Met Office

White Christmas anyone?

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IMG_2281All Brits have a preoccupation with the weather – it’s either too hot, wet or cold (or any combination) – it’s fair to say that it is never right!

And Christmas is the point at which this all comes together in a big way for the residents of the UK, something that they can not only talk about but also bet on – whether or not it will be a white Christmas. It is down to the Met Office to confirm if we have a white Christmas – and the official definition may surprise you;

For many people, a White Christmas means a complete covering of snow falling between midnight and midday on 25 December.

However, the definition used most widely, notably by those placing and taking bets, is for a single snowflake (perhaps among a mixed shower of rain and snow) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December at a specified location.

White Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries, even more so before the change of calendar in 1752 which effectively brought Christmas day back by 12 days. Climate change has also brought higher average temperatures over land and sea and this generally reduces the chances of a white Christmas. However, the natural variability of the weather will not stop cold, snowy winters happening in the future.

The graphic to the right from the Met Office indicates the amount of snow over the last few years on Christmas day – and it will not surprise anyone that it has increased in recent years – the question has to be why – but that’s for another day…..

The Weather!

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As an Englishman I feel it is my duty to show an interest in the weather, it is after all part of being British to comment upon or generally have a view on our climate isn’t it? So The weather is generally one of the things I check out at night before going to bed and is also one of the first things I check in the morning (after my emails). I have numerous bits of software to use for this purpose and have to admit to a fascination with meteorology!

20120428-125528.jpg Currently we are for the first time in ages having proper seasonal weather, it’s April and we are actually getting April showers – the weird thing is that this weather is actually being commented upon by the press as a significant wet patch! I accept that the press will pick on anything to sell papers, but does this point to something more significant? Has our weather changed so much over the past few years that we don’t now recognise when it is ‘normal’?

If this is the case (and I believe it to be so) is it not the best evidence yet for the ‘nay sayers’ who claim nothing strange is happening to our climate? The press are loving the fact that they can call the current rainfall the ‘wrong type of rain’ which won’t go any way to solving the drought issues, but it can’t hide the fact that we have had a particularly dry couple of winters.

Part of the reason for the British love of talking about the weather is due to its change ability, but also the fact that it, is so predictable as far as the seasons go – or always has been up until recently.

So to all you climate change sceptics out there, how about it? Are you willing to finally accept that things are changing or are you all still sticking your heads into the sand?

The weather – an obsession?

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I am a self-confessed ‘follower’ of the weather. I love my weather apps and have been using them for years (well before the current app growth). Over the period I have used various programmes (as they were known before they became apps).


My old favourite was Pocket Weather which I used for years on my pocket pc devices, it was able to draw down various weather feeds such as the BBC (always a good source?) and more importantly got the current weather via the METAR system, this provides hourly readings from weather stations (normally airfields, and is very accurate) .

When I moved to iPhone I lost pocket weather and had to find an alternative that was nice to use but also accurate. This was not as easy as it might sound as many of the weather apps (the apple one being an example) take their weather from US feeds which are unbelievable inaccurate on UK weather.

So after trying a number I settled upon Weatherpro which is accurate and easy to use – or has been to date!

Subsequently my old favourite Pocket Weather has come to iPhone and iPad so I use that as well (and I am involved with beta testing it again which is fun).

that's more like it!

However, when a weather app gives me an ‘unusual’ weather result I find it strangely un-settling, and this happened yesterday morning! It is currently very cold so when I looked at Weatherpro in the morning to see it say it was 2C was a surprise to say the least! I checked on Pocket Weather and it was much better minus 2C! And it is not just a matter of the minus being missed, it was 4C the evening before (but was actually below freezing)

My faith in Weatherpro has been shaken! This also has brought home to me what a sad person I must be when it comes to the weather (although I believe this is a ‘national trait’?) Is it normal to check the weather on your phone as soon as you wake up in the morning and before you draw the curtains?

White Christmas anyone?

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Nottingham in the snow 2010

White Christmas brings to mind two things – a great film (the best Christmas film ever in my opinion), and Christmas card pictures created by the weather. Everyone hopes for a ‘proper’ white Christmas, but if you can’t go to the mountains of Europe to find it, what are the chances at home?

Interestingly a lot depends on just how you classify a ‘white’ Christmas. The judge in all things white in the UK at Christmas is the Met Office, so how do they decide?

