Space mission blasts off for the sun

Solar Orbiter blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 04:03 GMT this morning. Solar Orbiter is a European Space Agency (ESA) science mission, with support from NASA in the US, that will provide data to help improve our understanding of the Sun.

Solar Orbiter liftoff. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

Why is it important to understand the Sun?

The Sun, which is vital to sustaining life on our planet, is also the source of what we know as ‘Space Weather’. Explosive bursts of energy & matter from the Sun presents a risk to the technology that we rely upon on a day-to-day basis. Severe solar storms in 1989 and 2003, caused power blackouts in Quebec Province, Canada and Malmo, Sweden respectively and can disrupt space based services that we all rely on, whether it be communications, GPS signals to our Satnavs, or the industries that use these services such as aviation.

It’s a fantastic time to be a space weather scientist or solar physicist with two missions Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter operating at the same time and generating new data from which we can improve our understanding of the Sun.

Solar Orbiter will give us a glimpse of the Sun’s poles for the first time, which is expected to help us understand the 11-year solar cycle which drives the frequency of explosive solar events that are so important for space weather.

At a time when the importance of space, both as a growing economy and also the impact of a loss of space-enabled services, is increasingly being recognised by the UK Government, it is great to see UK organisations playing such key roles in the mission. Imperial College London, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UCL-MSSL) and the Science and Technology facilities Council’s RAL Space (STFC-RAL Space)  led international teams to develop and build three instruments while UCL are a major contributor to a fourth. Airbus in Stevenage have designed and built the spacecraft that will be required to withstand the exceptional heat from the Sun as the spacecraft gets as close as 26 million miles of the Sun’s ‘surface’ (the Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun!).

Although it will take many years, the knowledge gained from these two missions will generate new scientific understanding of the Sun which will ultimately improve space weather forecasts.

Artist’s impression of Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

What’s next for space weather missions?

At the ESA Council of Minister’s Meeting last December, funding was approved to take forward a dedicated space weather mission to the Lagrange 5 (L5) location to provide a permanent side-on view of the Sun-Earth line to maintain, and improve, our ability to predict the arrival time of the most impactful type of space weather, coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs give rise to geomagnetic storms at Earth which give us beautiful bright aurora (Northern & Southern lights) but also put power grids at risk, as evidenced in 1989 & 2003 events.

The ESA L5 mission is very much being led by the UK, with Airbus, STFC-RAL Space and UCL-MSSL leading the mission study, remote sensing instruments and in-situ instruments respectively with European partners. Here at the Met Office, we’re engaged in defining the user requirements for the mission to ensure it delivers the data required to improve space weather forecasts. This will be quite a different mission to Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter as the mission is less about gaining new knowledge and more about providing the vital data we know we need for accurate space weather forecasts.

Posted in Met Office News | Leave a comment

Sixth warmest January in series since 1884

Across the UK, January 2020 was the sixth warmest January in a series starting in 1884, making it the warmest since 2007. With an average mean temperature for the month of 5.6 °C, it was 2.0 °C warmer than the average between 1981-2010. It was the fifth warmest January in Scotland with an average mean temperature of 4.8 °C, 2.1 °C above the 1981-2010 average.

The warmest January on record was 1916 with a mean temperature of 6.3 °C, which is a notably long-standing climate record.

2020_1_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

In line with the theme of higher than average temperature, the number of days of air frost was considerably below average; where air frost is defined as a day in which the minimum temperature falls below freezing (0 °C).

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. He said: “January 2020 experienced only five days of widespread air frost the fewest recorded for January since 1990, and third lowest in a series from 1960.

“The weather station in Morpeth, in Northumberland, has broken a 135-year January record by not observing a temperature of 0.0 °C or below during the month.”

2020_1_AirFrost_Anomaly_1981-2010

Rainfall saw mixed fortunes, with Northern Ireland, eastern Scotland and north east England all recording a relatively dry January with Inverbervie, Aberdeenshire recording 15.6 mm, just 30% of its average January rainfall and the driest place in the country in January. In contrast, north-west Scotland was wetter than average, with 655mm of rain at Achnagart in Ross and Cromarty, which is 151 % of average and was the wettest place.

