The midnight analysis

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office

I suppose that the occlusion straddled across central England in the midnight analysis (fig 1) could be classified as a ‘cold’ occlusion, because it’s certainly brought lower dew point air south and west across the UK today. The cold front that preceded it actually raised dew points as it came south yesterday evening as far as I can see. I see the occlusion/trough lying from Tiree southeastward to Lincoln as the real cold front, although there is little or no weather on it (fig 3), but it does separate the 6 to 8°C dew points in the west from the +1 to -2°C dew points further east and north (fig 2).

Figure 2

Neither the IR satellite image or the weather radar provide any good evidence of any triple point system centred over North Norfolk at midnight, with the bulk of the rain having transferred into the continent during the previous evening (figs 3 & 4).

Figure 3 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Looks like I’ve lost this particular argument though, because the Deutscher Wetterdienst midnight analysis confirms the Met Office analysis (fig 4), low Peter turned out to be rather an unusual synoptic feature.

Figure 5 – Courtesy of the Deutscher Wetterdienst

Just what’s happening to April sunshine?

Figure 1 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

Just what’s happening to April sunshine totals? April’s in the UK are now on average over 18 hours sunnier than they were back in 1929 (the starting point of monthly gridded climate data from the Met Office). With sunshine, there is always a reason to believe that with the introduction of the Clean Air Act in that sunshine totals would increase after 1956, but April is a Spring month, and not plagued by spells of anticyclone smogs that occurred in Autumn and Winter before the Act, and looking at the statistics sunshine totals for April in the UK look rather depressed in the forty years between 1960 and 2000 (fig 1). Sunshine totals in April certainly haven’t been depressed in the 21st century though, and eight of the sunniest April’s have occurred in the last 20 years (fig 2). The sunniest April in the UK from the gridded series occurred as recently ago as 2015, so if we do break that record this year it would have been a very short-lived record. I suppose all you can put it down to is the natural variation of the climate over the years.

Figure 2 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

Fog in Po valley

Figure 1 – Courtesy of NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

There was a lovely visible satellite image of the Fog in the Po valley earlier this morning (19 February) which is no real surprise at this time of the year (fig 1). What I did find surprising is that relatively few large towns that have sprung up along the River Po down through the centuries, and because of this there are absolutely no SYNOP observations (fig 2), which I just can’t believe. Maybe it’s because the Po has a sizeable floodplain alongside it, and it just wouldn’t be a very good idea to build along it, or maybe the Italians realised how fog tended to linger there the longest…

Figure 2


The blizzard of February 1978 in SW England

Figure 1 – Scenes around Bradninch in February 1978 (courtesy of Warren Radmore)


I must admit I never realised that a blizzard had occurred in February of 1978 in the southwest of England, and at first thought they had it mixed up with February 1979. I was suffering from parochial-itus of course – it’s a similar thing a lot of TV weather presenters come down with, it exhibits itself by them forever going on about London and the Southeast of England at the expense of everywhere else in the country. Overall, February 1978 as a month was cold, but not exceptionally so. The middle two weeks were very cold at times, but the first, and especially the last week were mild. The cold air was initially introduced by an anticyclonic easterly from around the 7th, and further enhanced as a cold pool tracked from central Europe westward across the country between the 10th and 14th. As you can see (fig 2), across the UK as a whole it was joint 12th coldest February since 1910 with a mean temperature of just 1.4°C for the month.

Figure 2 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

The Monthly Weather Report Met Office describes it a lot more succinctly than I can so here it is (fig 3).

And just for the hell of it, here is my poor imitation of the Weather Log from the Royal Meteorological Society (fig 4).

Figure 4 – Data courtesy of the Met Office & Images courtesy of Wetterzentrale

It’s a shame that the BBC have had to archive the news item (fig 5) of what was probably the biggest weather event to affect the southwest of England since 1963. Archiving it removes the video news item, reduces all images to thumbnail size, and removes the gallery of 16 full size images – just what sense is there in doing that with an event that happened in the memory of many people older than fifty? Surely disk space isn’t that critical down in the BBC archives these days? In a complete aside – we may have all the fancy ways of videoing and imaging extreme weather events, but if these events are not properly archived we will simply end up in a similar state to what happened in our parents day, with a shoe box full of old photo’s stashed away in the attic.

