Stunning North Sea phytoplankton bloom

The Met Office, in conjunction with our partners at NASA, have managed to get some stunning satellite pictures of phytoplankton blooms in parts of the North Sea. This natural phenomenon has been occurring through much of June and into July. However, there have been very few days where we have had cloud free skies over the North Sea, as highlighted in our June monthly statistics. As a result there have not been many opportunities to capture images of the blooms, but those we have are very impressive.

bloom1

The images in question come from NASA Terra and NOAA/NASA Suomi satellites. These are polar orbiting satellites, meaning that they circle the Earth passing over the north and south poles. Several times a day these satellites pass over the UK gathering, and then beaming down to us, a huge amount of meteorological data. One of the products we can create from this data is a true colour image so we can see the land, sea and clouds from space as they would appear to the human eye. One of the many interesting things we sometimes see in this imagery is blooms of phytoplankton in the seas around the UK.

Dr. Robert McEwan, Met Office Marine Ecosystem Modelling Scientist, said: “The light patches seen in the North Sea are due to large blooms of microscopic phytoplankton which occur every year as light levels increase and the essential nutrients required for growth become optimal. The milky colour of the water indicates that these blooms contain coccolithophores, which are covered in tiny calcified scales that scatter light allowing the bloom to be seen from space. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food chain and are therefore very important to the health of commercial fisheries.”

bloom

These blooms are common at this time of the year due to the increased amount of sunlight due to the longer days. These coccolithophore blooms are not toxic and pose no danger to marine life or humans. The duration of the blooms vary depending on sea conditions, nutrient availability and predation but could be expected to last from a couple of weeks up to a month. Bloom sizes also vary depending on a physical and biogeochemical conditions, so whilst this bloom might increase in size, it may also have peaked. It’s tricky to compare chlorophyll concentrations directly with satellite imagery but it looks like this bloom might have declined already.

As well as being wonderful images to look at, this is another example of how satellite imagery and the Met Office Space Programme are helping to drive forward scientific research and forecast accuracy.

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How our forecasts measure up

You may have read an article in a paper about verification of weather forecasts. We appreciate the importance of this as it is essential our users trust the forecasts ‘when it matters’, and by anybody’s standards the results below are impressive.

Met Office figures for the 36-month period to the end of June 2016 are: table1Met Office figures for June 2016 are:table2

Verification is an incredibly complex task, with many decisions to be made on which forecasts will be verified, when, using which sites, and by what criteria. Our independently scrutinised verification process compares forecast to actual values at 122 UK stations over a rolling 36-month period, which smoothes out extremes and gives a representative average. Most statisticians would argue that 36 months of data will give you a much more reliable assessment than one month alone. We consistently verify our forecasts and have an open and transparent policy on how well we are doing.

The Met Office’s weather forecasting model is world leading. Our global Numerical Weather Prediction model is ranked the number one National Met Service model in the world according to standards set by the World Meteorological Organisation. This world leading accuracy is essential, for example in our role advising airlines operating in two thirds of the world’s airspace.

We recognise that whilst the accuracy of the figures is important, there is more to a weather forecast than just numbers. It is the ‘feel’ of the day that matters to people most; will it be a washout or warm and sunny? Our new Met Office Weather app is the only app to include a UK weather forecast video in which this is expressed. As well as this, the video enables us to explain any uncertainties in the forecast in a user friendly way.

app1

Our new app, which was officially launched in May, provides weather information ‘when it matters’ with severe weather alerts. It is the first on the market to feature pollen alerts and a UK rainfall map video of both forecast rain and radar observations, as well as real-time air pollution figures, which all helps users plan for the expected conditions. The new app has received a great reception with over 370,000 downloads and a current rating of 4.1 out of 5 on the App Store (iOS).

You can keep up to date with the weather using our forecast pages, our App and by following us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also monitor the accuracy of the current day’s forecast for your location using our weather verification page.

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Assessing the global impacts of climate and extreme weather on health and well-being

The impacts of extreme weather and climate change on health and well-being is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century.

Health conference Group01

The Met Office in Exeter was the venue for the conference.

For the first time the Met Office, supported by The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and World Health Organization (WHO), organised an international workshop exploring how meteorological and health organisations, together with other sectors, could address up and coming challenges which cross national borders.

Adverse weather and climate conditions exacerbate some of the most significant health challenges including disease, air pollution and food production. Whether a disease is passed through the air, water or carried by insects, the impacts of climate and extreme weather can increase the risk.