2020_1_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

An east-west contrast was also apparent for sunshine with the sunniest place in the country during January being Leconfield, Humberside with 145 % of average sunshine while Stornoway and Tiree recorded their dullest January on record with just 42% and 38% of average respectively.

2020_1_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

Provisional January 2020 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 5.6 2.0 44.5 94 121.7 100
England 6.2 2.1 56.3 104 71.1 86
Wales 5.8 1.7 45.2 93 142.5 91
Scotland 4.8 2.1 25.5 72 209.5 119
N Ireland 5.3 1.1 40.1 90 68.3 59
Posted in Met Office News | Leave a comment

Wet or dry? November mid-month statistics

As we pass through November’s mid-way point, the weather has never been far from many people’s minds with a notably cold and wet start to the month for some.

With statistics up to 17 November, the wet start to the month is very clear to see for some parts of the UK. Overall, the UK has already seen 68% of its average November rainfall. However the distribution of this rainfall has not been even across the UK.

England has been the wettest UK country compared to average seeing 90% of its monthly average already. Nottinghamshire has been the wettest county compared to the long-term 1981-2010 average with 189% of average rainfall (107.8mm). Conversely, western and northern Scotland has been significantly drier compared to its average, with just 17% (23.5mm) of November average rain falling in Shetland so far this month, and Lerwick being the driest location in the whole UK. The distribution of rainfall can be seen in the map below.

2019_11_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map showing rainfall compared to 1981-2010 average 1-17 November 2019

On a more local level, our weather station in Sheffield has already surpassed its autumn record, with 440.8 mm of rainfall this autumn so far. The previous record was set in 2000 with 425.2mm.

Aberdeenshire, Berwickshire, Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, East Lothianshire, Fifeshire, Forfarshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Kincardineshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Radnorshire, Rutland, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire have all had more than their average monthly totals of rainfall by 17 November.

The cold start is also evident with the UK mean temperature (5.3°C) -0.9°C below the long term 1981-2010 average for November.

Scotland has been the coldest when compared to the long-term average, -1.6°C below average. Sutherland is the historic county with the lowest temperature compared to the 1981-2010 average where it has been -2.3°C below average through November so far. Central and eastern England are closest to average mean temperature.

2019_11_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map showing mean temperature compared to 1981-2010 average 1-17 November 2019

As well as being dry compared to average, Shetland has also been notably sunny. Up to  17 November, Lerwick had already recorded 44.8 hours of sunshine, easily surpassing the average for the whole of November (33.8 hours). To compare this to a location in the south east, Manston in Kent has only recorded 47.2 hours. This is significant considering that Shetland has a little over one hour less daylight compared to Kent at this time of year.

2019_11_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map showing sunshine hours compared to 1981-2010 average 1-17 November 2019

Provisional 1-17 November  2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 5.3 -0.9 81.7 68 30.2 53
England 6.3 -0.6 79.5 90 30.2 47
Wales 5.9 -0.8 127.3 79 27.3 49
Scotland 3.4 -1.6 72.2 44 29.2 64
N Ireland 5.3 -1.2 88.1 79 39.5 74

 

Posted in Met Office News

The jet stream casts its shadow over the UK during October

October was an unsettled month, with frequent low-pressure systems influencing the weather of the UK, especially the south.

Jet stream positions for October 2019 and October 2018

The above maps show the composite mean for the position of the jet stream during October 2019 (top) and October 2018 (bottom). Images provided by the NOAA-ESRL Physical Sciences Division, Boulder Colorado  http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/

The most notable influence on the month’s weather was the more southerly track of the jet stream when compared with an average October. This more southerly position brought more rain to southern parts and drier conditions to northern parts.

Although there were some calmer spells towards the end of the month, there were days with notable heavy rainfall, with over 100mm falling in 36 hours in the wettest parts of South Wales on the 25th and 26th.

