Met Office experts meet to analyse 'unusual' weather patterns

Wet weather Scientists are meeting at the Met Office to try and understand the reasons behind last summer's washout

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About 20 of the UK's leading scientists and meteorologists are due to meet at the Met Office to discuss Britain's "unusual" weather patterns.

They will try to identify the factors that caused the chilly winter of 2010-11 and the long, wet summer of 2012.

They will also try to work out why this spring was the coldest in 50 years - with a UK average of 6C (42.8F) between March and May.

The Met Office hopes the meeting will identify new priorities for research.

Start Quote

This meeting isn't looking at climate change, it's looking at climate variability in recent seasons”

End Quote Dan Williams Met Office

Over the past three years, British weather records have been under increasing pressure. The big freeze that gripped the UK in December 2010 saw the lowest temperature for the month in 100 years.

Even the buzz of the London Olympics could not disguise the washout that was last summer, the second wettest for the UK since records began.

Puzzled by these events, scientists from across the UK are meeting at the Met Office in Exeter to try to understand the reasons behind this run of what they term, "unusual seasons".

Much has been made of the jet stream and how changes in these strong winds affect our weather.

Map showing rainfall across the UK in 2012 against the 30-year average.

But the Met Office said that it was but one factor that the researchers would consider.

"The thing to remember with the jet stream is that, much like our weather, it is a symptom of other drivers rather than a cause," said the Met Office's Dan Williams.

The scientists will examine the reduction in Arctic sea ice and how it might be affecting Europe's weather.

The theory is that the loss of ice in the Arctic means there is a smaller temperature difference between the North Pole and the warmer, mid latitudes. This in turn could weaken the jet stream, which starts to move around more. When these winds move just south of the UK, colder air can come in from the north.

And as peaks and troughs form along the stream, they can act like a trap for wet weather.

"Low pressure systems run along there and drop into a trough and it's very hard to get them back out again, they get stuck like an eddy in a river," explained Dan Williams.

"They hit us and come back and we get rain for long periods of time."

Another factor that the scientists will be considering are changes in long term ocean cycles such as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, a system of deep currents that transport heat around the world.

ocean circulation The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation can impact weather by distributing heat throughout the world

Prof Stephen Belcher from the Met Office Hadley Centre, who will chair the meeting, said these cycles could be having an impact.

"The ocean circulation has been stuck in a rather strange pattern for the past 10 years or so, which in fact has given the unusual weather patterns in many parts of the world," he told BBC News.

Researchers will also look at other factors including solar variability and the effect of the El Nino/La Nina weather patterns.

However a discussion of man made climate change is unlikely to feature.

"This meeting isn't looking at climate change, it's looking at climate variability in recent seasons," said Dan Williams.

"The aim is to understand some of the causes behind that variability. A lot of those potential causes cannot easily be attributed to climate change. The more we can understand about these potential causes, the better advice we can give on near-term climate from a month out to about a year ahead."

The researchers say the meeting could redefine the priorities for weather related research into the future.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I blame all this cold weather on global warming.
    It was not too long ago when the green industry was informing us we would have to prepare for hot summers, death of native plants, more insects from hot climates causing blights, growing of crops from warmer climes, sea levels risings and movement from the coast, droughts and massive water shortages, etc, etc.
    Have grants been cut?
    Scam by fools

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    @11 BeesAreTrendy

    Same as the English weather then. . . . . . .We're almost at mid summers day, and haven't had ANY as of yet. . . . . .but at least we have 22 degree rain :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Doubtless the experts will agree that taxes must rise, that cars and flying must be put out of reach of ther majority (although they will still fly off to lots of "international conferences") and while they close our industries and make it impossible to heat our homes, China, India, Brazil etc will keep pumping out CO2 and improving their standard of living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Don't blame Daily Mail Readers for Global Warming, blame the Sun!.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    What 'unusual' weather?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    More money wasted - you might just as well have a conference to analyse fog in a bottle!

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Prepare for the worst and be grateful for every year it does not happen. Predicting the weather based on clouds or science is still only an approximation. The time factor still eludes prediction. Why do we have floods? Buildings are built on flood plains. The ground is covered so that water does not soak away.Rivers rise. Why do we have rain at the 'wrong time? Britain has a temperate climate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Climate "scientists" ? What a joke.

    You mean the highly paid tax payer funded people proven wrong now for almost 2 decades who have had to reduce their "forecasts" given almost 2 decades of being proven wrong ?

    It's not physically possible for a plant to warm up as fast as is being predicted based on a very small amount of gas increasing - case proven.

    Public 1 "Climate Scientists" 0

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I hate the heat so much; this summer has been the best in a while. I hate it when those stupid weather people are so biased.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Hillarious. What pray are they going to do? Ask the developing world to please close down its industry because its buggering up our cricket season? I thought we had no money to waste? I can think of few better examples of waste than this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    You could argue that the last drought was caused by p*** poor planning & investment by the Water Companies rather than unusual weather/climate change

    Likewise some of the flooding being caused by p*** poor planning by Councils allowing building on flood-plains

    I'm not saying climate change/unusual weather patterns are not real - but there are other factors that need to be looked at as well

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Until agreement is reached to rein in the massive emissions coming from countries such as China, all we are able to do in the UK is (comparatively speaking) chip around the edges. It's a bit like trying to empty a swimming pool only using a teaspoon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Either they will conclude it's man made, in which case you can expect headline news on the BBC, debates in parliament and more taxes by the lorry load.

    Or they will conclude it isn't man made in which case you will never hear of it again. Ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    The problem with these putative experts is that they can't tell us what the weather is doing now,let alone in the future.
    Unfortunately it's just a waste of public money-the only thing that governments are actualy good at!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    "Funny how these subsidies always seem to ... increase tax take for the gov."

    Really? It's not been a successful strategy if that was the point, then, as "green" taxes have reduced tax raised as people change their energy usage.

    On topic: most of the CO2 induced heat is currently warming the oceans and reducing ice cover. That seems to be changing regional weather patterns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Man has acted as a catalyst 2 long-term weather fluctuations. No point in complaining - Nature will 'direct' us no matter if it means a mass cull of people as food becomes scarce & nations struggle with each other. All part of the Grand Plan - evolution at play.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    @20,....Global warning has failed to materialise?, have you looked out of your window lately, or at your TV screen, or the price of basic goods in your food basket?, gloabal warming and it's consequences are upon us,.... and yes you are right, it isn't what it said it was on the tin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I'm confused by peoples distain for climate and weather research - making comments such as "the weather will do what it will do" like thats a valid reason for not investigating it. If the weather goes through these cycles, whether it takes decades or centuries, why can we not work to understand these cycles. Isn't that what this research is about?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Global Warming!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Seems to be so many things the "experts" don't know yet they are all convinced about manmade global warming. All evidence that prima facie supports the claim is reiterated endlessly, all that runs counter to the claim is ignored, covered up or explained away as "weather". Not to mention fabricated evidence and plain lies. Even bent police forces only invent evidence when it doesn't exist for real.


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