • 26 January: The first indications of a possible cold spell were given in our one-to-three month outlook for contingency planners. On 26 January we said:
    ‘For February, below-average temperatures are more likely than above-average temperatures. The likelihood of impacts from cold weather during February is greater than normal.’

    Note: that this public outlook is always updated a week later (2nd February), leaving only the three-month view. The one-month outlook reverts to the 30-day forecast at this time.
  • 30 January: we briefed transport users and energy users with this information.
  • 5 February: we emailed users of our long-range outlooks on the impending Sudden Stratospheric Warming event and increasing likelihood of wintry conditions.
  • 6 February: reports of our warnings started to appear in the media.
  • 9 February: we updated our online news release with a statement that there was now high confidence that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming was on the way.
  • 10 February: a second article appeared in the Times in response to an enquiry. Note: this article is only available to readers with a subscription.
  • 12 February: an online update was issued for the week ahead with a reminder of the Sudden Stratospheric Warming and the first yellow warnings of snow and ice.
  • 16 February: a further online update explained that the Sudden Stratospheric Warming had happened highlighting the risk of cold easterlies and snow.
  • Numerous media reports then highlighted the impending cold snap more widely.
  • The first cold weather alert for England was issued in association with Public Health England on Wednesday 21 February, valid from Friday 23 February.
  • We kept the public and key stakeholders with our online media updates on the 19th, 21st and 23rd February.
  • The first National Severe Weather Warnings were issued on 23rd February.
  • Thereafter, our shorter-range forecasts and updates gave clear warnings about the timing and location of the forecast snowfall, including:  25 February; 26 February; 27 February; 28 February; 1 March; 2 March: and 3 March.

So, in summary, the severe cold snap of late February and early March was very well predicted, even from long-range on this occasion. The Met Office provided clear and regular updates on the increasing levels of risk from late January onwards to ensure everyone was aware of how the weather would impact them and they could be prepared for it.


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Winter and February statistics for 2018

Looking at the statistics you may be forgiven for thinking that the winter of 2017/18 was rather uneventful, as both temperatures and rainfall totals are quite close to average in most places.

In fact the statistic of interest when taking the season as a whole was sunshine, with this winter ranking as the 2nd sunniest for the UK (figures dating back to 1929), only fractionally behind 2015. Many areas had above average sunshine in each of the three individual months, Northern Scotland doing so by the widest margin.

Much of the winter was rather unsettled, and only in the second half of February did we get several generally dry days together. However, that was followed by winds from the east, temperatures dropping and the widespread snowfall last week.

Temperatures were slightly below average in Scotland in January, and over a degree below average for almost all of the UK in February, so, despite it being slightly milder than average in December everywhere and also in January for England and Wales, the season overall came in very slightly colder than average, though not as cold as winter 2013.

December and January were both slightly wetter than average for the UK as a whole, but February was rather drier, so overall the winter is close to average for many areas, with East Anglia rather wetter and eastern Scotland somewhat drier.

Provisional Winter 2018 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 3.6 -0.2 191.3 121 316.8 96
England 4.2 0.0 211.8 120 232.9 101
Wales 4.3 0.1 179.9 112 445.9 103
Scotland 2.3 -0.4 163.3 127 414.5 88
N Ireland 3.9 -0.5 173.7 117 352.2 112

February 2018

Much of the first half of February was rather colder than average, with only a few isolated milder days, but no exceptionally low temperatures anywhere (the lowest temperature up to mid-month being -11.0 °C at Bewcastle, Cumbria, on the morning of February 7th). It was rather unsettled, with the majority of places having at least half the month’s average rainfall within the first half of the month, but with clearer slots in between the rain bands allowing ample sunshine. The second half of the month was rather quieter, and for a few days temperatures were closer to normal.

However, it gradually turned colder over the final week, also with increasing snowfall in some areas. The temperature fell to -11.7 °C at South Farnborough on the morning of the 28th, while some places had at least 15 cm snow depth as the month ended.

Provisional Feb 20118 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 2.4 -1.3 95.6 137 64.3 73
England 2.7 -1.4 99.4 134 44.7 74
Wales 2.7 -1.2 92.7 132 79.9 72
Scotland 1.7 -1.0 90.5 144 90.9 70
N Ireland 2.9 -1.4 91.6 137 74.0 88

Temperatures for the month were more than a degree below average in most areas. Cold Februaries have not been common in the last 20 years – with 2013 having been rather colder than average in south-eastern areas, and 2010 having been rather cold more widely and especially in the north.

