Meeting on UK’s run of unusual seasons

Weather and climate experts from across the UK came together at the Met Office’s HQ in Exeter today for a workshop to discuss the recent run of unusual seasons in Europe.

A total of 25 delegates attended including representatives from the Universities of Exeter, Leeds, Oxford, Reading and Imperial College London, as well as the Met Office.

Workshops of this kind are held on a regular basis on a great deal of issues across weather and climate science.

Today’s included sessions which looked at the weather patterns and their potential causes in three recent seasons – the cold winter of 2010/11, the wet summer of 2012, and this year’s cold spring.

Professor Stephen Belcher, Head of the Met Office Hadley Centre and chair of the meeting, said: “Ultimately what we’ve seen in each of these seasons is shifts in the position of the jet stream which impact our weather in certain ways at different times of year.

“The key question is what is causing the jet stream to shift in this way? There is some research to say some parts of the natural system load the dice to influence certain states of the jet stream, but this loading may be further amplified by climate change.”

There are a number of possible factors which could be ‘loading the dice’, including declining Arctic sea ice, solar variability, long-term ocean cycles, and other long-term cycles of natural variability.

The workshop focused on the latest research looking at how these drivers can influence weather patterns and discussed future research can be targeted to push forward understanding in this area.

Five out of the last six UK summers have seen above average rainfall (2010 is the exception, with average rainfall) and the workshop heard new evidence from the University of Reading suggesting that long-term Atlantic currents may be playing an important role.

These are understood to operate on cycles of a decade or more, which suggests that we may see their influence on our summers for a few more years to come. While these influence the odds of wet summers, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of decent summers over the next few years.

With regards to the cold winters, there is a wide range of drivers that could have an influence.

There is some initial evidence to suggest that changes in Arctic climate may also be making an impact.

Dr James Screen, from the University of Exeter, said: “There has been a lot of talk about declining Arctic sea ice playing a role in our weather patterns, but really that’s just one aspect of changes in the Arctic climate – which has seen rapid warming compared to other parts of the world.

“Those changes mean there is less of a difference in temperature between the Arctic and tropics, which could impact the position of the jet stream.”

Another driver of colder winter weather has already been identified and is known as Sudden Stratospheric Warmings (SSWs).

Recent research in this area has meant the Met Office was able to give good advice up to a month ahead on cold spells in recent seasons when they have been driven by this phenomenon. Variations in UV output from the sun have been identified as one potential driver of SSWs, but there may be others.

Professor Belcher said: “This workshop has looked at some really cutting edge research and helped us identify key areas for future work to improve our understanding of potential drivers of some of the unusual seasons we have seen.

“We’ll particularly be looking at the way oceans and the atmosphere exchange heat, as well as how models capture that process, the influence of the stratosphere, and which of the drivers we’ve looked at may be influenced by climate change.

“This work will help us continue our work to push forward understanding in this area so we can give better forecasts and advice on longer timescales in the future.”

List of attendees today:

Professor Stephen Belcher Met Office Deputy Director of Climate Science & University of Reading
Dr James Screen University of Exeter
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins Imperial College & University of Reading
Professor Rowan Sutton University of Reading
Professor Doug Parker University of Leeds
Professor Matthew Collins University of Exeter
Professor Peter Read University of Oxford
Professor Tim Palmer University of Oxford
Professor Lesley Gray University of Oxford
Dr William Ingram University of Oxford
Dr Len Shaffrey University of Reading
Professor Julia Slingo Met Office Chief Scientist
Professor Adam Scaife Met Office
Professor Richard Betts Met Office
Dr Gilbert Brunet Met Office
Cath Senior Met Office
Sana Mahmood Met Office
Ruth McDonald Met Office
Sean Milton Met Office
James Murphy Met Office
Dr Peter Stott Met Office
Dr Nick Dunstone Met Office
Chantelle Burton Met Office
Dr Nicky Stringer Met Office
Hazel Thornton Met Office

Info on recent unusual seasons in the UK

All facts are based on UK figures in the national records dating back to 1910.

