Should the Met Office have named last night’s storm?

 

It’s been a complex meteorological picture over the last few days with a number of weather warnings in force across the UK.

A low pressure system crossed the UK last night (Wednesday into Thursday) bringing strong winds to many areas, in particular to East Anglia and Lincolnshire. This system was forecast as much as a week in advance with Met Office National Severe Weather Warnings being first issued for wind and snow on Monday to allow everyone plenty of time to prepare for it.

Because of the way the system developed there was a degree of uncertainty over the strength of the expected winds and precisely which areas would see the greatest impacts, about which we gave regular updates on our website and social media channels through the week.

News release issued Monday 15 January 2018

News release issued Wednesday 17 January 2018

The warnings were constantly under review to ensure they reflected the expected level of impacts and also whether the low pressure system would meet our storm naming criteria, which in this case it didn’t.

What was easier to forecast was that the system would develop further as it moved off the east coast of the UK into the North Sea and bring very strong winds to north east France and northern Europe. For this reason the French meteorological service, Meteo France, named the system Storm David. Indeed, as Storm David has moved across the near continent it is reported to have led to at least four deaths. Under international naming conventions once the depression had been named by another national meteorological organisation we then also adopt that name.

There are still a number of National Severe Weather Warnings in place for snow and ice, keep up to date with our warnings page on our website for the latest. Further snow showers will affect Northern Ireland, western Scotland and north west England through Thursday and Friday. There is also a risk of ice forming in north east England, Wales and south west England overnight.

By Saturday a ridge of high pressure will move in bringing much brighter and drier conditions to much of the UK before a further front moves in from the south west on Sunday heralding milder temperatures for the start of next week.

Why do we name storms?

We first introduced the scheme to name storms in partnership with Met Éireann in the winter of 2015/16 in a move aimed at helping improve communication of the possible impacts of up and coming severe weather through the media and government agencies. The idea is to ensure the public have the information they need to keep themselves, their property and businesses safe.

The criteria we use is based on our National Severe Weather Warnings service and takes into account both the impact the weather may have, and the likelihood of those impacts occurring.

A storm will, in the main, be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red  warning. When the criteria are met, either the Met Office or Met Éireann can name a storm.

The system has worked so well that other European countries are now following suit and Meteo France have joined with met services in Portugal and Spain to introduce a naming convention of their own hence the naming of the storm last night by them Storm David.

We are really pleased that storm naming has captured the imagination of, and been embraced by the press, media and the public, but it is important that we don’t enter into the world of speculation around when storms will be named. More often than not the impacts from the weather systems affecting the UK will be within the norm for the time of year so it is important that names are used in the right context.

Storms are only ever named by the Met Office, Met Éireann or our partners in Europe. You can subscribe to email alerts for our weather warnings and storm names and you can follow the Met Office on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.

 

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15 Responses to Should the Met Office have named last night’s storm?

  1. Your explanation in this article is ridiculous. If many different Meteorological Organisations in Europe name Autumn/Winter storms… why can’t they all work together and make a list from A-Z? I get that we adopt storm names but this approach is confusing for the public and is having the opposite effect than you desire.

    How could have we known that the French mets named it #StormDavid when we rely on the Met Office? You only told us it was named David; 3-5 hours AFTER the worst impacts were made. Improvements to communication need to be made not only by you but all Met Organisations.

    Poor article and poor performance guys and gals.

    • Hello Mark

      You raise a very good point.

      We have been working with our colleagues across Europe through EUMETNET from the start of the storm naming project. The agreed European approach has been for blocks of adjacent countries to pursue separate naming schemes, with a view to later coordination and possible integration of these schemes to reinforce the National Meteorological Services’ authority over both names and warnings. Several such blocks, including our own and the southwest Europe block of MeteoFrance, AEMET and IPMA already exist. This does lead to challenges around when a storm is named by a different ‘block’,

      One thing to remember in all of this is that the warnings are the most important element. Just because a wind storm isn’t given a name doesn’t mean there won’t be impacts that we may need to prepare for. That’s why our warnings mention the types of impacts we should be ready for and why we direct people to advice from partner agencies.

