There are some headlines in the media today which suggest the UK faces another stormy start to winter before conditions turn cold into January, based on the latest Met Office three month outlook for contingency planners.
As we’ve discussed previously, the outlook is 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.
It 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 November-December-January based on our seasonal forecasts and those from other leading centres around the world.
It states “For November-December-January above-average UK-mean temperatures are more likely than below-average” and “Latest predictions for UK-mean precipitation favour near- or above-average rainfall for November-December-January”
However, there are still substantial probabilities that either average or cool/dry conditions may occur. This is because there are many competing factors that determine what our weather will be like in the coming months.
Some more context on the outlook
The outlook suggests the continuing risk of our weather coming in from the Atlantic, which brings unsettled conditions, during the first part of the three month period.
This is a fairly normal set up for the time of year, when we do expect unsettled weather, but the outlook does suggest that “spells of wet and windy weather may be more frequent than is typical”.
As the outlook covers the transition from autumn into winter, there can be big changes in how UK weather is influenced by prevailing weather patterns during the period. Confidence in how the weather patterns will develop later in the period reduces and this is reflected in the outlook when it states “the risk of occasional colder outbreaks increases later in the period.”
As always our forecasts and warnings will highlight the detail of any severe weather when it is expected, enabling everyone to take action based on the best forecasts available. If there is evidence of any severe weather further ahead than 5 days, we will signal this as far ahead as possible through our monthly outlook – which is updated daily.