Health conference 3

Opening the workshop, Professor Dame Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office (pictured above) and recipient of this year’s IMO Prize, said: “Addressing the health impacts of climate variability and climate change is really the great gap that has not received adequate attention in the past, but these will be big issues for us all to contend with in a changing world.

“The Met Office already provides health services, such as pollen, air quality and UV forecasts – supporting the natural hazard partnership – and provides support to the health research community. But on an international scale, there is so much more which needs to be done, with much greater global reach.”

Attended by over 50 experts, discussions specifically focused on issues of: health risks, natural hazards impacts; the complexity of global climate risk scenarios; and how to build capacity for climate and health in developing countries.

Following a disaster the impacts on health can be overwhelming. For effective recovery and rehabilitation there needs to be an understanding and awareness of health problems and delivery of effective preventative measures.

Yolanda Clewlow, the Met Office’s health development manager, said: “Given the passion demonstrated by the group on this topic to work toward mitigating the impacts of weather and climate on health, we hope this will be a significant step towards greater collaboration with health organisations to help address some of the significant health priorities.

“There was agreement among participants that the Met Office already has strong existing capabilities that enable it to become a leading global partner in this area and, as a result of this event, the Met Office will look to new partnerships, as well as the strengthening of existing relationships, to help implement some of the key actions that emerged from these discussions.”

Health conference 2

In 2014, the WMO produced a short video on how the UK uses climate services to support public health.

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Encouraging a new generation of weather observers

The Met Office exhibit at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition has been up and running for a couple of days now and runs until Sunday 10 July. Our scientists are busy talking about how we ‘Get a Measure of the Weather’, and explaining some of the innovative ways we can increase our knowledge of the atmosphere. These range from using GPS signals to monitor water vapour and intercepting aircraft signals to better understand the wind.

RSSSE exhibition 2

The current observations networks (including surface observations, aircraft and satellites) are sufficient to provide our supercomputer with the data it requires to deliver a highly accurate forecast. The process by which we ‘feed’ our forecast models, called data assimilation, has been designed to handle the very different coverages and measurement types, and any limitations in our current networks.

The other technology we are talking about at the exhibition is our system for enabling citizen scientists to contribute to our weather monitoring  – the Weather Observations Website, or WOW for short. As the forecast models become more advanced in terms of their ability to capture high impact weather on ever smaller scales, additional observations of all kinds help to improve the model further by adding detail to the starting state of the forecast.

rssse

We will always require high quality, high resilience operational observing systems. However, we recognise that a range of new measurement devices, including home weather stations, provide the opportunity to increase the amount of data at our disposal, at a relatively low cost.  We are keen to explore how we might use these for both feeding our forecast models and for real-time use by our operational meteorologists.  One of the ways we can do this is to gather ‘opportunistic’ data that will help us verify the accuracy of the forecast. WOW is designed to work alongside the existing network of observations and to allow the Met Office to gain access to other sources of weather observations, including cars and smartphones.

We are also able to get information about the impact of the weather on people and their daily lives through WOW. Our National Severe Weather Warnings Service provides advice to the public on how the weather will impact them, but without observations to work from we have little knowledge of how effective these warnings have been. WOW provides a way for anyone to share their experiences of how the weather is immediately impacting on them, through sending a photograph into WOW which is automatically checked and provided to our meteorologists.

Meteorological history owes a vast amount to the role of the Voluntary Climate Observers. Many will have heard the phrase ‘since records began,’ and many of those records were started by interested amateur meteorologists, the citizen scientists of their day. This honourable tradition is still with us now and we rely on a dedicated network of Voluntary Climate Observers who send us their readings every day using WOW.

If you would like to find out more about how you could become involved in contributing weather and climate records, please visit our stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (RSSSE) at the Royal Society in central London until Sunday 10 July.

 

 

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North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season Finally Gets Underway

2015 saw very high levels of tropical cyclone activity across the North Pacific due to the strong El Niño. Numerous records were broken during the season which included the exceptionally strong Hurricane Patricia in the eastern North Pacific. In recent months the El Niño has rapidly waned with slightly cooler than average sea surface temperatures now being present in the equatorial eastern Pacific.

