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:

January 

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

February 

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

March

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

April 

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

May 

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

June

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

July 

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

August

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

September

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

October

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

November

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

December

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)

12th

11th

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.”

Nuthatch

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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New eye in the sky to help UK weather forecasts

A new weather satellite is circling the earth. The JPSS-1 satellite, launched this weekend (18 November 2017) will provide a huge array of observational, near real-time, data which will be shared with US national and international partners including the Met Office.

An artist impression of JPSS-1 in orbit.

An artist impression of JPSS-1 in orbit. Image courtesy of NOAA.

As well as gathering day to day weather data the satellite will monitor a wide range of events such as wildfires, snow cover, sea-surface temperature and aerosol detection, important in air quality monitoring. In addition, the satellite will measure the radiation coming from the earth and atmosphere, vital information for weather forecasting models such as those run by the Met Office.

Weather satellites perform a largely unseen but nevertheless essential role and their impact on our daily weather forecasts cannot be overestimated. The launching of this new satellite from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California comes closely on the heels of the 30th anniversary of the Great Storm of October 1987. Many of us remember the devastation the storm bought to the southern half of the UK. Back in 1987 the Met Office was receiving very few daily observations from satellites. Today most of the 215 billion observations received daily by the Met Office are from satellites, these provide 65% of the observations used in the Met Office’s Global Numerical Weather Prediction model. Satellite data is behind major improvements in forecasting model accuracy levels over recent years, on a scale that former generations of weather forecasters could only imagine.

Dr Simon Keogh, who leads the satellite data, products and systems team for the Met Office, said: “The value we all get from satellites is simply enormous. Earth observations are an essential foundation on which Met Office services are built. They will help us deliver an expected overall £30bn socio-economic benefit over the coming decade, a 14 fold return on investment in the organisation, and will help us ensure the protection of people, property, businesses and critical national infrastructure.”

Portugal wildfires in June 2017.

Wildfires burning in Portugal on 20 June 2017. False colour image from the VIIRS imager on the Suomi NPP satellite. Image courtesy of NASA.

This new satellite provides a valuable US contribution to the Global Observing System that will complement the data provided to the Met Office by our work with European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

In addition to operating satellites, EUMETSAT also runs a satellite-reception station in Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic, an essential part of the network to get the vast quantities of data gathered by satellites to the organisations that use it. At this latitude the station will receive information bursts from the new JPSS-1 up to 14 times per day.

Svalbard satellite receiving station in Norway.

Svalbard satellite receiving station in Norway. Image courtesy of EUMETSAT.

Dr Keogh concluded: “The new data will help drive our numerical weather prediction models and it will provide products for a wide range of earth observation applications from weather forecasting to oceanography.”

For more information and educational resources about JPSS-1 please visit the NOAA JPSS website.

 

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Met Office in the News – BBC weather service update

You may have seen reports in the media that the Met Office has signed a new contract with the BBC to supply their weather services until March 2018. It’s been pleasing to see the public support and response to this, thank you all.

It is important to us as the UKs National Weather Service that the UK public have the weather information they need to make informed decisions every day. This could be through our work with the emergency responders, directly on TV and radio or increasingly on the move on apps and mobile.

No matter who provides weather data to the BBC in the future, Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings will continue to be aired across all BBC channels, ensuring the UK public have access to vital warnings information and advice at times of severe weather.

We are also proud to be partners, recognised as providing great value for money, with ITV, Sky, Channel 5, STV, S4C and BFBS, as well as online news outlets such as the Guardian, Sun, Mirror and Daily Telegraph. We also supply Independent Radio News (IRN) with forecast scripts and warnings, reaching 27 million adult listeners per week (RAJAR, Q1 2017).

Following the awarding of the new weather contract to the Met Office, Michael Jermey, ITV’s Director of News and Current Affairs, said: “We are pleased to be extending our established working relationship with the Met Office, who continue to provide the highest quality and most accurate weather forecasts for our audiences.”

Over the last few years we have continued to demonstrate our world leading credentials in technology and innovation:

    • We have successfully procured and made operational the biggest weather and climate supercomputer in the world, within budget and ahead of schedule
    • Our popular weather app features video forecasts and has had nearly 4 million downloads and has ratings of 4.5* on Apple iOS and 4.3* on Android
    • Our new award winning Alexa Skill sees us enter the virtual assistant world delivering daily regional weather briefings to your home

This continues the proud Met Office history of being at the forefront of delivering weather services to the world — we issued the first newspaper forecast in 1861, the first radio forecast in 1922, and the first TV forecast in 1954. We are now bringing our expert forecasts to new channels, millions more users and younger audiences on Snapchat and Instagram at the tap or swipe of a fingertip, and thanks to ever advancing technology there are sure to be more innovations to come.