Figure 5 – Courtesy of the BBC

There is a book about the event called ‘The Blizzard of 78: The Snowstorm That Buried Dorset‘ by Mark Ching (fig 6) which although out of print, is available from Abe books second-hand at £11.28, although the only review on Amazon about is a little disparaging about both the quality and the price.

Figure 6 – Courtesy of Amazon

So back to the events of February 1978 with the help of a few weather maps that I have reconstituted with the help of some NCEP reanalysis data.

Figure 7

So it looks like an occlusion was trying to get into the far west of Cornwall during Wednesday (fig 7), but was being held back by the cold air over the rest of the country. There is already a fair snow cover in places further north, probably as a result of that cold pool earlier in the week.

Figure 8

Early on Thursday, a small triple point low formed and ran into northwest France, so the warm air never made any inroads, and the cold air reasserted itself as pressure started to rise (fig 8). An area of snow over southeast England was extending westward during Thursday. North of latitude 51° it remained cold and frosty, with some freezing fog in Lincolnshire.

Figure 9

Even on Friday, there was still an extensive area of snow across the southern areas with a light to moderate northeast wind (fig 9). Further north it was again frosty and very cold, with some freezing fog in places.

Figure 10

This is start of the blizzard as far as I can see, with warm air and a low-lying to the southwest of the Scilly Isles. Wind speeds had increased to strong or near gale inland across much of the south, with storm force winds off the coast of south Cornwall and Devon. There was an extensive area of moderate snow associated with the frontal system. Take a look at the Yeovilton observation for 06 UTC (fig 10), a 30 knot mean wind, moderate snow and -2°C. Meanwhile, north of latitude 52° it remained mainly dry, windy and very cold.

Figure 11

It look like it snowed for much of Sunday in the southwest, but the wind had abated a little bit and wasn’t quite as strong. Warm air and a clearance had tucked into northwest France by the end of the afternoon (fig 11). Meanwhile further north temperatures were already below freezing in a penetrating frost. I would add more charts, but you know as well as I do, that the warm air would eventually win out, as it always does, it’s hard to believe that all happened 39 years ago this week. Here are some plotted grids observations for the week from Exeter (fig 12), Yeovilton (fig 13), and my old station, Binbrook (fig 14), to give you a flavour of the weather.

Figure 12 – Exeter Airport

Figure 13 – Yeovilton

Figure 14 – Binbrook

Here are a couple of images of what Minehead in North Somerset looked like.

Figure 15 – Courtesy of Minehead Online

I’ve tried in vain to find any mention of the February 18/19 blizzard in the southwest in the Weather magazine to no avail. The search on the Wiley site is not good, so it may be mentioned somewhere. All that surprises me, because I thought it would have been a well documented event lying as it does south of Watford, but parochial-itus is obviously at it again it would seem. Finally here is a table of snow depth reported on Sunday the 19th of February at 18 UTC (fig 17). It’s from the SYNOP reports so is fairly limited in the number of available reporting stations, as always when dealing with severely drifted snow, it’s more of a guide than anything else.

Figure 17

And finally, here’s a snippet from the Snow Survey of Great Britain for that particular month (fig 18). It appears, as you might expect, that hillier stations across Dorset, Somerset and Devon came out on top when it comes to snow depth, with nearly 3 feet reported at Nettlecombe, I wonder how Dunkeswell fared?  I hope you liked this ramble down memory lane, it may not look much, but at the moment it’s one of the best resources to find out what happened this week 39 years ago. If I do find any additional material about it, especially images, I’ll make sure that I tag them on the end.