This February was provisionally colder than 2013 but less cold than 2010. The years 1996, 1994 and 1991 saw rather cold Februaries, but it was 1986 that was very cold throughout which sticks in the memories of those of us of a certain age!!

It was a remarkably sunny February, provisionally ranking amongst the top 10 sunniest (figures dating back to 1929), in fact the UK as a whole had its second sunniest February, beaten only by 2008. Western areas generally fared best of all. Only the coast of Yorkshire had less than the full-month average.

You can find out the current forecast in your area using our forecast pages and by following us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as using our mobile app which is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from the Google Play store.

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Mid-month February statistics on the 40th anniversary of blizzards

It has been a cold and wet first half of February for many of us however there have been a few isolated milder days and plenty of sunshine between the bands of rain.

It’s been rather unsettled, with most of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and south-western fringes of Scotland having already had more than half of their full-month average rainfall, with a few places getting close to the average rainfall for the whole month such as Suffolk with 77%, Anglesey with 79%, Antrim 86%, Armagh 83% and Wigtownshire 101%.  Elsewhere some other parts of Scotland have been drier than average such Fife with 30% of rainfall, Clackmannanshire 28% and Orkney 29%.

 February 1 – 15   Precipitation    Sunshine
 Actual mm  Anomaly % (81-10) Actual hrs    Anomaly % (81-10)
UK 49.3 56 44.2 63
England 35.9 59 46.1 62
Wales 68.0 61 40.0 57
Scotland 63.5 49 41.0 65
N Ireland 66.5 79 50.5 76

Although it has been colder than average so far this month, with temperatures a degree or more below average in most areas, there have been no exceptionally low temperatures anywhere, the lowest being  -11.0 °C at Bewcastle, Cumbria, on the morning of February 7th.

Cold Februaries have not been common in the last 20 years – with 2013 having been rather colder than average in south-eastern areas, and 2010 having been rather cold more widely and especially in the north. The years 1996, 1994 and 1991 were also cold, as was February  1986.

  February 1 -15 Maximum temperature    Minimum temperature
 Actual  degC  Anomaly  degC (81-10) Actual  degC    Anomaly  degC      (81-10)
UK 5.2 -1.4 -0.5 -1.2
England 5.7 -1.5 -0.2 -1.2
Wales 5.7 -1.2 0.1 -1.0
Scotland 4.1 -1.4 -1.2 -1.1
N Ireland 5.8 -1.5 -0.2 -1.4

Blizzards devastated the South West 40 years ago 

It is the 40th anniversary of the start of what was one of the worst blizzards to have affected the United Kingdom in the last 100 years. It affected South West England and south Wales for five days from 15th to 19th February 1978 before milder weather edged in bringing a general thaw.

The cold air initially moved into the UK from the east around the 7th, and was further enhanced by a cold pool of air moving in from central Europe between the 10th and 14th .

The weather set up, with a huge contrast in air-masses either side of a weather front, led to considerable snowfall for the South West on the 15th and 16th and this was followed on the 18th and 19th by an unusually severe blizzard which extended to south Wales.

Snow accumulated to depths of about 60cm in places on Dartmoor and Exmoor and to 85cm at Nettlecombe (Bird’s Hill) in Somerset, but drifts of at least 6m were reported over a wide area which included Dorset and Wiltshire.

The exceptional weather cut communications and caused severe hardship, and although milder weather soon reached the south-west, several towns and villages were isolated by snowdrifts for some days and it was reported that there was still snow on the ground in early July.

Snow depths at 9am on 20th February:

Devon, Somerset, and Devon

85cm Nettlecombe, Birds Hill

60cm Princetown Prison

39cm Bovey Tracey Yarner Wood

38cm Crewkerne

40cm Winfrith (near Dorchester)

30cm Poole

South Wales:

39cm Rhoose

38cm Bridgend

You can subscribe to email alerts for our weather warnings and storm names and you can follow the Met Office on Facebook or Twitter for the latest weather updates or download the Met Office App

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BBC and Met Office: an enduring partnership

Today the BBC has stopped taking most of its weather information from the Met Office, here Phil Evans, our Chief Operating Officer gives his perspective

You will know us as the UK’s National Weather Service and also as the people behind the weather forecasts that feature on TV, online and on your phone – keeping you in touch with our ever changing weather. We are also trusted to help protect the Nation through our warnings of severe weather, our armed forces rely on us as they plan missions around the weather; and we help keep technology safe with our space weather forecasts. We support the economy and vital global transport networks. For example, we advise energy and retail sectors of weather that might affect consumer trends and help airlines reduce costs, and run safely and on schedule.