      Helen

  2. xmetman says:

    Until all national weather service providers across Europe agree on a common way of naming storms, which I believe should be by fixed thresholds and not impacts, we will continue to experience days like today. People these days are able to access weather warnings from various weather services across Europe by means of social media, and disagreements about whether a storm should be named or not can be confusing.

    It’s easily remedied – the Met Office should revert to the naming of a storms using agreed European thresholds, and keep the naming process completely separate from the issuing of national severe weather warnings, which would continue to use impacts to decide which level of warning was appropriate.

    As to whether the storm should have been named, I think the 05 UTC observation from Wittering in Cambridgeshire when the 10 minute mean speed was 48 knots (Beaufort storm force 10) and it was gusting to 64 knots (74 mph) is undeniable proof that it should have been named Georgina.

    • Hello Bruce

      Thanks for your comments.

      The EUMETNET and WMO strategy for warnings systems is for National Met Services to employ impact based warnings systems and many met services are moving to this approach, indeed the Isle of Man Met Service recently unveiled their new impact based warning system. It may take some time but hopefully all met services will be using the same approach in the future.

      Helen

      • xmetman says:

        Hi Helen

        I think the change to impact based warnings is a retrograde move. They are next to impossible to verify, and any verification that is done can be very subjective. If the rules are clear and unambiguous for warnings such as those for strong wind then I think it can be the common sense (and imagination) as to what impacts gusts to 90 mph or 25 cm of snow will have!

        Bruce.

  3. When this winter storm season is over, I think it would be a very good idea if the Met Office, Met Eireann, as well as the other met offices in the continent of Europe held a conference on the issue and brought in not only people like NOAA from the United States but interested parties not officially recognised by organised (for example the myriad weather forums online) and asked this question “When should we name a storm?” as I think the answers may surprise a lot of people, so can we have that conference in the United Kingdom before the American hurricane season?

    • Hello Harry

      An interesting idea. We are always interested in feedback from everyone who uses our warnings services, of which storm naming is a part. We have held a number of feedback sessions since storm naming began including one with the Royal Met Soc last year. We will certainly consider something similar after this years winter season. In the meantime if you have any feedback please feel free to send it in through our enquiries team.

      Helen

    • I’m surprised and a little concerned that the Met Office and Met Eireann, despite their ‘joint initiative’ given that we have a land border with each other, appear to have differing criteria for storm naming (the Irish have a lower threshold and somewhat absurdly named strong coastal winds ‘Fionn’ – an Irish name). You would not realise this from reading: “The criteria we use is based on our National Severe Weather Warnings service and takes into account both the impact the weather may have, and the likelihood of those impacts occurring.
      A storm will, in the main, be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red warning. When the criteria are met, either the Met Office or Met Éireann can name a storm”. But you would realise it from reading this: https://www.channel4.com/news/by/liam-dutton/blogs/why-i-criticised-met-eireann-for-naming-storm-fionn (apparently an Irish orange wind warning has a lower impacts threshold than a British amber wind warning) As for the Met Office not also calling ‘David’/’Friederike’ Georgina, it was probably correct based on the forecast – but I suspect the forecast underestimated the wind speeds recorded in East Anglia where there were widespread power cuts (and the system also brought heavy snow to northeast England and occurred during spring tides).

  4. dangrey says:

    Saying you didn’t name it because you didn’t issue an amber warning is saying that you failed to provide the correct warning. It’s self-evident that an amber warning should have been issued.

    Maybe time to stop trying to be clever and just go with the output of the NWP?

    • Hello

      The criteria we use for naming storms is based on our National Severe Weather Warnings service. This is based on a combination of both the impact the weather may have, and the likelihood of those impacts occurring. A storm will be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red warning.

