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 377.


    Blinded by the facts hurts does it.

    I awaiting the answer from you about the Earths Average Temperature has not risen this Century.

    We do not beleive this Climate Change/ Global Warming bias anymore wake up and smell the coffee, its another reason to tax us.

    It's a natural Phenomena, by the zealots will not listen. and anyone that questions it gets shot down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    "Please explain how using "energy saving" light bulbs in my living room saves me money?"

    Of course it doesn't save you any noticeable cash. Or electricity. Drink less tea if you're worried.
    Don't forget to factor in the Paracetamol for the headaches and the environmental impact of the A&E visits for the slips, trips & falls as you stumble around in the dark!

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    We can't predict the weather accuratley more than 2hrs in advance- look at how many times the forecast is updated and changed on this website- yet we trust they can tell us what will happen 20 years from now.....

    It was the coldest spring for 50 years.... so therefore 50 years ago it was colder..... with more pollution etc back then how can a cold spring this year be result of climate change?

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Of course the climate is changing - It's been changing since the last ice age!!! The polar ice caps have been receding since then - It is not a new phenomenon! I am astounded by the arrogance of mankind to believe that we have any control over the climate. The climate of the earth is under the control of the sun whose radiation heats the earth. That's it, end of story!

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    I'm enjoying the simple question about "do low energy light bulbs save money, or energy?". Another factor to put in is that low energy bulbs are also dull: I have 5 (!) going in my largest room so I can actually see. It's not just about bulb-to-bulb comparisons: it's about real life - a bit more complicated than computer models make out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Oh dear, another tax on the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    357. jgm2

    It's nonsense. I am a climate stasis denier. I don't believe that the climate was ever static.


    and nor do the MMGW believers.
    What the deniers are too dim to understand is that there is both an natural weather cycle AND a man-made one, that both interact.

    To think that 7 billion increasing polluting humans has no impact is just naive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    -10 for H.A.A.R.P? I would suggest some research into weather modification and chemtrails. Both the Americans and Russians have H.A.A.R.P. Technology for sure. The weather CAN be modified and legislation has been pased to restrict and regulate its use. Remember, Bilderberg wasd once a "conspiracy" too. If you want to understand the psychology of what is unfolding reasearch "voidism" + "futurism".

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Here's hoping the scientists take EVERYTHING into consideration with their research & conclusions, rather than sticking with the avenues which get them funding. While our activities have had an effect on the climate there is much more at play in our environment which will affect the weather, such as the sun's activities, volcanic activity & how much we have dug out from underneath us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    The earth has been going through climate changes ever since it been in existance. It is typical of arrogant mankind to think it should stay the same just because we are here! Instead of trying to stop the inevitable, there should be more research into how we could survive a new ice age or increaed global temps!

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Whatever the weather, the reserves of fossil fuels are finite. For some reason, that unquestionable fact gets ignored. Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    According to this article - scientists are investigating the following possible causes of the unexpected cold weather – solar variability, El Nino, La Nina, Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, variations in the jet stream and a decrease in arctic ice.

    What happened to the "science is settled" ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.


    They use less electricity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    many years ago a naive sales model was set up to forecast revenue, to be used for cost control, no additional factors in the equation. Instead of cost control the company used it for sales targets. So sales dept went all-out to exceed the targets/simple forecasts.

    The new figures are then fed back into the model to calculate the next output. A simple bubble.

    science without statistics is bubble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    I suspect today's meeting is largely a PR exercise and will come to no useful conclusions.
    When Arctic ice melting was first noticed, it was confidently predicted that it would give us better summers as depressions would travel further N. than usual.
    Obviously this isn't happening, and we won't know why for years

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    @339 Tchernobog

    Actually if you look at the weather we've had since the 80s, here in the UK, the trend has been for milder winters (without snow) and wetter summers, so he wasn't wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    341. quake
    They are called energy saving lightbulbs not money saving lightbulbs.

    OK, I will simplify the question in a way that ignores the obvious ridiculous initial expense and the environmental damage of all the mercury that now hits our landfill sites.
    How does me having "energy saving" light bulbs in my living room save energy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    107. Kirkhillman A lot of people are saying we should trust the scientists. Are these the ones who were predicting a mini ice age in the 1970's or the ones that used to deny that smoking causes cancer?

    No, those scientists (if they ever existed) are now very old or very dead. These are new, different scientists.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Wow,aren't we world beaters when it comes to wasting public money!!
    Another useless,jobs for the boys gimmick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    25. squirrel

    That the whole point of this conference, to identify priorities for future research projects.


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