No one knows Britain’s weather better than the Met Office – the UK’s national weather service, official source of weather forecasts, warnings and statistics. Everything we do is based on world-leading science and enhanced by the close working relationships we have with partner organisations in the UK and around the globe. We collect and make sense of massive amounts of data every day, for the benefit of mankind – and our planet.

So it is not surprising that the public are puzzled and have asked us why the BBC have changed their supplier of weather information. This was a decision for the BBC to make and a question we can’t answer. Our work supporting businesses continually demonstrates that we provide value for money services with a real impact. Our technology is cutting edge – we have installed the world’s most powerful supercomputer dedicated to weather and climate on time and under budget. We are leaders in innovation just look at our stunning graphics package which drives our broadcasts and those of our partners on ITV, STV, Channel 5, UTV and S4C  

Some have also asked what will happen to our popular weather presenters and it comes as no surprise to me that the BBC have adopted them as their own. Our Met Office college trains meteorologists and presenters from all over the world and ensures a talent pipeline for our own and partner channels into the future.

Now, up to the minute weather information is available through a huge diversity of channels – TV and radio, online, through smart phone apps and in print media. The public should be reassured that the Met Office and its partners will be providing its trusted weather information through all of these channels, while the UK’s official National Severe Weather Warnings will continue to be seen and heard on the BBC. So our partnership continues. To be sure you are viewing an official forecast from the trusted source in UK weather, just look for the Met Office name and logo.

I’d like to offer the BBC and MeteoGroup our best wishes with their new partnership. Everyone can be assured that, as the home of weather in the UK, the Met Office will continue to provide the public and our partners around the world with our forecasts, warnings and advice wherever they are, at the touch of a button, click of a mouse or the tap or swipe of a fingertip. You can receive our video forecasts and weather news direct from the Met Office studios on our YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Should the Met Office have named last night’s storm?


It’s been a complex meteorological picture over the last few days with a number of weather warnings in force across the UK.

A low pressure system crossed the UK last night (Wednesday into Thursday) bringing strong winds to many areas, in particular to East Anglia and Lincolnshire. This system was forecast as much as a week in advance with Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings being first issued for wind and snow on Monday to allow everyone plenty of time to prepare for it.

Because of the way the system developed there was a degree of uncertainty over the strength of the expected winds and precisely which areas would see the greatest impacts, about which we gave regular updates on our website and social media channels through the week.

News release issued Monday 15 January 2018

News release issued Wednesday 17 January 2018

The warnings were constantly under review to ensure they reflected the expected level of impacts and also whether the low pressure system would meet our storm naming criteria, which in this case it didn’t.

What was easier to forecast was that the system would develop further as it moved off the east coast of the UK into the North Sea and bring very strong winds to north east France and northern Europe. For this reason the French meteorological service, Meteo France, named the system Storm David. Indeed, as Storm David has moved across the near continent it is reported to have led to at least four deaths. Under international naming conventions once the depression had been named by another national meteorological organisation we then also adopt that name.

There are still a number of National Severe Weather Warnings in place for snow and ice, keep up to date with our warnings page on our website for the latest. Further snow showers will affect Northern Ireland, western Scotland and north west England through Thursday and Friday. There is also a risk of ice forming in north east England, Wales and south west England overnight.

By Saturday a ridge of high pressure will move in bringing much brighter and drier conditions to much of the UK before a further front moves in from the south west on Sunday heralding milder temperatures for the start of next week.

Why do we name storms?

We first introduced the scheme to name storms in partnership with Met Éireann in the winter of 2015/16 in a move aimed at helping improve communication of the possible impacts of up and coming severe weather through the media and government agencies. The idea is to ensure the public have the information they need to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.

The criteria we use is based on our National Severe Weather Warnings service and takes into account both the impact the weather may have, and the likelihood of those impacts occurring.