Figure 18 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Candlemas analysis

I thought I would just do a full analysis of all the available SYNOP data for Candlemas, Thursday the 2nd of February 2017, to get the complete picture as far as maximum gusts were concerned, and what a complete farce it makes of the current warnings and named storm approach by the Met Office. As you can see from the ranked list of highest gust the 76 mph gusts from St Mary’s on the Scillies wasn’t in fact the highest across the British Isles, there was a gust of 83 mph at good old Capel Curig, and an even higher gust of 85 mph at South Uist range on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

Figure 1

These gusts in themselves, would normally have merited a yellow ‘Be aware’ National severe weather warning from the Met Office, at least for western districts of the UK from Cornwall, through the west and northwest of Wales and into western Scotland, but for some reason the Met Office chose to focus all their attention on Friday rather than Thursday. I don’t know why this was, but earlier in the week there NWP was providing very inconsistent guidance, and that may have written the event off too early.

Figure 2

In fact the highest gusts from the Candlemas low of yesterday (fig 2), compare very favourably with the highest gusts from ‘storm’ Angus of last November (fig 3). Compare the two charts of maximum gusts and see which you think provided the greatest impact and greatest risk.

Figure 3

I think it’s the recent inconsistency that I’ve seen in how they respond to severe weather events that at issue. Last winter (in my opinion) they over reacted, as if they had their finger on a hair-trigger, naming even quite average Atlantic lows as storms. This winter in contrast they’ve definitely been more circumspect about the whole thing, and now a storm has to have a much greater impact than it did in the previous season. They’ve obviously made a conscious decision to change tack, but was it for the right reasons? Did they react in response to criticism from other Met Services, or perhaps professional Meteorologists or academia, or did they perhaps dislike the massive response that their storm naming scheme was whipping up in the newspapers, television, and newer forms of social media, and are just taking their foot of the gas?

What I have noticed is that storm naming scheme has somehow been inextricably linked to the issuing of NSWWS alerts, which of course a totally different system, and which over the years has earned itself a bit of a bad reputation. What I mean by that is that is that in the past it may have been overused, and as with the boy who cried wolf in the old Aesop’s fable, the warnings are now tending to fall on deaf ears. Linking the two only makes sense if one scheme does not interfere with the other, but this week it’s become clear to me that one is working to the detriment of the other, and that can’t be a good thing.

Figure 4

Finally after my little sermon of what’s wrong with the Met Office, I would just like to present one final graphic of wind speeds for the last three months from Exeter airport, close to where I live (fig 4). As you can see from the graph, even for an inland site in Devon, the Candlemas low had more of an impact that any of the named storms this season. Not only did it go unnamed, not one single alert was issued for anywhere in the United Kingdom for yesterday either.

Figure 5 – Crushed car from fallen tree in Plymouth on 2 February (Courtesy of Express & Echo)

Active cold front

Figure 1

There’s quite a drop in temperatures behind the cold front (fig 2) that’s currently crossing the country at the moment.

Figure 2

The winds are beginning to pick up again behind the front in the far northwest, as storm Helena starts to squeeze the west southwesterly gradient. There is a curl of cloud wrapped around the centre of the low (fig 1) and the winds look quite powerful, but the Met Office must be confident that it poses no threat, because they haven’t named the storm, neither have they issued any National Severe Weather Warnings for it, so the people in the north have little to fear.

Figure 3

Storm Conor – post mortem

I realise that Conor is not yet deceased and is still blowing hard across the far north, but as far as I can see the highest winds associated with Connor occurred in the early evening of Christmas Day, when gusts of 102 knots [117 mph] were reported at 16 & 18 UTC at Tórshavn.

Trouble at Tórshavn

These are the hourly SYNOPs from Tórshavn since 10 UTC yesterday, do you notice anything wrong with these observations?

Plot grid for WMO 06011 Tórshavn

Well this series of analysis charts of storm Conor passing to the northwest of the Faroes might give you a clue:

Courtesy of the Met Office

And what about these raw SYNOP observations from Tórshavn itself:

Yes – you spotted it! As Conor passed through the Faroes-Iceland gap, well to the northwest of Tórshavn, the winds should have been initially gale force southerly and gradually veered through southwest into west through the afternoon as the low passed by, before ending up in northwest as the low transferred into the Norwegian sea, but throughout they have been stuck just north of west. I have other work I want to get on with at the moment, and don’t have time to check if the wind direction there became spurious with storm Barbara, but it’s probably a good bet that something did get damaged. I would have thought though, that the wind speed record from the anemometer is more than likely unaffected, but I don’t know for sure. The northwesterly (320°) they are reporting at the moment by the way now looks correct, so who knows they may have already fixed it.