They classify ‘snow at Christmas’ as a single snowflake falling on the Met Office headquarters in Exeter or on the roof of the BBC in London over the 24 hours that make up the 25th December. It is this ‘official’ record that people normally bet on either happening or not. And surprisingly it is more common than you might expect. This criteria has been met 38 times in the last 51 years! That is an almost 75% success rate.

However, if we are talking lying snow on the ground at Christmas, this is actually much less common than you might think. Obviously we had this last year – but this was only the fourth time in 51 years!

Certainly the forecast for Christmas as it stands at the moment is not likely to give us a 5th one this year!

It’s official – we have had a poor summer!

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I really look forwards to my summer sun – but am increasingly needing to leave the UK to get it! OK we had a scorching Easter – but that isn’t officially the Summer (and I was in Paris anyway). Our Summers do appear to be going the way of our weather generally – into unknown territory!

A British Summer day

And it appears that I am correct, according to the Met Office, this year has been the coolest summer in 20 years!

Summer 2011 has actually been the coolest one we’ve had in some parts of England in two decades. The Met Office data, based on the Central England Temperature Record, reveals the mean temperature this year to be 13.63C (56.53F), similar to that of 1993 when we faced average temperatures of 13.39C. The provisional figures have been collected from the 1st June to the 29th August and so far last summer was on average 1C hotter at 14.65C (58.37F).

The Met Office Report also shows it has been wetter than last year but considerably drier than 2007, 2008 and 2009. This summer we had 267.7mm of rainfall, compared to 243.8mm in 2010 and 323mm in 2009. Heavy rainfall in Scotland earlier in August resulted in saturated ground and localised flooding particularly in Aberdeen.

Other findings released for August show that the UK received 126% of the normal monthly rainfall this year (full statistics for the summer are available on the Met Office website from yesterday).

The met office say that the amount of sunshine in August this year was three-quarters of what one normally expect. However it is not all bad news as the figures show that generally summers in the UK appear to be getting hotter – the bad news is that so are Winter, Spring and Autumn. No doubt the sceptics will say it’s not global warming, I am not so sure!

The British and the weather

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It seems apt that as we are enjoying some particularily warm weather that the British Weather forecast has just celebrated its 150th birthday!

I am sure they used to get it right!

On 1 August 1861 the Times newspaper published the first ever weather forecast. The forecast was put together by Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who led the meteorological department in the Board of Trade which was later renamed the Met Office. History does not tell us whether the forecast was accurate or not!

I suppose it is because of our changeable climate that we Brits have such an obsession with the weather, I have numerous weather apps on my iPhone  – most of which give conflicting reports! But they are probably the most used apps on my phone!

My experience of the Met Office is that if anything they appear less able to forecast accurately now than they could 20 years ago (assuming you discount the Michael Fish ‘no hurricane’ debacle!). My wife has a theory that they just look out of the window in the morning to amend their forecast – and I think she may be right!

Dare I say it –  is this a sign of our climate changing?

More ‘proof’ of global warming?

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Ok so having just experienced the coldest night on record in the UK is possibly not the best time to discuss global warming! However, new data from the Met Office indicates that this year is heading to be the hottest or as a minimum the second hottest on record.

Apparently the past 12 months are the warmest recorded by Nasa. The Met Office says it is very confident that man-made global warming is forcing up temperatures.

Until now, the hottest year in the UK on record was 1998, when temperatures were pushed up by a strong El Nino – a warming event in the Pacific. This year saw a weaker El Nino, and that fizzled out to be replaced by a La Nina cooling event. Because of this scientists expected this year’s temperatures to be substantially lower than 1998 – but they are not. Within the bounds of statistical error, the two years are likely to be the same.

So is this finally proof that the world is warming and that we are to blame?

Climate sceptics say that until now, warming has plateaued over the last decade. The Met Office agrees that the rate of warming has slowed – but it maintains that this is due to natural variability, not because man-made warming has stopped.

They think factors in the slower warming may have been a combination of the following – a natural downturn in solar radiation; a small reduction in water vapour in the stratosphere; a possible increase in aerosol emissions from Asia; and the fact that strong warming in the Arctic is poorly represented in the way data is collected.

What ever the result I still cannot believe that we are not warming the planet. All I would ask is if people can keep an open mind – perhaps if people had listened to the ‘cranks’ around 5 years ago who warned about the way the worlds finances were going we would not be in the financial mess we are now in.

Think about it!