A storm will, in the main, be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red  warning. When the criteria are met, either the Met Office or Met Éireann can name a storm.

The system has worked so well that other European countries are now following suit and Meteo France have joined with met services in Portugal and Spain to introduce a naming convention of their own hence the naming of the storm last night by them Storm David.

We are really pleased that storm naming has captured the imagination of, and been embraced by the press, media and the public, but it is important that we don’t enter into the world of speculation around when storms will be named. More often than not the impacts from the weather systems affecting the UK will be within the norm for the time of year so it is important that names are used in the right context.

Storms are only ever named by the Met Office, Met Éireann or our partners in Europe. You can subscribe to email alerts for our weather warnings and storm names and you can follow the Met Office on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.


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Review of the year – 2017 UK weather

2017 saw named storms and heatwaves affect the UK, but perhaps the most memorable day was October 16 when the 30th anniversary of the 1987 Great Storm was marked by an ex-hurricane generating headlines as the sky and the sun turned red.

Here’s a brief look back at some of the UK weather highlights for 2017:


The year started on a dry note with below average rainfall for the month in most areas, especially the north where well below half of the month’s average rainfall fell. It was sunny too, the 10th sunniest January across the UK in records going back to 1929

There was a cold snap between the 11th and 14th with snow for most places and, although lying snow tended to be short-lived on low ground 18cm of snow was recorded at Tulloch Bridge, Inverness-shire.

Icy conditions were a feature towards the end of the month which, combined with freezing fog, cause transport problems on the roads and airports across the south of England


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 14.2 °C Achfary (Sutherland) and Plockton (Wester Ross) 25th
Lowest temperature -10.1 °C Braemar (Aberdeenshire) 30th
Wettest day 53.6 mm Cluanie Inn  (Inverness-shire) 14th
Strongest wind 93 mph High Bradfield (South Yorkshire) 11th


The month was generally mild and unsettled with wet and windy weather sweeping northeast across the UK at regular intervals.

Storm Doris was the most notable feature of the months weather for the UK, bringing damaging winds to parts of England and Wales on the 23rd and heavy snow to parts of Scotland.

Tragically there were two reported deaths as a result of Storm Doris as it caused major travel disruption, damage to buildings and left thousands of homes and businesses without power across Wales and the southern half of England. Snow caused significant disruption in parts of central Scotland, with the M80 closed completely for a time during the morning rush hour.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 18.3 °C Northolt and Kew Gardens (Greater London) 20th
Lowest temperature -9.8 °C Altnaharra (Sutherland) 11th
Wettest day 50.2 mm Cluanie Inn  (Inverness-shire) 21st
Strongest wind 94 mph Capel Curig (Conwy) 23rd


Mild west or south-westerly winds dominated the weather for much of March bringing generally changeable conditions, and just a couple of colder spells which brought snow to some northern areas.

The UK’s mean temperature was 7.3 °C, some 1.8 °C above the long term average and making it the 5th warmest March on records that go back to 1910. It was particularly warm in southeast England where the county of Essex had its warmest March on record with a mean temperature of 9.4 °C

Snow resulted in travel disruption around the 21st of the month, causing road accidents and closing some higher routes in northern England and Scotland. The dry weather led to a marked increase in mountain grass fires in south Wales towards the end of the month. In 24 hours Mid and West Wales Fire Service dealt with over 27 separate grass fire incidents.

What How much Where On
Highest temperature 22.1 °C Gravesend (Kent) 30th
Lowest temperature -8.6 °C Dalwhinnie (Inverness-shire) 22nd
Wettest day 75.0 mm Trassey Slievenaman (County Down) 3rd
Strongest wind 77 mph Fair Isle and Lerwick (Shetland) 14th


A quiet month with high pressure dominating the weather for much of the time, giving a dry month in many areas.

It was the UK’s 10th driest April on records going back to 1910 with parts of south-east England, and around Lothian and Fife having less than 5 mm of rain during the month.

What How much Where On
Highest temperature 25.5 °C Cambridge (Cambridgeshire) 9th
Lowest temperature -6.2 °C Cromdale (Moray) 18th
Wettest day 58.8 mm Achfary (Sutherland) 10th
Strongest wind 77 mph Sella Ness (Shetland) 25th


A month of two halves, with the first half being dominated by high pressure, fine weather and easterly winds and the second half seeing a return to changeable conditions and the first of the years notable thundery spells.

