Archives for February 2012

February's huge temperature contrast

Paul Hudson | 15:46 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012

UPDATE 4pm on Tue 28th Feb

17.4C has been recorded in Durham today, their highest February temperature on record, with data going back to 1880.


Warm air from the sub-tropics is affecting Yorkshire and Lincolnshire today and has led to some exceptionally mild temperatures for February.

At the old Finningley Met Office site, which is now Robin Hood airport, along with Donna Nook outside Cleethorpes, 18C (64F) has been recorded.

These temperature levels are average for early June, the highest for February since 1998, and close to record levels.

Holbeach, in South Lincolnshire also reached 18C (64F). Less than two weeks ago, on the morning of Saturday 11th February, the mercury fell to minus 16C (3F) at the same site, which equalled the record for February cold in Lincolnshire.

Such a huge temperature contrast, no less than 34C in under two weeks, is just about as big as it gets.

Although tomorrow will be less mild, west to south-westerly winds will prevail for the rest of February.

Apart from the severe cold snap we experienced in early February, and despite numerous long range forecasts last Autumn which suggested otherwise, climatological winter (Dec, Jan & Feb) has turned out to be milder than average.

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Drax axes plans to build new biomass power stations

Paul Hudson | 17:21 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The company which owns Drax power station in North Yorkshire, which is the largest single producer of electricity and carbon dioxide in the country, has announced that a £1.4 billion plan to build 2 of 3 new dedicated biomass power stations have been shelved.

The third of the planned power stations, at Immingham, may still go ahead at a later date.

The decision comes following an ongoing review of renewables and their subsidy levels, details of which were announced in October last year.

In the review the government recognised that burning biomass alongside coal in so called 'co-firing' power stations, which already happens at the existing Drax power station near Selby, is a much more economical way of producing green electricity and involves lower subsidy levels, than building new dedicated biomass power stations.

At the moment, Drax power station has the capability to produce 12.5% of its output from sustainable biomass, the remainder from coal, but is not utilising that capability to the full because the current level of support makes it uneconomical to do so.

As a result of the proposed changes to subsidy levels announced in the review, which come into force in April 2013, Drax has said that it will be able to burn more biomass in place of coal, investing £50 million this year to increase its biomass co-firing capability to 20%, thus reducing its carbon footprint.

This investment will enable the company to store and handle increased amounts of biomass meaning that an additional 300MW of the total power generated by the Drax facility will be 'green energy' from biomass.

Under the original plans, one of the proposed new dedicated biomass plants that was to be built alongside Drax would have cost £600-£700 million, but crucially would have only generated the same 300MW of green electricity.

Because the level of subsidy that Drax would receive recognises the associated costs of the technology, the subsidy they receive by going down this new route - which is effectively paid by consumers on electricity bills - will be much lower.

In short, the government have indicated that it is much more cost effective to eventually convert coal fired power stations to biomass power stations than it is to build new ones, and that this is a long term aim, as they strive to drastically reduce the country's carbon footprint.

Risk of drought restrictions spread

Paul Hudson | 17:05 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Large parts of the UK are at risk from serious water shortages this summer if rainfall in the next few months continues to be low.

Since June 2011, drought has affected Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, parts of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire, and west Norfolk.

Now, much of South East England is at high risk of drought following a dry winter.

Locally at Leeming in North Yorkshire only 76% of rainfall fell in 2011 and Coningsby in Lincolnshire was even drier with only 71% of average rainfall.

At both sites 2012 so far has also been drier than average.

But much of the drinking water in Yorkshire comes from reservoirs situated in the Pennine hills; and here there's been plenty of rainfall and the reservoirs are full to overflowing.

Bore holes in East Yorkshire provide some of the region's drinking water, and are badly depleted, but thanks to the multi-million pound underground water pipe network which connects all parts of the county, water can be pumped from wet areas to dry areas quickly and efficiently.

This pipe network was established following the disastrous drought that Yorkshire experienced in 1995, and 17 years later there are now calls to establish a pipe network like this across the country.

The Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said today at a meeting of water experts to discuss the worsening drought situation, that she wanted water companies to look at the possibility of connecting their pipe networks in this way.

Critics though argue this would be hugely expensive, and inevitably lead to higher water bills.

Looking ahead, mother nature is unlikely to lend a helping hand.

A general west or southwesterly weather pattern is likely to continue for the rest of February and into early March.

This is likely to produce more rainfall in areas where there is already enough, and little to those areas that badly need it, further east & south.

Met Office global forecasts too warm in 11 out of last 12 yrs

Paul Hudson | 15:08 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Global temperatures fell quite sharply in January, according to the UAH satellite measure.

The anomaly of -0.093C below the 30 year running mean equates to approximately +0.16C above the more standard 1961-1990 time period.

As regards 2011 as a whole, according to the Met Office, 2011 was the 12th warmest year in their 150 years of global temperature records with an anomaly of 0.346C.

This compares to their 2011 forecast of 0.44C.

Although this discrepancy is within the stated margin of error, it is the 11th year out of the last 12 when the Met Office global temperature forecast has been too warm.

In all these years, the discrepancy between observed temperatures and the forecast are within the stated margin of error.

But all the errors are on the warm side, with none of the forecasts that have been issued in the last 12 years ending up too cold.

And, in my opinion, that makes the error significant.

Some scientists who I have spoken to suggest that one of problems is the lack of observations in the Arctic, which is known to have warmed faster than other parts of the world.

They point out that if proper account was taken of this area of the world, then the overall observed global temperature would be higher, a point acknowledged by the Met Office when I spoke to them earlier this week.

In short, it could be that the observations are wrong, with computer predictions right all along.

Climate sceptics, however, say that the real reason why the computer predictions are systematically too warm is because they don't properly take into account some of the natural processes that are occurring, such as weak solar activity, which may be holding back global temperatures.

But in recent research conducted by the Met Office and Reading University, the possible cooling exerted by a less-active sun was found to have only a small effect on global temperatures.

This year, the Met Office is predicting an anomaly which is 0.44C above the long term average.

Whatever the reason for the ongoing 'warm bias' in Met Office global temperatures, their forecast for the first half of this decade, published in early 2010, that half the years between 2010 and 2015 would be hotter than the hottest year on record (with an anomaly of 0.52C set in 1998) is already looking in doubt.

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First widespread snow of winter on its way

Paul Hudson | 15:34 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

It's been a long time in coming, but there's been a remarkably consistent signal in the last couple of days that later on Saturday into Saturday night a large part of the UK will be affected by the first widespread fall of snow so far this winter.

It's a classic meteorological battle between cold Continental air from the east, and milder Atlantic air from the west.

The dry, cold air which has its origins in Siberia, has led to numerous deaths, particularly across Eastern Europe.

Thankfully the UK is on the periphery of this cold.

The milder air from the Atlantic will try and force its way across the country through the weekend, and where the two meet, widespread snow is expected.

Around 5-10cms is expected - with Central and Eastern England most at risk, for a change.

For our region current timings bring the snow into Pennine areas early Saturday afternoon, reaching the coast late afternoon and into the evening.

As it clears on Saturday night the snow will to turn to rain or drizzle leading to widespread ice on Sunday morning.

The areas affected are covered by a Met Office amber alert, shown below.

The mild air from the Atlantic will ultimately fail to push the cold air away for our region, and indeed for many parts of the country, away from the west.

In these areas temperatures will remain well below average, under the continued influence of a large area of high pressure across Central and Northern parts of Europe, with an on-going wintry theme.

Getting the forecast details correct next week will be a real challenge.

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