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 917.

    In the rainfall map, the darker blue shows that the rain has come from the EAST. I.E. it is from the EU.

    We joined EU at about the time that Global Warming started.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    @913 Crabalocker:

    Considering my comment 905, when you say "AGW sells", you're aware you are accusing every single scientific body that has expressed a view on this of being corrupt, right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    Ha, just because it has "sceptic" in the title doesn't make them so. A lot of creationism sites claim the same.

    I'm sorry, but after Climategate, the IPCC is as trustworthy as OJ Simpson. They lied. Period. You can't deny the fact that their lead scientists made plans to hide and manipulate data, and silenced sceptics.

    And on that bombshell...

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    At least this is the type of scientific inquiry that has value - climate changes all the time, and understanding why is useful from the standpoint of citizens being able to prepare for those changes.

    Unfortunately, so much time and money has been wasted on the nonsense of AGW, and the boogeyman CO2, that we really don't understand much about how the climate actually works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    The only man made climate change are the 'Man' who run computer models. It's 'Man' who inputs the data, their own chosen data, and it's 'Man' who uses this selective data to help support their theory not see where this all might be going. AGW sells, not truth.

    Making people hypersensitive is not science, that's sensationalism and propaganda!

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    909. 'real scientists' *are* by their nature and practise, skeptics. The people who attacked the IPPC shouldn't be dignified with that rationalist term. 'Deniers', with its implication of fundamentalist political dishonesty, is much more apt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    According to that map I only got between 15-24%extra rainfall last year. Baloney. It was more like 300% extra rainfall. Apart from a fortuitous break for the Olympics I didn't see the sun between May and December.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    #904 Here's where a lot of disagreement, while a false negative would be bad the response to a false positive could be horriffic too. There are a lot of people who will (and are) taking advantage of the public fear to enrich themselves at our expense. If we did "everything" as you suggest they would have free reign, and one of the outcomes of that could be a new dark age

    Be cautious both ways

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    900.United Dreamer
    Your slights against sceptics is similar how the IPCC's discredited lead scientists attacked experts who questioned their manipulated "findings".

    OK. I notice you didn't deny that they made plans to hide and manipulate data, and silenced sceptics.

    I however, will keep distrusting the IPCC liars. Real scientists don't shun scepticism, they welcome it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    @899 Sally... .
    The IPCC is valid, but conservative. e.g. their estimates for Arctic Sea Ice decline is behind reality by about 40 years:

    To grasp the scientific reasons why AGW is valid and the arguments against it don't hold up, the best resource is:

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    I'm afraid the scientific debate is very much resolved on the link between global warming and CO2. I say 'afraid' because like the scientists who researched the subject over past decades, I don't want it to be true. But faced with overwhelming data, they have to face facts. To accuse them of corruption & conspiracy is to move the goal posts & tacitly admit you have no scientific counter-argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    @Sally Says Your Free

    I may have had to delete this statement earlier. everything I said was accurate, the scandal was non-existent among the science community as they understood what occurred. The "scandal" was a public thing created by the right wing media, including The Telegraph. As usual they cleverly put some truth with lots of lies to manipulate you, and it's clearly worked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 905.

    One thing I've never had answered when this debate fires up.

    Since 2007, every scientific body of national or international standing that has expressed a view on AGW says it is happening. There is no controversy or dissent from the science world from any significant body. None.

    If you still don't believe man is changing the climate, how do you explain this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 904.

    Cricky is this thread still going?
    As I see it. there are many uncertainties in a very complex climate system. Body can say for certain the MMGW is true. Neither can anyone say it's false. The damage caused by a false negative far outweigh those associated with a false positive.
    IE - Iogic, science & maths tells us to do EVRYTHING to reduce CO2.

  • rate this

    Comment number 903.

    Surprise, surprise, 'more studies needed'
    More freebies to conferences, needless projects, etc to tell us hat we already know.
    This has become an industry that leeches of all the real wealth producers.
    If they didn't misinform, spin and scaremonger they would not have a job paid by us mugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 902.

    #895 One reason I'm not convinced is that certainly when we "The science is settled" was trumpeted by the media the majority of the energy balances in the atmosphere were unknown, and that as a result of that I think that there are still assumptions which need to be evaluated again in light of research since that time. There are some other scenarios that should be looked at if only to discount

  • rate this

    Comment number 901.

    Luke Caster
    Besides you can't trust peer review – pal review would be more accurate."

    Absolutely correct. I once worked in a quango which gave grants for scientific research. Applications were reviewed and recommended by and for a select group - you approve my grant and I'll approve yours. Pure research has long gone because of the need to obtain grants and therefore support the grantor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 900.

    #878 Lord_Raiden - a blogger's reference to Godwin's law is something of a tedium raised normally to stifle debate.

    If the metaphor works to describe the close-minded mentality of deniers I have no problem using it.

    Could have said you were the same people buying AAA rated sub-prime mortgages as house prices always go up. But you probably wouldn't be able to connect it to the credit crunch...

  • rate this

    Comment number 899.

    895.Drunken Hobo
    You got it backwards!
    If was any veracity to (man-made) climate-change, the IPCC wouldn't have to lie.

    To quote you: "GO LOOK IT UP"
    Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation:

  • rate this

    Comment number 898.

    These unusual weather patterns have been happening since at least 2008, possibly 2007. I'm over 50, and have spent spend a lot of time outdoors. I've always kept a close eye on the weather, plus I have formally studied some meterology. Initially it seemed like one of those freak years. However these unusual patterns have persisted, and it definitely seems there is an underlying cause.


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