Spring 2013 – mean temperature of 6.0 °C; 5th coldest in the series; coldest since 1962 (ie coldest in 51 years).

March 2013 – mean temperature of 2.2 °C; joint 2nd coldest in the series; coldest since 1962 (ie coldest in 51 years).

Year of 2012 – 1334.8 mm of rain; 2nd wettest year in the series; the wettest since 2000.

Summer of 2012 – 379.2 mm of rain; 2nd wettest in the series; wettest since 1912 (ie wettest for 100 years).

June 2012 – 149.0 mm of rain; wettest in the series.

April 2012 – 128.0 mm of rain; wettest in the series.

Winter 2010/11 – mean temperature of 2.43 °C, which is 1.3C below the 1981-2010 average;

December 2010 – mean temperature of -0.9 °C; coldest in the series.

Recent summers – five out of six recent summers have had above average rainfall, with only 2010 being average.

Three summers (2012, 2011, 2007) have seen the triple ‘disappointment’ of having below average temperatures, below average sunshine, and above average rainfall.

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10 Responses to Meeting on UK’s run of unusual seasons

  1. Ian Dawson says:

    All that “talent”-and I bet they won’t be any the wiser.Can’t categorically explain cause of last ice age. Earth rules man-definitely NOT the other way round.The sun will still be shining and Earth leisurely gong about its business long after Homo Sapiens is nothing more than a microscopic layer of stratigraphy in a post Himalayan mt. chain-say 100m. years hence (a bllink of an eye in terms of Earth Time!!!)

  2. Shame Piers wasn’t invited.

  3. Reality just a bit different from what the Met Office was predicting back in 2009 then?

  4. I think Professor Belcher was heard to say on the BBC news that ‘we don’t know.’ Strangely enough that is a massive step forward for an organisation that has been embarrassingly overconfident in its prognostications.

    For the people of this country we have not only had to suffer many years of what you guys call disappointing weather but also the damage imposed upon us by misguided politicians who think they can control the climate. At what point Professor Belcher will the Met Office put its hand up and admit that it has provided very poor advice to government?

    Lets hope this is the dawn of a new era where the Met Office stick to doing science and steers clear of advocacy and propaganda.

  5. Can I comment on your use of the expression ‘climate change’ too

    The climate has always changed and always will but now the climate can change because of climate change. So, in the past when the climate changed, that was not because of climate change but was climate change, but not the climate change that causes the climate to change.

    Is that right?

  6. jdey123 says:

    Crikey, all those brains and yet they’re still unable to come up with a scientific basis behind climate change

  7. Victor Creed says:

    I want it to be colder. I hate summer, it make me ill; and I enjoy the snow and the freezing weather.

    I wish people would stop annoying the people that like winter by saying that these wet summers are disappiontments or that unbearable heat is decent or wonderful. My mother told me that she met someone in a shop that loved the heat who wanted unbearable heat all year round; and my mother is like me who hates the heat, and my mother siad that she felt like slapping her one for saying that!
    I find people’s comments about basking in the heat and having a wonderful time, when other people are suffering from heat, very disrespectful. As a result, I have devoloped a sense of pleasure out of people’s disappiontment of rain and ice.

    Also I would like to know what happened IN the meeting; what the scientific analysis content was, I wanna read about it or witness the debates that went on, I wanna hear about all the research that was done in great detial.
    I cannot see any evidence of how do this, which is extremely frustrating and very annoying indeed. If that’s the case then what’s the piont in having the meeting, if I can’t find out anything about it? You may as well all go and play in a field full of cows, because we will be none the wiser either way.


  8. John Benton says:

    So the high priests of the Holy Church of Global Warming meet to push the AGW meme. No need to ask what comes next week. We want more money.

    When will all the alarmists realise that models are GIGO, and no one is listening to their inane scaremongering anymore. The climate has always changed, get used to it. If any adaption is required we have more than enough time to decide the best strategy.

  9. Was there any paper produced to cover the discussions of this meeting? Any leads will be highly appreciated as i need to include it in my climate change research. Cheers!

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