A tale of too lows

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office

It seems to me to be a tale of two lows, tonight’s rather interestingly, some may say bizarrely, hasn’t attracted any warnings for heavy rain so far from the Met Office (fig 1), but they have already issued an early warning for the possibilities of heavy rain for the low that will affect southeast England later on Sunday. Depending on what NWP model you look at the accumulations for Friday don’t look particularly that heavy (fig 2), but I wouldn’t have thought it would have hurt to have issued a blanket yellow warning for southern and central areas for 15 to 25 mm locally 40 mm, but what do I know. I suppose they still have time to do it but it’s cutting it a bit fine.

Figure 2 – Courtesy of www.wxcharts.eu

Tomorrow’s low

Figure 1 – GFS (1) ECMWF (2) UKMO (3)

It’s interesting to see how the three main NWP models handle tomorrows low and the heavy rain it introduces across the country (fig 1). The Met Office take the main thrust of the rain north into Ireland, whilst the GFS and the ECMWF are in no doubt that the action will be centred much further east over southwest Wales. I think the UKMO model looks out of step with the other models on this one, time will tell.

One of the tricks of the trade as a weather presenter when you want to be as vague as possible about the timing of rainfall events like this, is to leave of the exact time in the graphics, so it’s good to see that Aidan McGivern has picked this one up and is now ready to move on to the next chapter (fig 2).

Figure 2 – BBC (1) Met Office (2)

As well as this cyclonic development on Friday another low threatens to spoil the weather in the southeast of England during Sunday. It’s amazing just how the weather likes to dish out bad weather in as fair a manner as possible isn’t it?

The overnight thunderstorms

Figure 1 – Courtesy of Blitzortung

Here are a few graphics to show the extent of this early thundery spell across the country, the severity and extent of which caught both the ECMWF and the UKMO NWP models out yesterday. As far as I can see most of the lightning was from unstable medium level cloud rather than the more traditional cumulonimbus (fig 1). The rainfall from the thunderstorms looks to have been concentrated in a swathe SSW-NNE through Hampshire, where my estimates from weather radar suggest that as much as 32-40 mm fell in the wettest areas (fig 2).

Figure 2
Figure 3 – None of the rain gauges where in the right places, where was Southampton Weather Centre when you needed it?

I won’t go on about just how poor or late the warnings were for yesterdays thunderstorms from the Met Office, or just how divorced the NWP graphics used by either themselves or the BBC was from reality, the following screen shots will have to suffice (fig 4).

Figure 4 – Courtesy of the Met Office (1&2), Blitzortung (3) and the BBC (4).

“Just some of these western coasts may stay a little murky…”

Image 1 – Courtesy of the BBC (upper) and the Met Office (lower)

The ECMWF model being used for the BBC forecast by MeteoGroup is not really handling the sea fog that’s rolling into west of Cornwall and along the north coast of Devon too well this morning (fig 1). The UKMO model has at least captured something in the way of cloud across the southwest, what exactly it is in looking at the graphics is a little bit harder to work out, is it cirrus, or stratus or just sea fog? Alex Deakin doesn’t seem overly concerned about it though, he says that’ll it be “just some of these western coasts that may stay a little murky”.

Figure 2

I’ve been watching this fog and low stratus as it rolls in across the southwest and it’s moving quite smartly to say there’s very little gradient (fig 2). I just wonder how much further east it will progress during the rest of the day as well as how far inland it’ll make it.

Addendum
Figure 3 – Courtesy of the BBC

In the national forecast just after the main BBC news the graphics looked very similar to the ones used during the morning, but in the regional forecast at 1.40 pm it appeared as if they had updated the model which gave a much more realistic fit with the satellite image (fig 3). Ben Rich was too busy demonstrating how proficient he is with the count-up method (you know the one – “temperatures reaching 24 or 25 quite widely, and maybe even a 26 or 27 and possibly a 28 or 29 in one or two spots”) to even be bothered to show any detail of low cloud in the southwest.

Nowcasting and the problem of forecasting low cloud

All sorts of problems in forecasting the exact position and the extent of low cloud across the country this morning. This is nothing new of course and must be the bane of most NWP models in slack situations like this. Both the UKMO and the ECMWF models (if that’s the one MeteoGroup are currently  using) have a poor grasp of low cloud at 09 UTC as you can see by this mornings visible satellite image, and don’t forget these graphics are probably from the 06 UTC model run so the forecast’s are no more than three hours in the future (fig 1). In the 1980’s the word nowcasting was coined to describe these short-term forecasts, but it looks like low cloud in situations like this are proving difficult to keep track of.

Figure 1 – Met Office forecast – Visible Satellite – BBC forecast

You may have noticed that I’m fixated at the moment in examining and comparing the forecast output from the UKMO and the ECMWF models, by grabbing screen shots of the MeteoGroup forecast on BBC 1, and the Met Office video forecast from their website. Why do I do this? Perhaps it’s out of sheer frustration, knowing that although we indirectly pay for both of these institutions, we see output from either model in any detail except by snatching screen shots. I’m so glad that MeteoGroup did win the BBC contract because it does help in highlighting the differences and shortcomings of both models.