Storm Conor

The stations that reported gusts of 70 mph or more were more limited in this event compared with Barbara, but the winds look quite a bit stronger if Tórshavn is anything to go by, again the strongest of them occurred north of the Shetlands, and again by the looks of the data I have in a belt across the Faroe Islands at 62° north.

Here’s the official 70 mph or greater gust chart with which I like to measure the extratropical lows credentials of being deemed a named storm. If anything I would say that Conor was slightly more fitted to be a named storm than Barbara was which doesn’t say a lot.

Overall the NWP guidance, what we saw of it, was good from the Met Office for both Barbara and Conor, personally I would have put out the alerts and maybe not named the storms, but I suppose now we have a handle on them when we look back at the weather of December 2016, and that’s what it’s all about.

But of course the Germans and the rest of Europe (apart from the Irish) think that Conor was Barbara and Barbara was Antje, which is a bit of a farce and which needs sorting out tout suite by the Met Office.

This is a chart with most of the filters removed.

And here is a list of highest gusts for the last 24 hours across all areas.

A foggy day in London town

Courtesy of Daily Mirror

Another foggy day in London town this Sunday morning, and as it was for most of yesterday. It’s also foggy down here in Devon as well, but I don’t think Ira Gershwin’s lyrics could be stretched to include the words “in Devon too”.

“A Foggy Day”

A foggy day in London Town
Had me low and had me down
I viewed the morning with alarm
The British Museum had lost its charm
How long, I wondered, could this thing last?
But the age of miracles hadn’t passed,
For, suddenly, I saw you there
And through foggy London Town
The sun was shining everywhere.

Composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin,

It’s obvious to anyone that ever wrote a TAF that there must have been some sort of GRADU 4000 SKC in the TAF for the day that Gershwin’s lyrics were describing – I seem to remember that you call also use the term RAPID, which might have been an even more appropriate way of picturing the last line. Excuse the contours in the next image, they are far too smoothed as you can see.

I’m struggling at the moment to find much in the way of thick fog around London to justify the title because much of it has now cleared as you can see this plot of Heathrow observations.

Looking on the bright side


Copyright © Sheffield City Council 1998 – 2016

Forget about looking on the bright side, the above image is looking at Brightside in Sheffield and how it must have looked before the first World War by the look of it. Brightside as you can see, is an industrial area that lies to the northeast of the city centre, the terrace houses in the mid foreground look almost new.  I don’t have any idea of why it got the name ‘Brightside’ but I am sure that someone must have an idea. I seem to remember that their was a bend on the river Don which ran through parts of Brightside which was called Salmon pastures (see map) before the Don valley was industrialised. There may not be any salmon in the river Don at the moment, but fish have returned and now there’s even a nature reserve. I can’t pinpoint exactly where the picture above was taken, but you might know better.


Crown Copyright © Ordnance Survey

The exceptional warm start to September

If you think that we’ve had in warm here in the UK during the first 14 days of September then it’s been very much warmer over central Europe with anomalies as high as +6°C. I  just wonder if the extreme warm anomalies that occurred over Russia during August, which were as high as +8°C for the entire month, have somehow retrogressed and migrated westwards.


The pressure patterns gives us the reason. The Icelandic low is misplaced, a little further southwest and 11 hPa deeper than usual, whilst a belt of high pressure stretched from the Azores to Poland with pressure anomalies of +4 in the southern Baltic Sea. This produced a conveyor belt of tropical maritime southwesterly for most of northwest Europe, but sunny, very warm or hot anticyclonic conditions for much of central Europe.

mean-sea-level-pressure-1-sep-14-sep-2016 mean-sea-level-pressure-anomalies-1-sep-14-sep-2016