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. He said: “The position of the jet stream has a major influence on the UK’s weather patterns, especially in autumn.  This October, the jet took a more southerly track, steering low-pressure systems towards southern Britain, bringing heavy rainfall to some. By comparison the northern parts of the UK, especially northern Scotland and Northern Ireland, saw less rainfall, more sunshine, but they were also slightly colder on average, reflecting their position on the ‘cool’ side of the jet stream.”

The UK received 109% (138.8 mm) of its average October rainfall. Although it was wetter than average for the UK as a whole, the rainfall was not distributed evenly, with many northern regions and Northern Ireland receiving less than their average monthly totals.

Scotland and Northern Ireland were the only regions in the UK to record drier than average totals for October, with 87% (152.7 mm) and 84% (100.3 mm) respectively. Caithness was the driest historic county, with only 68% (80.9 mm) of its average October rainfall.

Rutland was the wettest compared to average with 177% (113.0 mm) of its monthly total. For the UK as a whole this marks the fifth consecutive wetter than average month.

Temperatures throughout the month were unremarkable, with the nationwide average 0.5°C below the 1981-2010 mean. Each region recorded slightly below average temperatures throughout the month. Only Kent and Sussex were above average in October, and that was only by 0.1°C.

Provisional October 2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 9.0 -0.5 87.9 95 138.8 109
England 10.0 -0.4 86.6 84 124.8 136
Wales 9.5 -0.4 78.1 84 198.5 117
Scotland 7.2 -0.8 89.5 118 152.7 87
N Ireland 8.7 -0.7 105.4 120 100.3 84

 

Posted in Met Office News | Tagged , , , ,

Met Office climate projections helping to inform the future of Great Britain’s farming

Climate change is happening now. And increasingly it will affect every individual and every sector. Understanding the extent of climate change across the UK – helping to inform local communities to stay safe and thrive – is a key driver for the Met Office’s scientific programme.

Agriculture – which has always been subject to the vagaries of the British weather – is likely to be one of the most impacted sectors in a rapidly changing climate, according to new research.

Arable and livestock farming are essential to the UK

The future of British farming, both arable and livestock, is likely to be affected by future climate change according to climate projection information provided by the Met Office.

Dr Lizzie Kendon is a science manager at the Met Office. She said: “The Met Office carries out very high-resolution climate projections, which provide detailed information on how the UK’s climate is likely to change over the next century. Any farmer knows that agriculture and the climate are inextricably linked, and a changing climate may bring changes to the industry.”

A new study published today led by the University of Exeter – using climate projection data from the Met Office – is suggesting that unchecked climate change could create a significant impact on farming in Great Britain, helping to redraw the agricultural map: driving Britain’s arable farming north and west, and potentially leaving the east and south-east unable to support crop growing.

At present, arable farming predominates in the east and south-east, with livestock rearing tending to dominate in the remaining areas.

The new study looks at the effects of the 5.0 °C warming predicted by 2100 if the world’s carbon emissions continue to rise at the current rate (a scenario known as RCP 8.5).

The study shows as well as being significantly warmer, Britain would have a predicted 140mm less rainfall per growing season (April to September) with more acute drying than this in the south-east.

“Britain is relatively cool and damp, so a warmer and drier growing season is generally expected to increase arable production,” said Dr Paul Ritchie, of the University of Exeter.

“However, our research suggests that, by 2100, unmitigated climate change would see a decline in arable farming in the east and south east. Crops could still be grown with the aid of irrigation, but this would involve either storing large quantities of winter rainfall or transporting water from wetter parts of the country. The amount of water required would be vast, representing a major challenge for UK agriculture.”

Part of the impact of warmer, drier conditions could be offset by higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, because this allows plants to use water more efficiently.

“Our findings suggest that unmitigated climate change would change the way we use our land in Britain,” said Professor Tim Lenton, director of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute.