In contrast to last year, 2016 has seen an exceptionally quiet start to the North Pacific season. In the western North Pacific Nepartak, the first tropical storm of the season, formed on 3 July. The last time there was such a quiet start to a season was in 1998 when the first storm formed on 8 July. However, the stormless period in the western North Pacific leading up to the formation of Nepartak was slightly longer than that in 1997-8. Like this year, 1998 was also the year after a strong El Niño and historical data suggests that tropical storm formation can be suppressed in the western North Pacific as an El Niño event wanes.

In the central North Pacific, Hurricane Pali developed in January, but there have been no storms since then. In the eastern North Pacific, Tropical Storm Agatha formed on 2 July. The last time the season started later than this was in 1969 when the first storm formed on 3 July.

Whilst Tropical Storm Agatha was fairly short-lived, it was soon joined by a second storm in the eastern North Pacific which is now Hurricane Blas. As with many eastern North Pacific tropical cyclones it is likely to remain out at sea. However, the same cannot be said for Typhoon Nepartak in the western North Pacific which looks set to head towards Taiwan and make landfall later this week as indicated by the Met Office strike probability forecast map.

storm05

Met Office tropical cyclone forecast strike probability from 0000 UTC on 5 July 2016. This shows the probability of a tropical storm passing within 120 km in the next seven days.

Heavy rain across Taiwan and nearby parts of China is likely with 200-300 mm rain in 24 hours possible. Increased rainfall may also be triggered over areas not directly in the path of the typhoon such as the Philippines and South Korea.

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Recent satellite image of Typhoon Nepartak (credit: NOAA/RAMMB)

Official warnings for the latest tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific are produced by the Japan Meteorological Agency. Central North Pacific warnings are issued by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and eastern North Pacific warnings by the US National Hurricane Center.

The Met Office routinely supplies predictions of cyclone tracks from its global forecast model to regional meteorological centres worldwide, which are used along with guidance from other models in the production of forecasts and guidance. You can keep up to date on current tropical storms via @metofficestorms on Twitter and through our Storm Tracker page.

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How was June in your part of the UK?

Depending where you live in the UK, your impression of June’s weather may be very different to others, even those living just a few miles away. These local differences have been driven largely by the development of isolated thunderstorms, which were a feature of much of the month and led to extremely heavy downpours in some areas, especially parts of southern England and parts of eastern Scotland.

During June 2016, East Anglia received more than twice the amount of average rainfall for June, when compared with the period between 1981 and 2010. Essex received 116.3mm of rain, nearly two-and-a-half the amount (243%) of the normal June amount. With 109mm of rain, Suffolk also recorded more than double the amount of rainfall (205%). Overall, Norfolk was also a very wet county, but the more detailed map shows that the north Norfolk coast received closer to the average amount of rainfall, while the Fenland districts recorded around double this amount.

2016_6_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

Surrey with 118.4mm of rain endured the worst rainfall of any county, relative to its average. The June average rainfall for Surrey between 1981 and 2010 is just 50.7mm. This month’s total was 246% of normal. Other counties recording more than twice the June average include: Leicestershire (210%); Middlesex (241%) and Aberdeenshire (204%).

The rainfall led to media speculation that June 2016 would be a record for rainfall, this was no doubt fuelled by the localised nature of the rainfall which led to extreme impacts in some areas and not others. In the ranking in the series beginning in 1910, 2016 was the 11th wettest June. During the month an average of 102mm of rain fell. This compares with 2012 – the wettest June since 1910 – when 149mm of rain fell on average across the UK. Nowhere in the UK broke any June rainfall records, although some recording stations did achieve this feat.

If parts of southern England received more rain than normal, then some other counties were drier than normal. All of the top ten driest areas were in Scotland, apart from the Isle of Man. Caithness, which is home to peat bogs and the Flow Country was the driest area in the UK when compared with the June average. This normally wet area received only just over half the usual June rainfall (51.6%).

Of all the four UK countries, Scotland was closest to the long-term June average with 107% of June rainfall. Northern Ireland received 127% of its average June rainfall, while England and Wales both received 163% of normal.

2016_6_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

The rainfall figures tell a story, which the sunshine figures endorse. No region of the UK received more than the long-term June average for sunshine. The most sunshine (151 hours) was recorded in north-west England and north Wales. Although North Scotland only recorded 139 hours of sunshine during June, this is still 99% of the June average. The worst place for sunshine during June was the Midlands with only 127 hours of sunshine, only 73% of an average June. The sunshine map above shows that parts of north Wales, Orkney and Shetland basked in more sunshine than usual, while a band of central and southern England enjoyed far less sunshine than usual.

