This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the Valentine’s Day storm, which also marked the end of a particularly stormy three-month period. A new review article – ‘From months to minutes – exploring the value of high-resolution rainfall observation and prediction during the UK winter storms of 2013/2014’ – written by 16 Met Office co-authors reviews the accuracy of our forecasting and warning of severe weather during winter 2013-14, and assesses its performance.
The paper concludes that the “prolonged period of high impact weather experienced in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013/14 was very well forecast by the operational tools available across space and time scales.”
Here Huw Lewis, the paper’s lead author, and Derrick Ryall, Head of the Public Weather Service, look at the extreme weather last year and the role of the Met Office in communicating severe weather through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.
Winter 2013/2014 in the United Kingdom was remarkable. The country was battered by at least 12 major winter storms over a three month period and was officially assessed as the stormiest period that the United Kingdom has experienced for at least 20 years.
The series of storms resulted in the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766), significantly wetter than the previous wettest winter in 1914/1915.
The extreme weather caused widespread flooding throughout Southern England and coastal damage – most notably in the South West and Norfolk coasts. The impact of the severe winter storms on individuals, businesses and the government were substantial, including several fatalities, widespread power cuts and damaged infrastructure.
Recent advances in forecasting, technology and the scientific developments in meteorology have been considerable. These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago. During the course of last winter, the Met Office was able to use these forecasts to warn of any severe weather well in advance. In the case of the St Jude’s Day storm at the end of October 2013 warnings went out to the Government and the public five days before the storm even existed.
As the accuracy of weather forecasts has evolved, so has the communication of the potential impacts of severe weather. The National Severe Weather Warning Service enables more ‘weather decisions’ which in turn help to minimise the consequences of severe weather. The Met Office was at the heart of the government response to the storms, providing advice on weather impacts through the National Severe Weather Warning Service and Civil Contingency Advisors. The Met Office also worked very closely with both the national and regional media, who in turn played a key role in ensuring that the public were fully informed about the potential impacts of any up-coming weather.
In addition to the Public Weather Service, commercial partners and customers were also provided with detailed updates throughout the period in order for them to plan effectively for logistical issues. Together, these advanced warnings helped authorities, businesses and individuals to be better prepared to take mitigating actions.
Driving further improvements in accuracy and therefore reducing the lead time and increasing the detail of severe weather warnings is one of the Met Office’s key priorities . The ultimate aim is to improve the potential for users to plan preventative measures for severe weather events much further ahead. Underpinning all of these developments is a continuing programme of scientific research and access to enhanced supercomputing over the next few years.
Can I have a clarification, please?
By “the wettest winter in almost 250 years (according to the England and Wales precipitation series from 1766)”, do you mean, ‘since records began’? Or do you mean that there was an equally wet winter almost 250 years ago? If you mean the former it would be helpful in the fight against climate change denial if you could make that very clear, as some people prefer to interpret the statement ambiguously as proof that (I quote one of them), “there were wetter winters in the past”.
johnrussel40, can I have clarification please? You said,
“…..it would be helpful in the fight against climate change denial…..”
Climate change denial???
If by ‘climate change denial’ you mean people in ‘denial of the climate changing’ then they are few and far between. The climate is always changing.
However, if you mean ‘this was caused by mankind’ along the lines of ‘anthropological climate change denial’ then there are many. Some might take this wet period in question as ambiguous ‘proof’ that only man’s influence upon the world can cause this.
Please help the fight against ‘blind faith, manipulation and exploitation of ignorance’ by being more specific in apportioning blame.
Your point is irrelevant because the rainfall records are not even reliable prior to the 1950’s, but best of luck in finding a climate change denier. I’ve personally never come across anyone who denies the climate has changed. In fact all the people I’ve met believe the climate has been changing for the last 4.5 billion years.
It’s a shame that the PDF of the article isn’t available for any member of the public to freely download and read.
These developments and improvements in accuracy mean that a four-day weather forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was just thirty years ago.
That’s great news! So in 30×365 daily forecasts, you’ve quadrupled the time over which the forecasts have any accuracy.
So, that now means in 10950 years, the then four year global temperature will be as good as the present 1year forecast.
How many of the one year forecasts have you got even the correct sign? Is it 1 or 2 out of around 15?
So that means, based on the same rate of progress in 12965AD you will be getting around 90% of 4year global temperature forecasts wrong!
I sure wish I could be alive to see that!
WEather is not climate, as I am sure you have been told many times already.