“In this scenario summer droughts mean that without significant irrigation, large regions of the east and south east of England would become less productive land. Meanwhile livestock farmers further west and north may be able to switch to more profitable arable farming.”

Dr Lizzie Kendon concluded: “We’re delighted that our projections have been pivotal in determining the climate challenges for the future of British farming; one of our vital industries.

“The climate is changing and will continue to change but armed with the best climate projections, industries like farming will know what’s coming and will be able to adapt to the new climate we’ll all be facing”

The research team – including the Met Office, the University of Trento and Wageningen University – used state-of-the-art, kilometre-scale climate change scenarios to drive a land surface model (JULES; Joint UK Land Environment Simulator) and an ECOnometric AGricultural land use model (ECOAG).

The study was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council. The paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, is entitled: “Large changes in Great Britain’s vegetation and agricultural land-use predicted under unmitigated climate change.”

* UK Climate Projections (UKCP) provides the most up-to-date assessment of how the climate of the UK may change over the 21st century. To find out more about how different sectors may use the new set of UK climate projections, have a look at these six project leaflets – written by sector specialists for their sectors. The leaflets cover water resources management, flood risk, coastal erosion risk, forestry as well as buildings design. http://bit.ly/36br8DB

Posted in Met Office News | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Is Humberto on the way to the UK?

At its most powerful Humberto was measured as a Category 3 Hurricane, but after leaving Bermuda and heading in to the cooler waters of the North Atlantic its intensity has waned.

Media reports have suggested that Humberto will reach the UK, bringing strong winds and heavy rain early next week. Is the story as simple and straightforward as that? As you may have guessed: no, not really.

Now as an ex-tropical system- heading north-eastwards across the north Atlantic, the former hurricane has become heavily modified to a point where it is now become wrapped into a new low-pressure system which only owes some of its origins to Humberto. Its influence will still be felt early next week when the low-pressure system approaches the UK, helping to push the current area of high-pressure eastwards, signalling an end to this week’s pleasant conditions.

Hurricanes heavily influence the climate of the north Atlantic by drawing up moist air from the tropics. By the time they reach our shores, they often only provide a boost to home-grown low-pressure systems – they are actually an important mechanism for redistributing temperature. The waters of the North Atlantic are too cold to sustain the vast energy demands of a hurricane in full force, so by the time they reach our latitude they have lost their tropical ferocity and have frequently become heavily modified.

Posted in Met Office News

Zooming in on climate forecasts: the launch of UKCP Local (2.2km)

User panel

Earlier this week, the Met Office, BEIS, Defra and the Environment Agency launched the latest component of the UKCP climate projections, 12 projections of how the future climate could evolve, using a climate model resolution of 2.2km. Press release here.

Professor Jason Lowe, who has been leading the project for the Met Office, said: “Across the UK, we have all become accustomed to seeing very spatially-detailed models for weather forecasting a few days ahead: this new set of projections applies similar – kilometre-scale detail – to climate projections, several decades into the future. It provides users of the data with the most detailed glimpse of the future, enabling them to make informed decisions about how to plan for what could be some of the most damaging impacts of climate change.”

At a packed event in London, invited guests – including representatives from the user groups who helped with the development of UKCP – heard a range of speakers examine the capability of the latest phase of UKCP data, known as UKCP local (2.2km).

Dr Lizzie Kendon, a climate scientist with the Met Office, explained some of the benefits of this higher resolution. She said: “By working at a finer scale, we’re more clearly able to model for certain geographical features, such as mountains, coastlines and built-up areas to see how these can influence weather at a local scale. The higher resolution also enables us to gain an insight into weather features like convective summer rainfall that happen at a scale smaller than the resolution of the coarser outputs, such as the 12km regional projections. This is particularly important with events like summer thunderstorms which can unleash huge volumes of rainfall such as the event which occurred in Boscastle, Cornwall, in 2004.”