Met Office make it three in a row

Figure 1 Courtesy of  BBC/ITV/Actual

The Met Office make it three in a row, with an 8-5 win over Meteogroup on today’s maximum temperatures. On the strength of the last three days the ECMWF seem to over-estimate afternoon temperatures, although I still can’t manage to get them to agree on when to report them in either of their forecast graphics. Today I had to use the ITV graphics for the Met Office forecast because the Met Office are so darn quick at deleting any evidence in their early morning forecast. I’m going to have to find a better way that this to verify their forecasts…

Today’s poor forecasts

It’s difficult to pin these two organisations down when it comes to verifying just how accurate their maximum temperature forecasts are. But the Met Office model is already one up after yesterday, so I thought I’d just see how they did today.

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC and the Met Office

Here are the actual temperatures at 1600 BST today which I mark 76% to the Met Office. The forecast for London was really dreadful from both models, obviously they expected the stratus to clear but it didn’t. I can’t understand why MeteoGroup have labels for both Glasgow and Edinburgh, but only one temperature, and for which city it’s for. If anything MeteoGroup should have had the edge because the actual and forecast temperatures are both for 1600 BST, but that didn’t stop the Met Office taking a two nil lead.

It wasn’t only temperature that caught out both the Met Office and MeteoGroup today, there was also an area of heavy rainfall that extended across Humberside into Yorkshire during the afternoon that escaped both models. I watched the rolling news on the BBC news during the afternoon and I think even worse than the poor forecast was that the presenter never seemed to noticed that it was happening at all, let alone bothering mention it or show a real-time weather radar image. It reminded me of the taped forecast given by Michael Fish as the Boscastle flash floods was in progress in 2004. I can’t see why the Met Office have bothered to update their weather radar network when no one seems to look at it. Here’s the BBC forecast for the east Midland’s from yesterday evening (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the BBC

Forecast temperature verification

I’ve been trying to compare forecast temperatures from the Met Office and MeteoGroup to see which NWP model was the more accurate. Here are their forecasts for yesterday (fig 1).

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC and the Met Office

As you can see they use a more or less common set of major cities across the UK which helps. On Twitter the Met Office seem to prefer labelling the 1400 temperature rather than the 1600 temperature as the BBC do, so a direct comparison is difficult. It might be a little easier if both of them displayed a much more useful maximum temperature [06-18] for the day, but that would never do would it? I noticed that in their video forecast for today, the Met Office had switched to labelling temperatures at 1500, although I can’t seem to figure out where that 11°C label is for in this mornings (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office

As you know daytime temperatures are notoriously difficult to forecast with variable cloud at anytime of the year, but especially so in spring with breezes of cold seas, and as you can see there were was a large range in forecast temperatures from the two models for yesterday. Here are the actual air temperatures for 1500 BST for comparison purposes (fig 3).

Figure 3 – Courtesy of Me

Despite the timing differences I mentioned above, I make it that as far as yesterday goes, the Met Office forecast temperature was closer to the actual temperature (at 1500 BST) than was the MeteoGroup forecast at 60% of the 14 city sites. Of course I need to put in quite a bit of work over a longer period to see which model is the more accurate.

The nanny state at it’s worst

Figure 1 – Freely adapted courtesy of the Met Office
Figure 2 – Freely adapted courtesy of the Met Office

I just couldn’t resist adapting the wording in a couple of recent yellow weather warnings from the Met Office. It’s a total coincidence that I published this article on April fool’s day, because it seems that it’s now the job of the Met Office’s in these litigious days, to constantly remind people of what to expect in times of severe weather, instead of their own common sense.

Weather Warnings

I’ve notice that the first of the promised changes to the weather warnings from the Met Office have started to appear, in the shape of minor change to their weather warnings website page (fig 1).

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office

It looks like they are still sticking to the freehand drawing of warning areas on the maps, which is a shame because it’s far from the best way of doing things and looks unprofessional. They’ve still not removed the scroll bar from the text panel that describes the warnings, if they expanded the text area to make use of the empty space below, there would be no need for a scroll bar at all. I’ll just have a quick look round at how some other Met Services deal with weather warnings in their countries:

The French
Figure 2 – Courtesy of Meteo France

Meteo France don’t have a brilliant website as far as weather warnings is concerned, with a rather crude map of the regions, but at least they’ve embraced a more GIS based interface, so no free hand drawing of the warning area’s here which is to be applauded (fig 2).

The Germans
Figure 3 – Courtesy of the DWD

I rather like the DWD warnings web page. It’s clear and unambiguous and although in English, which is more than you get from the French, the warning itself is not (fig 3).

Meteoalarm
Figure 4 – Courtesy of Meteoalarm
Figure 5 – Courtesy of Meteoalarm

Many European nations including the French take full advantage of the EUMETNET’s Meteoalarm system (figs 4 & 5), which the UKMO don’t seem to have warmed to. We may be leaving Europe, but the UKMO are fully paid members of EUMETNET and EUMETSAT as far as I know, and pay a good wack for services such as Meteoalarm and high-resolution rapid scan images that we never see. The interface is rather basic, but it does the job for the whole of Europe, which geographically the UK will always be apart of, even though we be leaving the European Community next year. I think this is a good idea rather than a duplication of warning services.

MeteoGroup
Figure 6 – Courtesy of MeteoGroup

I don’t know why I’m surprised that MeteoGroup have a finger in the weather warnings game, but I was, and even though the interface is a little bit clunky it’s available across most countries in western Europe. I’m not sure how well it’s used, and how much it conflicts with the warnings from National Met Services, they don’t seem to think that much of today’s yellow warning of heavy rain for southwest England for example (fig 6).