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 157.

    @148,...I cannot see the wind, but I feel it blowing, and see its effect, that is for all to see, does it therfore, perhaps not exist, that it has no substance. A ghost of the mind, made real in final madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    There was a time not so long ago when the UK was under a huge ice sheet. Humans werent responsible. They may or may not be now but that wont stop the weather doing whatever it fancies, when it fancies it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Having conducted 44 years worth of extensive study in to unusual weather patterns in the UK, I can now submit my findings to the panel of experts.

    The reason for unusual weather in the UK is because...we live in the UK.

    Where do I send my invoice?

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    We've had a Medieval Warm Period, and the a Little Ice Age.

    Here is an article about rewilding -

    Did it cause the Thames to freeze over?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    105 mmoog % 'belief' of scientists is irrelevant. Science is about what can be predicted by hypothesis and proved by experiment even if only one individual 'believes' it. At present there is a gap between predictions and what we can prove. The precautionary principle has huge costs. Climate is highly political and politicians are scientifically illiterate. The public is turning skeptical.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    It's a consequence of the reaction to perceived "Global Warming". Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Take 100GW out of the airflow across Northern Europe with wind turbines and it is not surprising that the jet stream is disturbed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    I hope they look at wind speeds as well as rainfall and temperature. We seem to suffer many more strong winds in summer than in years past. It matters because, among other things, prolonged high wind sucks the moisture out of crops and affects growers' use of water.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    When all variability in weather be it hot, cold, wet or dry is pronounced as evidence for climate change then it becomes apparent that what we are looking at are statements that are of a quasi-religious conviction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    Oh how delightfully British - a cup of tea and extended conversations about the weather. But it does sound like interesting research and the right thing to keep away from those emotive discussions about longer term climate change - that is maybe for a different debate. By the way Connelly's quote is 'there's no such thing as bad weather just the wrong clothing" maybe this should be the new UK moto

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.


    Really, the argument from consensus? Too many IPCC scientists have come out against global warming for there to be such a consensus!

    Bertrand Russell said it best

    "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widely spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible"

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    The point i was clumsily trying to make in my previous posts is that yes we know about climate change but we do not need highly paid scientists hectoring us about it , its the same as sausages linked to obesity . what can we actually do to stop it the answer is nothing until all countries agree to reduce their CO2 output its no use us doing it if china etc keep pumping it out is it .

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    This is a message to the BBC Hive Global warming doesn't exists there has just been alot of solar activity with the sun
    But i got a great idea though lets pretend there is a think called global warming, and then we can finally tax people on breath through Carbon emissions David Bellamy has been frozen out by the State run broadcaster because he things global warming is utter TOSH

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    If we had more people like Jello Biafra and less people like Bono and Al Gore the green issue may just be taken a little more seriously by the people. It would also help if Westminster did not use the Green issue as another way to tax people and spend money on pet projects rather than clean, renewable energy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    Using the word 'experts' in the same sentence with 'Met office' is an oxymoron. Not only have they failed to accurately describe GW as cyclical climate change, they also cannot forecast the next 3 days weather properly.

    The planet will carry on with its changes irrespective, and our best solution will be to adapt to these changes rather than waste money and time babbling about duff theories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    To all global warmers - sorry the game is soon up and you'll have to find another religion or gravy train to join.

    The public is now seeing that the Emperor is naked as each doom laden prophecy fails to come true.

    All that's keeping this idea afloat is pride. Too many people won't admit they have been spectacularly wrong for so long and the £billions invested in this have largely been wasted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    What amazes me is the number of people on here STILL clinging to the global warming piffle. Over 17 years and no warming, that's not even disputed by the GW disciples (aka climate scientists). When I hear the term "denier" it's these people I think of now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    @107 You seem to have a strange recollection of history regarding smoking and lung cancer. I think you'll find it was the scientists who highlighted the link. The deniers were the tobacco companies. Nowadays the climate change debate is scientists vs Big Oil and other vested interests, as well as individuals who prefer to deny the evidence than change their behaviour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    great famine of 1315, Little Ice Age of 16th century, 1816 year without sun, great drowing 1362...

    If Green-worshippers & China-bashers have their way, then its due to fossil fuel related global warming.

    Remember global media hype about greenhouse effects & carbon emissions? Western industrial agreements signed with China, then its all quiet & sorted.

    Always look at vested western interests.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Surely the records prove one thing. The coldest winter since 1964 (made up example) shows that 1964 was cold too. Unusual weather is what we usually get. Apocalyptic thinking used to belong to religion, now by and large we don't do religion so its the province of scientists, our new priesthood, with its dire predictions, which of course give them power political influence. Only they can save us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Spending a lot of time and money on studying something which you can do absolutely nothing about! Why not just give everyone in the country a free brolly and raincoat, at least the money would be well spent.


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