At the heart of the development of the UKCP portfolio was the idea of a set of projections which could be used together, with each providing a slightly different view of the world. Professor Lowe said: “Within the UKCP suite of products there are a range of different tools to investigate the future. For instance, users interested in looking at the range of seasonal warming for different levels of greenhouse gas emissions might focus more on the probabilistic forecasts. Users interested in the large-scale drivers of a changing climate, including beyond the UK, might focus more on the global 60km resolution projections. Those most interested in extremes or sub-daily metrics can focus more on the 2.2km projections. Whichever strand of UKCP is the focus we typically recommend using several of the strands together to get the most complete picture of the future.”

Elements of UKCP use different views of how greenhouse gas emissions will change in the future, covering cases from big reductions in human-driven emissions to a case with large future increases in emissions. In other parts of UKCP – because the calculations are so computationally intensive – we have only been able to run one emission case. The UKCP local (2.2km) projections use the RCP8.5 emissions scenario, which relates to a change in global temperature of around 4.0 C by the 2070s, relative to the period 1981-2000.  Jason Lowe added: “This does not mean this emission future is the most likely – the choice of scenario is still open for the world to make, and the majority of nations have pledged to aim to limit warming to well below 2.0 °C.

“When choosing which scenario to adopt for UKCP local (2.2km), it was agreed to use the higher RCP8.5 case. This is partly because risk-averse decisions, such as how to protect people from potentially dangerous flooding, often take a precautionary approach. It is also because choosing a high-emission scenario also allows users to estimate the response for lower levels of future global warming – for instance by scaling the projections or focusing on results earlier in the century.”

Posted in Met Office News

Climate change: how can the maritime industry be more resilient?

As a maritime nation, the sea has been an integral part of our heritage. But with climate change increasingly impacting the UK, the Met Office’s Tom Butcher examines how maritime industries will cope.

MV Pharos

As a maritime nation, the sea has been integral to our heritage. NLV Pharos, next to HMS Belfast, made an apposite venue to discuss the future impacts of climate change on the marine sector. Photos: Simon Hammett, Met Office

With 80% of the volume of world trade carried by sea, international shipping and ports play a critical role in global supply-chains enabling countries to access global markets. In addition, offshore oil and gas – and increasingly offshore wind energy – play essential roles in meeting global energy demand.

Climate change will cause sea-levels to rise dramatically throughout the 21st Century, regardless of mitigation efforts, and coupled with this, coastal and offshore infrastructure is also vulnerable to changing patterns of storm conditions. So adaptation strategies for offshore, maritime transport and ports industries will be crucial in limiting the impacts of the changing climate on the global economy.

But how resilient are the UK’s maritime industries to today’s weather extremes; and how well are they adapting to future climate change? To explore these issues we brought together senior cross-industry professionals, as well as government and other stakeholders during London International Shipping Week.

Pharos 6

Met Office CEO, Penny Endersby stresses the key role the Met Office plays in linking weather and climate: key areas of interest to the marine sector.

A seminar was hosted on board the Northern Lighthouse Board’s supply ship NLV Pharos, moored alongside HMS Belfast on the Thames, -an apposite location given the river’s long and proud history as a vital hub for UK shipping and trade.

Pharos 3

Baroness Brown of Cambridge – Chair of the Adaptation Committee of the Committee on Climate Change outlines the potential climate impacts facing the marine sector.

The event was opened by Nusrat Ghani MP the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State with responsibility for maritime issues. Baroness Brown of Cambridge (pictured above) set the scene by presenting her perspective as Chair of the climate adaptation committee of the Committee on Climate Change.

Met Office Chief Scientist, Professor Stephen Belcher, provided an update on the latest understanding of weather and climate science, and four panel speakers – representing different parts of the maritime sector – gave their perspectives on how well adapted their organisations were to climate change. Round-table discussions allowed all delegates to share their perspectives on the topic.

