The UK Met Office has distanced itself from recent media reports that the UK and Ireland are set for an ‘Arctic Winter’. The UKMO, which stopped issuing seasonal forecasts in 2010, also has said that recent long range forecasts by other agencies “bear no relation to the kinds of weather that forecasters at the Met Office are currently expecting”.
iWeather Online (IWO) also has forecast that Ireland and the UK are unlikely to see a repeat of the pre-Christmas freeze of 2010. Temperatures are expected to remain below average for much of the coming season, however, according to the IWO forecast
In an opinion piece for The Times
, UKMO Chief Executive John Hirst called for a sense of reason in response to the claims (read 1
) of other forecasting agencies in weeks.
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According to the UK Met Office: “Over the past few weeks, there have been some colourful headlines in some parts of the media about what’s in store for this year’s winter in the UK. Reports of ‘-20C within weeks’, ‘A winter fuel crisis on the way’ and ‘Widespread snow in October’ have all raised expectations that we’re in for an ‘Arctic winter’. [These headlines] bear no relation to the kinds of weather that forecasters at the Met Office are currently expecting – there is no need for alarm.”
Last month, a UK-based long-range weather forecaster issued his prediction of an early start to winter 2011-2012 for many regions of the United Kingdom and Ireland. James Madden of Exacta Weather forecast heavy snowfalls in places as soon as late October and early November.
Elsewhere, UK-based Positive Weather Solutions (PWS) is predicting the winter months will be colder than average everywhere and that some regions will experience significantly colder than average temperatures between December and March.
World Climate Service (WCS), a joint venture of Prescient Weather Ltd and MeteoGroup, said it expected the coming winter to be dominated by a negative phase of the NAO, resulting in colder, dryer, and less windy than average weather on the British Isles, in France, Germany, and the Nordic and Baltic countries.
Weather Services International (WSI), a member of The Weather Channel companies, also is predicting a colder than average winter 2011-12 for Ireland.
According to the UKMO’s John Hirst: “These stories do reflect our national obsession with the weather but they can also confuse and even scare vulnerable people. The Met Office’s job is to provide accurate and reliable information and at this stage we see no scientific evidence to support these premature predictions.”
“In fact the scientific capability does not exist to allow such extremes to be identified on a long-range timescale… no forecaster can say whether we’ll see a week of -20C temperatures in Manchester in the second week of December. This does not mean that harsh winter conditions are not possible, just that they cannot be identified at the moment.”
He continues: “As winter approaches, local government and businesses are preparing for the worst that the British weather can throw at us. But the fact that local authorities are stocking up on grit is no cause for alarm. This is what contingency planners do. In fact, their preparations are encouraging because they mean the country should be in a good position to respond to our short-range forecasts of severe weather.”
“Last year there was some confusion between our longer-range outlook which provided good advice over the whole winter – as January and February were relatively mild – and our shorter-range forecasts that correctly identified the prolonged cold and snowy weather early in the winter. In fact, our forecasts of where and when it would snow were second to none. Although it is not possible to prevent disruption, our detailed forecasts allowed agencies to put their resources in the right place at the right time to ensure that it was kept to a minimum.”
“In recent years we have seen great scientific and technological advances that allow us to warn of impending severe weather with ever greater lead times and with ever greater detail”, Mr. Hirst concluded.
In its own monthly outlook, the UKMO is forecasting some showers at times especially towards the north of the UK next week, where they may fall as snow over the Scottish Mountains. It says nights may turn rather chilly with some mist and fog patches returning. For late October and early November, the UKMO forecasts that temperatures right across the UK are likely to remain rather cool at first, “but as we start November we may see temperatures returning closer to the seasonal average.”
UK Research Links Winter Weather With Solar Variability
The UK Met Office, along with Imperial College London and the University of Oxford, last week published a new report which it claims sheds new light on a link between decadal solar variability and winter climate in northwestern Europe and parts of America.
The research shows that low UV output from the sun can contribute to cold winters over parts of the northern hemisphere, such as recently seen in Ireland and the UK. Years of higher UV have the opposite effect.
Dr Adam Scaife from the UK’s Met Office, one of the study’s authors, said that while some studies have observed a link between solar variability and winter climate, “our research establishes this as more than just coincidence”.
He said: “We’ve been able to reproduce a consistent climate pattern, confirm how it works, and quantify it using a computer model based on the laws of physics. This isn’t the sole driver of winter climate over our region, but it is a significant factor and understanding it is important for seasonal to decadal forecasting.”
New data from sensitive satellite equipment shows UV variability over the 11-year solar cycle may be much larger than previously thought and has been key to the research.
By using this information in the Met Office’s climate model, researchers were able to reproduce the effects of solar variability apparent in observed climate records.
In years of low UV activity unusually cold air forms over the tropics in the stratosphere, about 50km up. This is balanced by more easterly flow of air over the mid latitudes – a pattern which then ‘burrows’ its way down to the surface, bringing easterly winds and cold winters to northern Europe.
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