2016_6_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

Overall, June 2016 was warmer than the average June. Only East Lothianshire recorded a lower temperature (12.1C) than the long-term 30-year average for the county (12.3C).

Mean temperature
Actual degC
Difference between average 1981-2010
UK 13.9 0.9C
England 14.8 0.7C
Wales 14.5 1.3C
Scotland 12.2 0.9c
Northern Ireland 14.2 1.4C

 

Sunshine
Actual hours
Difference between average 1981-2010
UK 138 hours 81%
England 133.3 hours 73%
Wales 149 hours 86%
Scotland 144.2 hours 96%
Northern Ireland 127.5 hours 85%

 

Actual rainfall Difference between average 1981-2010
UK 101.8mm 139%
England 100.5mm 163%
Wales 139.6mm 163%
Scotland 95.2mm 107%
Northern Ireland 96.5mm 127%

 

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New Weather Observations Website

The ‘Weather Observations Website‘ (WOW) is a platform that enables anyone to get involved and submit, share and visualise their weather observations.

WOW was launched in 2011 and since then we’ve received over 850 million observations from 200 countries around the world. The platform is now used by National Meteorological Services around the globe including Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

This month we’ve launched the new WOW website which will make it easier than ever to share experiences of the weather and join in the nation’s favourite conversation. The website is easy to navigate and works on whatever platform it is accessed from: PC, mobile or tablet.

As WOW continues to grow we have the potential to collect exciting new weather observations from all around the world. New technology in the latest release will enable us to capture additional sources of observations, such as those provided automatically from moving platforms i.e. cars.

NewWOW4.png

Using WOW, you can send us local observations of weather in your area. These observations can be ones you have recorded on scientific weather stations or just by looking out of the window or sending in a photo. You can share current weather observations from all around the globe, regardless of where they come from, what level of detail or the frequency of reports.

To provide accurate weather forecasts and to understand the impacts of the resulting weather we need high quality, information-rich global observations. The photographs, videos and information collected in WOW will provide us with a powerful tool to create a more visual, localised picture of the weather and its impacts, enabling us to improve forecasting and warning services to all.

You can hear more about WOW by visiting our stand at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (RSSSE) at the Royal Society in central London between 4th-10th July. We invite you to get involved by sharing your weather impact reports and pictures over the summer!

WOW Poster.png

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Early June 2016 statistics

June, the first month of summer meteorologically speaking, has so far delivered a range of weather with some sunny, warm days but also torrential, thundery downpours leading to localised flooding.

Early figures up until 27 June 2016 reflect this mix of weather and also some stark contrasts across the UK.

Statistics up until 27 June reveal most areas of the UK have seen rainfall above the monthly average, but with much of the rainfall falling as showers there are some locations which have had more than twice the June average, whereas other areas have missed much of the rainfall.

As the rainfall map below shows, away from north-eastern areas of England, much of England and Wales have had a wet month with slow-moving heavy downpours creating a patchwork effect. The counties of Essex and Middlesex are close to recording their wettest June since records began in 1910 with 111.9mm and 112.5mm of rainfall respectively (previous record for Essex 122.5mm in 1958, for Middlesex 123.8mm in 1971).2016_6_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

Northern, western and southern Scotland have had a rather dry month with around 70% of the average rainfall for these areas, compared to Aberdeenshire which has been very wet recording 142mm making it close to seeing its wettest June on record (151.7mm in 1948). Kincardineshire (138.3mm) is also close to the wettest June on record (144.5mm in 2012).

Across Northern Ireland as a whole, average rainfall amounts have been recorded, although heavy showers led to locally above average totals in Co Londonderry and Co Tyrone.

Mean temperatures for the UK have been above average by 1C, although regionally this varies from 2C above average in some western parts to around average along much of the east coast. The fine, sunny start to the month when the best of the sunshine and warmth was in the west helped boost these values. Shetland in particular has had a very sunny month so far, whereas eastern and southern parts have had a rather dull month with not much more than half the average amount of sunshine typical for June.