It was the second warmest May on record (records back to 1910) with a UK mean temperature of 12.1 °C. There was a marked contrast in rainfall across the UK with the north and west having below average totals while the south and east were quite wet in places.

Thunderstorms between the 27th and 29th saw  Cornwall and Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Services reporting a number of callouts due to lightning strikes.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 29.4 °C Lossiemouth (Moray) 26th
Lowest temperature -5.1 °C Shap (Cumbria) 9th
Wettest day 66 mm Capel Curig (Conwy) 15th
Strongest wind 62 mph Culdrose (Cornwall) 25th


After a very unsettled start the UK experienced a spell of hot, sunny weather in June 2017 associated with high pressure drawing very warm air from the near-continent. The temperature exceeded 30 °C somewhere in the UK every day from 17th to 21st and the hottest day of the year was recorded at Heathrow (Greater London) on 21st when the temperature reached 34.5 °C, the UK’s highest June temperature since 1976.

Despite the heatwave it was a wet month, Scotland had its was the wettest June in a series since 1910 (157 mm) and the UK overall its sixth wettest June (113.7 mm)


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 34.5 °C Heathrow (Greater London) 21st
Lowest temperature -2.3 °C Altnaharra (Sutherland) 8th
Wettest day 112.4 mm Torwinny (Moray) 6th
Strongest wind 69 mph Inverbervie (Kincardineshire) 7th


A generally unsettled month with rain at times and only a few brief fine spells.

Thunderstorms and torrential downpours moved north across southern England during the evening of 18th and overnight into the 19th. The worst affected location was the village of Coverack on the eastern side of the Lizard peninsula where flash flooding damaged about 50 properties and roads became impassable.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 32.2 °C Heathrow (Greater London) 6th
Lowest temperature 0.1 °C Altnaharra (Sutherland) 1st
Wettest day 79 mm Okehampton (Devon) 30th
Strongest wind 71 mph Needles (Isle of Wight) 28th


The period 1st-13th August was the coldest such period for Central Southern & South-East England since 1987

The 22nd to 25th saw heavy rain over Northern Ireland and much of northern Scotland.  There was widespread flooding across north-western parts of Northern Ireland with damage to properties and infrastructure, and over a hundred people were rescued after becoming trapped in homes and cars by overnight flooding.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 29.3 °C Frittenden (Kent) 29th
Lowest temperature 0.5 °C Katesbridge (County Down) 13th
Wettest day 76.4 mm South Uist (Western Isles) 22nd
Strongest wind 66 mph Needles (Isle of Wight) 18th


Another unsettled month with the first named storm of the 2017/18 winter season Storm Aileen passing over the UK on the 12th and 13th. The most significant September storm since ex-hurricane Katrina in 2011, Storm Aileen gave winds gusting 50 – 55 mph widely across southern England and Wales and as high as 70 mph in some exposed locations.

Aileen brought significant transport disruption to road and rail with difficult driving conditions and trains delayed or cancelled due to debris and fallen branches. Power outages were reported to have affected 60,000 homes in Wales and 7,000 homes in north-east England. A number of trees (in full leaf at this time of year) were blown over during the night.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 24.0 °C Hawarden (Clwyd) 4th
Lowest temperature -1.2 °C Altnaharra (Sutherland) 22nd
Wettest day 64 mm Cullen Bay (Moray) 12th
Strongest wind 83 mph Needles (Isle of Wight) 12th


Most of the month was dominated by warm, moist south-westerly winds, and there were some unusually high temperatures at times, notably on the 16th associated with ex-Hurricane Ophelia.  It was often cloudy, but generally dry away from the northwest with rainfall amounts in southern and eastern areas particularly small.

Ex-Hurricane Ophelia moved past the UK on the 16th bringing gusts of wind of 70 – 80 mph to western parts of the UK.  The most severe impacts were across the Republic of Ireland, where three people died from falling trees. There was also significant disruption across western parts of the UK, with power cuts affecting thousands of homes and businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition to this Ophelia draw Saharan dust and wildfire smoke from Spain and Portugal north across the UK, giving a spectacular red sky and sun.

