Yellow warning for heavy rain is only part of the story

Courtesy of UKMO

The details in tomorrow’s yellow warning for rain only tell part of the story about the weather across northeast Scotland. At first glance the casual reader would have thought that this was strictly a heavy rainfall event causing these impacts, when in fact above above 700 m that 40 to 50 mm of rain would be falling as heavy snow over the Grampians, to add to the deepening snow that’s been accumulating over recent days. I am no expert on how they work down in Exeter these days, and after all it’s been nine years this Christmas since I left, and even when it was my workplace my only concern was maintaining the software visualisation systems they used. This warning does make you think that each forecaster or section is responsible for his own specific task or duty. I imagine this warning was issued by the ‘wet-bench’ team. I’m sure the guy that prepares the mountain forecast issued twice a day and sitting across the room wasn’t consulted about the text of the warning, even though his mountain forecast specifically mentions the freezing level for tomorrow would initially be at 700M rising gradually to 900M. I’m sure if he had consulted him or her they might have suggested that he maybe should add a line to mention the fact that above 700M much of this heavy rain would fall as heavy snow. You could argue that this wouldn’t strictly be necessary, but it would give you some reassurance to the end user that the forecaster on the wet-bench realises when he says:

…with some hilly areas possibly catching 40-50 mm.


The use of the word ‘hilly’ used to describe the Grampians is also a little condescending to any hillwalker because as their own website makes clear:

The North Grampian mountain weather forecast area includes much of the Cairngorms National Park which boasts five of the UK’s six highest mountains and includes the largest areas of land in the UK above 2000 and 3000 feet.


Even with a freezing level of 900 m there is still a large area of higher ground across the Grampians, and with maximum evaporative cooling going on over this hilly areas the snow level could easily be lowered by two or three hundred metres. To relabel this warning a yellow warning for heavy rain and snow would have been over the top, but to omit mentioning that over the mountains most of it would be of snow is. I suppose want I’m really getting at is that to me as an outsider they don’t appear to have an holistic joined up approach to how they coordinate their forecasts and warnings.

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