Some key themes emerged:

Improving access to and availability of data

A number of organisations within the ports, shipping and offshore sectors are undergoing digital transformations utilising connected technologies. This creates new opportunities for the use of weather information alongside asset and operational data in new and exciting ways to increase automation and improve efficiency. To fully realise this opportunity,industries need to explore new ways of sharing the huge amounts of valuable and available data. It was highlighted that it may take some time for the benefits of these technologies to be realised by smaller port and ship operators who may have ageing infrastructure and lack the deep pockets to fund technology investment.

Incentives for adaptation

Many of the commercial organisations represented recognised the need to adapt to climate change, but expressed some scepticism about how this might be achieved given the economic constraints on their business which may prevent taking a very long-range view. During his presentation, James Trimmer, from the Port of London Authority (PLA), identified some ways through which this could be overcome. The PLA conducted a climate-risk assessment as part of a response to government for the Adaptation Reporting Power. The PLA was aware of some key weather and climate issues on the river such as sea-level rise, fog and wind; but until completion of its latest adaptation report it had not considered the risks associated with peak flow on navigation on the upper Thames. As a result, they established a warning system for the safety of rowers on the river, and this was almost immediately put to the test during sustained flood conditions in January and February 2014, resulting in an immediate benefit.

An interdependent approach

Baroness Brown of Cambridge identified the importance of interdependencies between industries and adaptation in her presentation, and this was echoed by participants during some of the following round-table discussions. For example, the tidal surge that affected the east coast during December 2013 caused direct impacts such as closure and overtopping of some ports and harbours, and the diversion of many ships. However, some of the problems experienced by port and ship operators were secondary, caused by flooding of power stations or the inability of staff to get to work due to the associated windstorm and inland flooding of roads. It is only by putting those adaptation strategies in place that strengthen supporting value chains – as well as key coastal and offshore infrastructure – that maritime industries will be resilient.

Pharos 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Met Office News

Hot news from the cold continent

Penguins enjoying Antarctic sunshine

In the stratosphere high above the Antarctic continent the winds of change are threatening to create a weather pattern likely to affect the southernmost extremities of southern hemisphere land masses.

The stratosphere above the South Pole is rapidly becoming ‘hot news’ as meteorological interest is focused on a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW) event that has raised the temperature by 40-50 degrees C, promising to disrupt weather patterns as far away as southern Australia and Patagonia, in South America.

In the northern hemisphere, these SSW events are relatively frequent and such an event led to the ‘Beast from the East’ last winter and early spring. This ultimately brought a stream of intensely cold air to the UK and north-western Europe from as far as Arctic Siberia.

Now, the Antarctic continent is undergoing a similar sequence of events to what happened in the northern hemisphere last year, involving a complete breakdown of the southern stratospheric polar vortex, followed by a massive rise in temperature high up in the stratosphere.

Long-range forecasts showed that an SSW event was likely during late September.

How often do we have these events?

SSW events are a natural feature of the atmosphere but it is difficult to estimate how often such a rare event like this occurs.  Our computer models have raised the prospect of its potential occurrence in the past when we have occasionally seen SSW events in computer model simulations of the polar vortex in the southern hemisphere.  However, it was only in 2002 when the only other event on record occurred in the real world that we realised that the computer models were alerting us to a real possibility.  Professor Adam Scaife said: “These events are rare in the southern hemisphere but we recently analysed thousands of computer simulations to calculate the chance of a second sudden stratospheric warming in the southern hemisphere and we now know that it is about four per cent per year, so it is likely to occur on average about once every 25 years.”

What does this mean for the weather?

The change in the stratospheric winds burrows down with time and on reaching the tropopause – the layer separating the higher stratosphere from the lower troposphere – it is followed by a change in the southern hemisphere jet stream which is expected to shift towards the equator.

Harry Hendon is a senior principal research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne. He said: “We’re not really anticipating impacts until October and maybe extending through to January. So typically what happens is the westerly jet stream shifts towards the equator. So in those locations that pretty much sit right underneath the westerly jet stream – like the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand or Patagonia in South America – they can expect to see enhanced storminess and more clouds and more rainfall.”