What How much Where On
Highest temperature 23.5 °C Manston (Kent) 16th
Lowest temperature -5.0°C Tulloch Bridge (Inverness-shire) 30th
Wettest day 90.4 mm Alltdearg House (Skye) 10th
Strongest wind 90 mph Aberdaron (Gwynedd) & Capel Curig (Conwy) 12th


Unsettled weather continued through November, although short periods of northerly winds saw widespread overnight frosts, and snow showers in northern and eastern areas.

Heavy rain on 22nd saw 73.6 mm being recorded at Hazelrigg (Lancashire), making it the wettest day on record for the station.

In Glencoe, the 28th was the first official day of the new ski season with skiers flocking to the slopes following heavy snowfalls over the mountains in the preceding days.


What How much Where On
Highest temperature 16.8 °C Chivenor (Devon) 2nd
Lowest temperature -6.9°C Bewcastle (Cumbria) 30th
Wettest day 73.6 mm Hazelrigg (Lancashire) 22nd
Strongest wind 84 mph Capel Curig (Conwy) 22nd


Another unsettled month but with some markedly cold periods which lead to widespread frosts and snow.

Storm Caroline affected the UK on 7 December, bringing very strong winds and transport disruption to the north of Scotland and especially the Western and Northern Isles.

Heavy snow fell across Wales, central and southern England on 10th, with 12 cm of snow settling at High Wycombe (Bucks), and 31 cm at Sennybridge (Powys). Snowiest in lowland England since March 2013. This was the most significant snow fall in terms of depths and extent across Wales and lowland England since March 2013 and brought widespread travel disruption to air, road and rail transport. Hundreds of schools were closed on Monday 11th across England and Wales, and power cuts affected several thousands homes.

What How much Where On
Highest temperature 15.2 °C Cassley ( Sutherland) 18th
Lowest temperature -13.0 °C Shawbury (Shropshire)

Dalwhinnie (Inverness-shire)



Wettest day 71 mm Achnagart (Ross & Cromarty) 6th
Strongest wind 93 mph Fair Isle (Shetland) 7th

There are more details about the weather around the UK in 2017 on the climate pages on our website

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90 years ago parts of England were getting buried in snow

You might be disappointed that you haven’t had a White Christmas, but in 1927 parts of England saw some very disruptive weather with rain turning to snow later in the day, resulting in huge accumulations and causing disruption.

In the weeks before Christmas, Arctic conditions had dominated over the whole of England with a predominantly north-easterly flow. The maximum temperature recorded at St James Park in London on the  19th was -1.1 oC and in Oxford just -2.6 oC with temperatures getting down to between -5°C and -8°C at night.

A large area of low pressure developed over the Atlantic south of Greenland and then rapidly moved towards the UK and tracked over Cornwall and north west France on Christmas Day and Boxing Day as shown in the synoptic charts. This system brought a strong polar wind from the north east and the boundary between this system and the high pressure to the north fuelled the blizzard. Christmas Day itself saw fairly typical December temperatures with heavy rain, 41.7 mm was recorded at Hampstead.

By 6pm this rain started to turn to snow for central and southern England with the heaviest snow falling at the boundary between the colder air to the north and milder air over France to the south. The snow continued through the night and for some areas through much of Boxing Day, temperatures fell away and large snow accumulations built up, particularly over higher ground.

Average snow depth exceeded 1 foot on higher ground such as Dartmoor over a very large area. A strong north-easterly wind resulted in huge snow drifts, with 20 foot depths reported on Salisbury Plain. Hundreds of sheep were buried in the snow on Dartmoor, with most of them were dug out over subsequent days and survived.

Villages were cut off for days, some until the New Year. There are stories that in Kent food and other necessities were distributed by skiers and in Hampshire food parcels were dropped by aeroplane. For inland areas of southern England it became one of our most significant snow events on record. It was most severe on Dartmoor where Princetown was inaccessible for a week.

The meteorological set up was actually startlingly similar to the conditions that bought heavy snow to Wales and central England on 10 December this year. A battle ground was formed where warm air from the south bumped into cold air to the north that had been in place for several days. The limited technology in 1927 made it very hard for forecasters to predict this severe weather, in contrast with the technology that the Met Office now uses which helped meteorologists forecast the snow on 10 December nearly six days ahead and issue warnings well in advance of any impacts.

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What does the temperature of the Atlantic tell us about summer rainfall?

