There are some headlines in the media today which suggest the UK faces another mild, wet and stormy winter this year based on the latest Met Office three month outlook for contingency planners.
Every month the Met Office updates its three month outlook for contingency planners, which is available for anyone to view on our website.
However, it’s not like a normal weather forecast. It’s an experimental and complex outlook based on probabilities which is designed specifically for those who plan ahead for various contingencies based on possible likelihoods.
As we’ve discussed previously, the outlook assesses the likelihood of five different scenarios for both temperature and rainfall for the whole of the UK for the whole three months, based on the most probable prevailing weather patterns.
It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and like any horse race, it’s always possible the favourite won’t win.
This is why the outlook has to be used in the right context. So it’s useful for contingency planners, but not that useful for the public who want to know when we might see unsettled weather or which weekend looks good for an outdoor event.
What does the current outlook say?
Our latest three-month outlook suggests an increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions for the period Oct-Nov-Dec based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.
However, there are still substantial probabilities that average or opposite (ie cool and/or dry) conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.
The outlook also highlights an increased risk of unsettled weather relative to what is usual for the time of year, but – again – there are still reasonable chances of other scenarios.
The increased risk of more unsettled than average conditions does not mean the late autumn and early winter will necessarily be like that of last year.
Some more context on the outlook
The outlook suggests that the risk of our weather coming in from the Atlantic, which brings unsettled conditions, increases from mid-October through November and December.
This is a fairly typical set up for the time of year, when we do expect unsettled weather, but the outlook does suggest the risk of more unsettled than normal conditions.
As the outlook covers the transition from autumn into the start of winter, there will be big changes in how UK weather is influenced by prevailing weather patterns during the period.
The current settled conditions bring us generally warm weather in early autumn, but the same weather pattern in winter would likely bring cold weather in from the rapidly cooling continent.
Personally I don’t see the point of this seasonal “outlook” that the Met Office issue. How any person, business or organisation can make any use of advice such as ‘increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions or ‘increased risk of unsettled weather’ beats me. I would have said its the most pointless product that the Met Office have in their portfolio, but after last weeks announcement that they have now started issuing forecasts for outer space, that’s no longer true.
The Australians have got the right approach to seasonal forecasting in my opinion, and also have a great web site for people to access the data. They don’t seem as preoccupied as the UKMO are with getting it wrong, so don’t hide there forecast data and issue a blog like this one that says almost nothing of use.
“How any person, business or organisation can make any use of advice such as ‘increased risk of milder and wetter than average conditions or ‘increased risk of unsettled weather’ beats me”
Multi-million £ businesses exploiting marginal odds for profit is my guess.
If such a business scales back weather dependent operations when there is a 40% chance of favorable weather and scales up when there is a 60% chance then in the longterm they should save a lot of money.
Of course to you and me such marginal odds are irrelevant as we don’t have lots of weather dependent £ to play with. The problem seems to be the media wrongly reporting them as forecasts that are useful to the public.
Completely agree. These forecasts are completely useless and a quick check of past forecasts reveals no apparent predictive value either.
In fact anyone acting on these forecasts may well be negligible in their planning because they appear to have a strong tendency to forecast ‘hotter’ and ‘milder’ than actual. I guess that’s what happens when you’re AGW activists.
Reblogged this on Old School Garden.
Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
“It’s a bit like the science-equivalent of factoring the odds on a horse race and like any horse race, it’s always possible the favourite won’t win.”
Except the favourite is always the one on its way to the knackers’ yard…