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Did You Know? We’re testing new weather balloons: from Cornwall to Antarctica!

The Met Office launches over 4300 balloons every year from 6 locations across the UK and is involved in launching thousands more around the globe.  These are not party balloons; they are weather balloons that take a small weather observation device, called a radiosonde, up through the atmosphere to the very edges of space.

Radiosondes take highly accurate temperature, moisture, wind and atmospheric measurements, which provide vital observations for weather forecasters, as well as data that helps monitor climate change. This data is then transmitted to a receiver on the ground to be fed into the starting conditions of our weather forecast model, along with thousands of other pieces of information.

Not only do these instruments need to work reliably in extremely challenging and varied conditions but they also need to be extremely light and, as they can’t be reused, they need to be cheap.

The Met Office has just completed trials for a new radiosonde as the one that’s been used since 2005 is being retired this year. Testing radiosondes isn’t straightforward – the atmosphere is constantly changing and a sonde can typically reach heights of 35 km, and travel many miles, before the balloon bursts and falls back to earth.  However stable, consistent measurements are vital for the climate record and we need to ensure that there are no breaks in data and that the data itself is not adversely affected by a change in technology.

A new radiosonde has been chosen and, to maintain continuity in the climate record, we are now launching both the old and new sondes at three trial sites for the next year – Rothera (Antarctica), St Helena (Atlantic Ocean) and Camborne (Cornwall). These sites represent a good spread of climate conditions and environments and allow us to continue long-standing climate records. Camborne alone has been flying radiosondes every day since the 1950s. Staff at the Met Office will analyse the data to ensure that the new radiosonde continues to operate as we expect, and that the vital climate data collected is stable.

Radiosonde trials at Rothera, Antartica (Credit Paul Samways, British Antarctic Survey) and Cambourne, Cornwall

The new radiosonde, the Vaisala RS41, has a few advantages over the sonde we have used for the past few years. It’s lighter which means we need less gas (we use helium) to lift it. Not only does this save money, it reduces our use of a valuable resource as well. At the same time, the new instruments are much easier to use. Before a launch, radiosondes have to be calibrated to ensure that the readings they take in the atmosphere are correct. They also have to undergo checks to ensure that they operate properly – we don’t want to waste money and resources launching an instrument that won’t give us any data. The RS41 allows these ground checks to take place incredibly quickly and easy, so the whole process is more efficient. The data is extremely consistent and stable, which means we can be confident in the information that we receive back and used by our forecasters and in our models.

To find out more about the 100’s of thousands of observations we receive each day and how they are a key part in the forecasting process, visit our learning pages on our website.

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UNISDR International Day for Disaster Reduction 2017

The idea behind UNISDR International Day for Disaster Reduction 2017 (IDDR 2017)  (13 Oct 2017) is to raise global awareness of the work that goes on worldwide to reduce the risk of disaster faced by millions, highlighting the effective actions, policies and practices in disaster risk reduction (DRR).DRR is central to much of the work we undertake at the Met Office, and throughout this week we have published a number of blogs looking at some of the ways we are involved.

Our Head of International Development, Dave Britton talked about the wide ranging work we undertake in a blog at the start of the week. We have also highlighted some of our international science and development partnerships such as the Tanzania Meteorological Agency.  This partnership has had a strong focus on user engagement in the development of weather and climate services.

Meanwhile, the CSSP China project, part of the Newton-funded Weather and Climate Science for Services Partnership (WCSSP) programme, included scientists developing an innovative technique to assess the potential risk of physically plausible – but as yet unrecorded – weather extremes. This technique was then used in the UK’s National Flood Resilience Review (2017).

A very different view of DRR was provided by Met Office Weather Impact Research Scientist, Jo Robbins, following her recent voluntary work in Sierra Leone. Working as part of a MapAction team and in partnership with the UN, Jo supported recovery efforts following the recent landslides. Not only was Jo able to put her Met Office experience and skill to good use, she also developed a deeper understanding of emergency response in situations such as these.

Crisis and humanitarian response work was also the theme of our most recent blog from Gavin Iley, Met Office Head of International Crisis Management and Resilience. In particular, Gavin was keen to highlight the importance of considering impact when using weather information in disaster response.