Harry added: “Our modelling capability here – where we’ve been anticipating what’s going to happen both in the short term and long term – really depends on our partnership between the Bureau of Meteorology and the UK Met Office. We share the same modelling capability and it’s a really good example of the benefit of this long-running partnership that the Bureau of Meteorology has had with the Met Office.”

Although there is likely to be weather disruption in parts of the southern hemisphere, there is some good news in that the ozone hole is likely to temporarily shrink this year with the benefit that there will be less ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

Posted in Met Office News

2018: a year in global climate statistics

2018 was a significant year for the monitoring of the climate, as reported in the latest State of the Climate report, published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

One of the highlights is that globally, 2018 was the fourth warmest year in a record stretching back to the mid-1800s. Combined with the previous three years, the last 4 years were the warmest in the record, with 2016 being the warmest in the instrumental record. The report also highlights that every year since 2000 annual global surface temperatures have been above the 1981-2010 long-term average.

In both scope and production, the State of the Climate report series is global. Over 165 authors from around the world help compile the chapter on the Global Climate, including six from the Met Office. The latest State of the Climate report is the 29th edition.

Robert Dunn is a Met Office senior scientist who also leads the editorial team for the Global Climate chapter. Commenting on the latest report covering 2018, he said: “One of the stories that the BAMS State of the Climate draws out is that the number of warm extreme temperatures is much larger compared with the number of cool extremes. For example during the heatwaves experienced last year, new maximum temperature records were set in Japan, Canada and Algeria.

“However, although the number of cool extremes was much lower, they still occur. Notably, during the period when the “Beast from the East” drove a period of intense cold air from Siberia, the UK recorded a new low daily maximum temperature for Spring with a daily maximum of -4.7 C recorded in Tredegar in Wales. There were also cool autumn records in the eastern United States.”

Other sections of the report focus on the water cycle, land surface and atmosphere. Of particular note are the latest reports on the cryosphere – the Earth’s combined natural resource of frozen water, above and below the surface.

Regular monitoring of the mass of specific glaciers descending down mountain valleys – so-called alpine glaciers – reveals that the loss of ice during the period 1980-2018 was equivalent to the removal of a 24-metre slice of ice from the top surface of an average alpine glacier.

Robert Dunn added: “The rate of loss of volume from alpine glaciers during 2018 has been so extensive that it may surpass the rate in 2003, the previous record year. Glaciers have lost mass in every year for the last 30 years.”

Carbon dioxide levels reached 408.5 ppm at Mauna Loa in 2018, compared with 315ppm when monitoring started in 1958.  When looking at the concentration of greenhouse gases, including carbon-dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, their combined forcing in 2018 is 1.43 times greater than the figure in 1990.

After a peak in 2016, the global area in drought has declined slowly to reach below average levels. During 2018 around one fifth of the earth’s land surface was considered in moderate drought and 2.7 % in extreme drought.

Here are some of the numbers from 2018:

3.1 mm—the mean annual global rise in sea level in the satellite era—a trend that is accelerating.

11: The worldwide count of Category 5 tropical cyclones, one off the record set in 1997.

22%…the portion of anthropogenic carbon releases in 2008-2017 absorbed by the oceans, moderating the atmospheric warming but acidifying waters.

24 meters: the thickness that would have had to be lopped off the top of the world’s glaciers to equal the mass of ice lost since 1980.

30 years: the ongoing streak in which global glacier mass has decreased.

51.3°C: new national record for Algeria set at Ouargla on 5 July.

77%: the portion of Arctic ice pack in March 2018 that was first year ice—highly vulnerable to summer melt.

81 mm: the amount global annual mean sea level exceeded the 1993 level.

1262 mm: A U.S. record for 24-hr rainfall in Waipā Gardens (Kauai), Hawaii, 14-15 April.

500 million hectares: the lowest global fire extent area since records began in 1997.

$40 billion: The combined cost of U.S. wildfires in 2017 and 2018.

These key findings and others are available from the State of the Climate in 2018 report released online today and can be read in full here.

BAMS

Posted in Met Office News