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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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:
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).
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).
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.
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).
The Met Office are about to add two new warning types of thunderstorm and lightning to the ones they already issue for wind, snow, rain, ice and fog. It can’t understand the reasoning behind why there has to be a separate warning for both thunderstorm and lightning, after all you can’t get one without the other. If heavy thunderstorms were expected and a warning issued, wouldn’t it from now on necessitate the issuing of three warnings, one for heavy rain, one for the thunderstorm, and another for the lightning, when a single warning for severe thunderstorms would imply that heavy rain and lightning would also occur?
One thing I hope that they do change in the email notification they send you, and that is to include the actual text of the warning and not just its type, the area that it’s for and validity time.
It would be fascinating to see a comparison between whatever mesoscale model MeteoGroup are currently using to produce the graphics with for their BBC contract, and the corresponding NWP output from the Met Office fine mesh model or whatever it’s called these days.
We live to the north of Exeter and it’s been snowing here since around 9 am this morning, it was moderate snow for two or three hours but now it’s generally slight. The top image is from last nights forecast from the BBC in Plymouth (fig 1), which has you can see has slightly mishandled the snow area that’s been affecting central and eastern Devon, and taken it westward much too quickly if you compare it with the weather radar (fig 2).
That forecast on the BBC was broadcast at 1910 UTC last night, and I’m guessing that they we are looking at the 12 UTC run of the ECMWF model (because as far as I know it’s only run at 00 and 12 UTC), and so they must have been using T+26 data (14 UTC) if there is such a time frame – if not then they must interpolate it in some way from the T+24 and the T+27 data.
I suppose it’s quite acceptable for the general public, and most will not have spotted that their forecast cleared away the snow far too quickly. Did it affect anyone? Well it may have, especially if you were a motorist trying to use the A380 near Exeter earlier this afternoon, because they had to close the road due to heavy snow, but the again I suppose that’s what amber warnings are for.
Heavy snow at High Wycombe caused the Met Office to issue a very early (or should that be very late?) amber snow alert for London and the southeast of England at 0407 UTC this Sunday morning. The 27 cm of snow that fell there must have caused severe problems especially on Wycombe hill I imagine. It’s not the first time that High Wycombe has caught the Met Office out with snow this winter, it did it on the 11th of December 2017, and again on the 21st of January 2018.
The Met Office have just issued a plethora of weather warnings for the coming weekend for snow (fig 1). I’m not going to get in the thinking of how 5 to 10 cm of snow equates to an amber warning for severe weather, and ask how other countries cope with snow and we can’t, because it’s simply not worth it.
I’ve just done the weekly shopping with my wife at our local Tesco’s in Cullompton this morning, and it’s already quite obvious that panic buying in preparation for the snow that’s forecast for this weekend has begun. It got me to thinking about just how effective weather warnings issued by the Met Office, especially for snow, are. Do they actually save the lives of people who listen to them? Or do they just cause panic buying at every supermarket in the country?
Hearing the warning
It’s no doubt that they are very effective, especially in how they get their message across by means of a mix of social media, smart phone apps and 24 hour rolling television news. This usually has little effect if the warning concerns either rain or wind, but as soon as amber or red warnings for snow is issued, the whole nation seems to go into melt down mode, and panic buying starts in earnest, with most people hoping that they’ll end up being snowed in for days, and due to health and safety concerns of course, won’t be able to venture out until a thaw has set in.
Heeding the warning
So at least panic buying does suggest that people are hearing them, but does this mean that they are being heeded for safety on the roads? Will people drive more carefully or not attempt to drive at all? I don’t know if any study into the effectiveness of weather warnings has ever been undertaken, but I would be fascinated to read the conclusions of it, if ever there was.
It was difficult to tell just exactly how much snow we did get yesterday in our part of Devon because of the drifting, but it must have been somewhere between 10 and 15 cm, so in that regard the amount of snow was well forecast by the Met Office, and from what I can see from the conditions in and around our village warranted an amber, even possibly a red severe warning. In our hike late yesterday afternoon around the village we only saw one 4×4 attempting the hill up High street, the bus service must have been withdrawn at lunchtime.
Overnight it looks like we must have had a few hours of freezing drizzle or rain, the temperature at 08 UTC is still around -1°C and the windows facing into the easterly wind are all covered in quite a layer of glaze ice (figs 1 & 2). I have seen glazed ice many years ago, it was in March 1969 that severe ice glaze brought down the Emley Moor TV transmitter. I may have reported it as an observer a couple of times, but generally my observing duties and severe weather events never really coincided that much, which was probably no bad thing!
A red severe warning for snow has now been issued for some parts of SW England and Wales for later today and tonight – but what an odd shape and area it covers (fig 1). At the moment I seem to have the power to preempt anything the Met Office does, because in my last blog I was complaining that more, and larger areas of the country, should be included in a red warning of snow that’s being compounded by strong winds and very low temperatures. For what it’s worth I would have thought that the red area should have been aligned W-E with the frontal system, rather than SSW-NNE with the orography of the higher ground of Dartmoor, Exmoor and the Brecon Beacons. The area of light snow that’s been affecting the south overnight is now starting to edge further north into the Midlands as the steering wind starts to veer more southerly.