To conclude our DRR focus week, our Chief Executive Rob Varley talks about the importance of global DRR partnerships and the part that the Met Office and national weather and climate services from around the world play in reducing risk.

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Protection, prosperity, wellbeing: a focus on disaster risk reduction

Recent crises and disasters across the globe, including Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, floods and landslides in Sierra Leone, severe flooding in the United States and earthquakes in Mexico serve to highlight the very real and immediate need for disaster risk mitigation and reduction efforts. With many nations still dealing with the impacts of recent events, the UNISDR (United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction) International Day for Disaster Reduction 2017 (IDDR 2017) taking place on Friday 13 October is perfectly timed to highlight some of the challenges faced around the world in preparing for and mitigating against the impacts of disasters, as well as celebrating how communities and nations are working to reduce the exposure to and impacts of disasters.

The UK is a world leader both in responding to crises and in building resilience against future disasters, and the UK Government is committed to continuing to help strengthen global peace, security and governance as well as resilience and response to crises globally. As the UK’s national meteorological service, the Met Office works as an advisor to government departments to help them deliver on these commitments as well as supporting early anticipation of developing severe weather events. This helps enable early civil contingency planning in the UK and humanitarian response across the globe.

In addition to immediate crisis response, we provide global expertise essential for long-term resilience building, supporting efforts to build capacity overseas. This helps improve local response to disasters and mitigation against the impacts of our changing climate. We work in partnership with the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, national meteorological and hydrological services, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to develop weather and climate services across the globe for the protection of lives, livelihoods and property.

In the lead up to IDDR 2017, we will be publishing a series of blog posts highlighting our global disaster reduction expertise and experience. From our use of ground-breaking science to support the development of critical weather and climate services, to our humanitarian response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the Met Office is working at the forefront of disaster risk reduction efforts in the UK and across the globe.

View our DRR webpages for more information.

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Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre – third anniversary

Mark Gibbs – Head of space weather

It was nearly seven years ago, when my boss said “Mark we’ve got a little project for you called space weather “. Little did I know at that time what an adventure it would take us on.

We began forecaster training, utilising short-term project funding, in late 2011 following space weather’s inclusion by the Government on the National Risk Register (NRR). While the prospect of securing long-term funding from government looked remote and a viable future for Met Office space weather operations uncertain, we started producing our first routine forecasts in time for the 2012 Olympics. Then in late 2013, funding was secured and the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC) was created. It began 24/7 operations in April 2014 and was officially opened on 8 October by the then Science Minister Greg Clarke.

Today, three years on, MOSWOC remains one of only three centres manned 24/7 by expert space weather forecasters. The other two are both in the US (NOAA Space weather Prediction Centre and US Air Force 557th Weather Wing). Space weather, in the Met Office, has moved from being a project to an on-going programme in its own right. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) funds MOSWOC as a national capability and space weather remains as a ‘high’ risk on the NRR with Met Office being technical advisors to the UK Government on the topic. We continue to develop our capability and have just implemented an aurora prediction model (called OVATION) providing 30 minute ahead forecasts of the position and intensity of the aurora. It is available to the public via our website.

We hope the aurora model will significantly increase public interest and engagement in space weather over the coming months. Public engagement has been a focus over the summer with the aim of increasing understanding of space weather and its potential impacts. In addition to introducing automated alerts and warnings of space weather activity on our twitter feed to keep the public informed, we have increased our activity on this channel and have trebled our followers and secured official Twitter verification for @MetOfficeSpace.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are streaming a Met Office Live Space weather special on 10 October at 1pm. We will show viewers around MOSWOC and discuss space weather, the OVATION model and the recent activity with our team and Professor Lucie Green, space scientist at UCL’s Mullard Science Laboratory.

Through the first two weeks of September, MOSWOC handled the largest space weather event for over a decade. The whole team did a fantastic job throughout, providing advice to a number of users, stakeholders including UK Government, Swedish Government and the European Space Agency. While some minor impacts have been reported, the event was sufficiently large to test our knowledge and systems, without being particularly damaging and it has allowed us to identify some improvements for the future.

The last seven years has seen the Met Office transition from an organisation not involved in space weather, to become influential globally. The Met Office space weather team is represented on the committees of a number of UN agencies and I’ve visited the White House twice to discuss space weather, once to speak at the launch of the US National Space Weather Strategy in 2015.

When I look back at what we’ve achieved over the past seven years, I am incredibly proud.  I wonder what the next seven years will bring?

 

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