2016_6_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010 2016_6_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-27 June 2016 mean temp (°C) sun (hrs) rainfall (mm)
Actual Diff from avg Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 14 1 133 78 83.9 114
England 14.9 0.9 126 69 84.3 136
Wales 14.7 1.6 147 85 104.5 122
Scotland 12.4 1.1 142 95 79.4 89
N Ireland 14.4 1.6 126 84 77.2 101

With June almost over, what weather can we expect for the start of July? At the moment it looks likely that the fairly changeable and rather cool conditions will continue into the start of July with a mix of dry, sunny spells and cloudier periods bringing rain or showers. Towards the end of next week, southern parts of the UK may be slightly drier and feel warmer compared to the north but still with the chance of rain at times.

Keep up to date with the latest outlook, including our 30-day forecast, using our forecast pages and our App and by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

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More thundery downpours for some

Last night torrential, thundery downpours affected parts of southern and southeast England causing localised flooding and disruption to transport. The table below shows the rainfall totals recorded:

UK rainfall totals 22 June 7pm – 23 June 9am
Site Area Rainfall total (mm)
SOUTH FARNBOROUGH HAMPSHIRE 45.6
LONDON, ST JAMES’S PARK GREATER LONDON 44.4
ALICE HOLT LODGE HAMPSHIRE 44
WISLEY SURREY 41.4
HAMPTON W WKS GREATER LONDON 40.6
ODIHAM HAMPSHIRE 38
OTTERBOURNE W WKS HAMPSHIRE 37.8
SHOEBURYNESS, LANDWICK ESSEX 34.8
KEW GARDENS GREATER LONDON 34.6
CHARLWOOD SURREY 30.8

The thunderstorms led to some impressive displays of lightning across these areas with over 20,000 strikes recorded over and close to the south of England during the last 24 hours. Many of these strikes were recorded offshore but still led to some remarkable sights in the sky. The image below shows a snapshot of the rainfall radar and lighting strikes at 3.30am BST this morning (Thursday):

lightning230616

Further thunderstorms are forecast to affect the southeast of England and East Anglia this afternoon and evening and National Severe Weather Warnings are in force. Not everywhere will see the torrential rain, but there is the chance of 30mm in an hour with locally in excess of 50mm or more possible over the course of a few hours leading to possible disruption to travel and localised flooding as well as frequent lightning.

For the most up to date forecast for your area this week, download and use our new App, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. You can also keep up to date with the #Weatherstory.

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A mixed June so far

So far in June there has been quite a variation in the weather we have seen. The start of the month brought some warm and sunny weather, especially in the west. However, more recently it has been rather more unsettled with heavy showers for some.

The statistics for 1-15 June show that west has definitely been best for the warmth so far this month. Maximum temperatures here were well above normal, with Argyllshire in western Scotland almost four degrees above the average for June.

Porthmadog in northwest Wales currently holds the record for the highest temperature of the year so far with 27.8C on 5 June, whilst 27.7C was reached at Plockton in northwest Scotland on 10 June.

Meanwhile in the east it has been rather cool by day, due to cloudier conditions and an onshore breeze. As a result, maximum temperatures have been below average in all east-coast counties; by over a degree for both Lincolnshire and East Lothianshire.

june max 17

Across the UK as a whole, the rainfall total is around average for this stage in the month. However, heavy and thundery showers have given localised large rainfall totals, with some surface water flooding as drains have been unable to cope with the high rainfall rates. Parts of Aberdeenshire, Co Londonderry and numerous places in England are already close to the whole month average, with Leicestershire already having seen 29% above.

Conversely there has been very little rain so far in western Scotland and the Western & Northern Isles, also for the west of Cornwall and the south coast from Dorset eastwards.

Maximum temperature Mean    temperature Rainfall
1-15 June 2016 Actual Anom Actual Anom Actual Anom
degC degC degC degC mm %
UK 18.3 1 14.1 1.1 37.3 51
England 18.9 0.3 14.8 0.8 39.9 65
Wales 19.4 2.1 15.3 2.1 54.6 64
Scotland 16.7 1.6 12.5 1.2 27.2 31
N Ireland 20 3.1 15.3 2.6 44.4 58

Looking ahead and after some further heavy showers today (Friday) there should be a brief respite in the weather over the weekend. However, this will be short lived with unsettled weather expected to arrive through Sunday and into the beginning of next week.

Changeable conditions are then likely through the rest of the month, though temperatures will often be above normal over England and Wales.

You can keep up to date with the latest forecast information via our new Weather App as well as on our forecast pages, Facebook and Twitter sites. Our events page also has forecast weather information for a number of events around the country.

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