      Other weather types will also be considered, specifically rain if its impact could lead to flooding as advised by the Environment Agency, SEPA and Natural Resources Wales flood warnings. Therefore ‘storms systems’ could be named on the basis of impacts from the wind but also include the impacts of rain and snow.

      Helen

  5. Andrew Clark says:

    What happened to the weekend weather? You forecast:

    “By Saturday a ridge of high pressure will move in bringing much brighter and drier conditions to much of the UK before a further front moves in from the south west on Sunday heralding milder temperatures for the start of next week”.
    I am still drying myself from two days of constant rain – sad face.
    A

    Director of Policy

  6. It is quite a bit of nonsense to introduce yet another naming system when there is already set up a well functioning system of naming all lows and highs affecting central europe for more than 60 years, since 1953 – the names set up by the Free University of Berlin – a system wich was widely adopted by the press through Europe but ignored in the UK.

    The British/Irish system as well as the French/Spanish/Portuguese system lacks of systematic since only systems are named for which amber or red warning are issued. So came that Meteo-France never used FIONN it should have used in its warnings when a cut-off low of this affected Cape Corse with wind peeks of 225 kph. Needless to say that the insurance and reinsurance industry refers to the German names for its completeness, because the FUB naming is not dependent on tresholds and therefore much more flexible. The insurance sphere doesn’t use neither the British/Irish nor the French/Spanish/Portuguese names at all.

    What Meteo-Frane got into invent an own naming pattern (together with the Spanish and the Portugues) was probably only not to stay behind the Met-Office though not necessara – before they relied on the FUB names for years, e.g. LOTHAR, KLAUS, XYNTHIA, ’nuff said: The UK/IE names are useless and meaningless, and that nonsens should be abandoned asap.

    • Hello Matthias

      The University of Berlin have indeed operated their system for many years, but it should be remembered that this names every high and low on the chart – and that people pay to have their chosen name attached to the weather system. So, this takes no account for the impacts the high or low might bring.

      The Met Office/Met Eireann, and now MeteoFrance, AEMET and IPMA systems are linked to national weather warnings to highlight the lows that are expected to bring the most severe weather impacts which people will need to prepare for. an important part of our roles as National Met Services is to ensure the public and emergency services can make informed decisions about high impact weather, and storm naming is becoming a key part of this.

      Helen

      Helen

      • Dear Helen,

        I think it is an advantage that they name every low and high, so people and mass media can refer to those names even if no tresholds are met, if necessary. We know that storms can get stronger and amber or red warnings are issued ad hoc, leaving people surprised (and without name) Actually Meteo-France should have warned for high winds at Cape Corse using the name FIONN but I guess they never realized operationally that the gales had been produced by a secondary low of the same depression system. (Well AFAIK also on German weather maps the low never was marked as Evi III or the like, they also missed that perhaps they tend to leave out lows not affecting Central Europe, i.e. those in the Mediterrenean and high in Scandinavia.) Also the Met Office should have used the name DAVID in its warnings overnight to the 18th January, both the wind as snow/ice warnings. It was all the same system.

        Also I noted elsewhere (English Wikipedia) that the highest DAVID gust was some 93 mph in Capel Curig, (also Xmetman, who posted above, mentioned the gust on his blog) but it wasn’t included @ https://twitter.com/metoffice/status/953921870549651456 Was it forgotten?

        By the way: the barometer webpage with all the winterstorms appears poorly. For most of the storms so far some of the most interesting details are missing, precipation, pressure. Putting together only some tweets with storyfy also lacks of professionality, kind of. And also here DAVID is missing though it had effects on Britain.

        Matthias
        PS: Just to recall: People are paying for the Berlin names because the university was looking for a way to finance their meteorological observations which state wasn’t financing anymore – thanks to Thatcherism! :-\

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