This week, researchers from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) at the University of Reading published a paper suggesting that summer seasonal weather forecasting in the UK could become more accurate thanks to new research.  This result is the latest in a long history of work on the links between Atlantic Ocean sea-surface temperatures and the jet stream since early work by the American researcher Jerome Namias in the 1960s and Met Office research by Ratcliffe and Murray in the 1970s. The research also extends earlier results on summer predictability from the Atlantic Ocean state (Colman and Davey, 1999).

An Argo float

A global network of marine bouys and floats is providing valuable information on temperatures at the sea surface and down to a depth of up to two kilometres.

Commenting on this new research Professor Adam Scaife (Head of Monthly to Decadal Prediction at the Met Office) said:  “Statistical empirical forecasts, like this, are an important tool in our goal of improved weather forecasting.  Our computer models need to reproduce these important relationships so that they can integrate them with everything else going in the climate system to give the best weather and climate predictions.  This avoids over reliance on a single effect and gives physically-based predictions in situations that we have not encountered in the historical record.”

This new research will help the Met Office and its university collaborators define an important area of focus for testing computer models used for prediction, and we have already been examining its role in our long-range predictions.

Professor Scaife concluded: “We’ve made great progress in long-range forecasting for winter, and this result highlights an exciting way forward to break into the long-range forecast problem for summer.”

Citation: Osso, A., Sutton, R., Shaffrey, L., and Dong, B. Observational evidence of European summer weather patterns predictable from spring. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (2017).



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Where wildlife teems in the bleak midwinter

When the English poet Christina Rossetti penned her classic ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, she may have had a certain image in mind. To some this impression may ring true, but those who study nature will recognise a different reality. Our countryside teems with wildlife in winter if you know where to look.

Blue tit in the frost

Small-bodied birds, like this blue tit, need to feed almost continually during cold weather as they lose a lot of energy through heat loss. Photo: Grahame Madge

Matthew Oates, nature specialist for the National Trust, said, “Winter presents us with an array of iconic wildlife, as long as we make the effort to go searching for it. Of course, conditions are much, much tougher for many creatures, while others hibernate or migrate from UK shores. But that doesn’t mean our wildlife has disappeared entirely!

“There are opportunities to spot wildfowl, owls and other birds such as redwings and fieldfares. If it snows, you may stumble across deer tracks, or those of an otter. Hair ice fungi, also known as frost beard, forms on deadwood after a sharp drop in temperature, while the festive season shines a light on holly, ivy and mistletoe.”

Millions of birds, including ducks, swans, geese and wading birds, that nest on an arc from Arctic Canada to Siberia, are lured north in the Arctic summer by near continual daylight and an abundance of midges. However, these same birds are forced to escape the extreme cold and darkness of the Arctic winter. Over the last few weeks our marshes, estuaries and other wetland areas have been filling up with the arrival of millions of birds that will spend the winter on our shores, often in densely-packed flocks.

Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge is also a keen naturalist. He said: “If anyone remains to be convinced of the excitement of wildlife spectacles in the UK, they haven’t stood on the coast of the Wash in Norfolk and watched skeins of pink-footed geese passing overhead on a winter’s dawn. It’s so awe-inspiring that you instantly forget the pain of the frost nipping at your fingers and toes.”

Winter is a season of sheer survival and, sadly, some species struggle in harder weather. Small-bodied birds like wrens, along with kingfishers and barn owls, can suffer heavily during extreme periods of cold. Grahame Madge added: “The cruel winter of 1963 caused a high mortality of these birds and the national populations plummeted as a result. But enough individuals survived to replenish their numbers and all of these birds are currently doing well.”


In the coldest spells birds like the nuthatch will be enouraged to visit gardens in search of food. Photo: Grahame Madge

As species are mostly focussing on day-to-day survival, many partly overcome natural shyness and can be observed at closer range. Two notable birds to look out for when temperatures drop are the redwing and fieldfare. Known to some as Viking thrushes, these songbirds nest in Scandinavia and spend the winter in the UK, feasting on hedgerow fruits. However, any snow or frost may encourage these birds, and other birds such as the nuthatch, to visit gardens to find food.

In very hard winters, some exotic wildlife can be tempted into gardens and even wetland birds like the snipe and bittern have been sighted trying to eke out an easy meal.

The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and the RSPB all have great nature reserves to spot wildlife this winter. For those who want a taste of winter wildlife beamed to their living rooms the BBC’s Winterwatch will broadcast from the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire for four days in January.

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