Georgina adds to the growing list of forgettable storms…

How many named storms can you remember? It’s a simple enough question and the scheme has been running for three years now so you should at least remember a couple. I can’t, but then again I’ve a dreadful memory, but you would have thought after writing an analysis on all twenty-three of them as I’ve done, I would have remembered  at least one.

Storm Georgina although it deepened explosively was just another failure in my opinion, another storm to forget, and again it was named by Met Éireann. Full marks to the Met Office for staying clear of this one. Met Éireann seem to be specialising in naming just about anything that comes their way at the moment, I suppose someone has to name them, and I’m sure if it hadn’t been them the French or maybe the Norwegians would have stepped in to do the honours.

Here’s an analysis of the top twenty or so peak gust from storm Georgina of Beaufort force 10 or higher, storm force gusts are an essential requirement of any reputable storm in my opinion, plus of course the obligatory vortex (fig 1).

Figure 1

The highest gust from a low-level land station was one to 85 mph at Benbecula on South Uist, the highest at all stations in WMO block #03 was the gust to 117 mph at the Bealach Na Ba on the road to Applecross in Wester Ross (fig 2). Interestingly the maximum gust across the Irish Republic was just 65 mph at Belmullet.

Figure 2
So much for storm naming – what about the warning?

I found it odd that there was just a single yellow warning issued for storm Georgina by the Met Office, and that covered just the Northwest of Scotland. Although the warning of gusts 50-60 occasionally 70-80 was very precise (as long as you weren’t driving to Applecross) the area of extent was far too limited. No warning were issued for the rest of Scotland, England or Wales, even though there have been gusts today of 83 mph at places such as Capel Curig and 70 mph on Emley Moor.

What difference is there for example, between the gust of 62 mph at Stornoway, in the yellow warning area, and the gust of 64 mph at Farnborough and not in the yellow warnings area? The chances of a slate being blown of a roof would be similar, but the difference in population would make the chances of it happening far greater at Farnborough.

In the table (fig 1) I’ve highlighted the stations that weren’t covered by the yellow warning, and as you can see they form the greater proportion of places that had storm force gusts. I don’t know, and can’t understand why a yellow warning wasn’t issued yesterday, when the GFS model correctly forecast peak gusts of 55 to 65 mph and occasionally higher for today. The Met Office needs to find some consistency in the thresholds they use in issuing warnings for strong wind, because I can’t see any logic in how they do it at the moment.

Storm Georgina – the Irish beat the Met Office to it again

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Met Éireann have now named low Helene (as it was formerly known) storm Georgina, if that makes any sense (fig 1). The Met Office seem convinced that the yellow warning that they have in place will suffice, even though the GFS model is predicting severe gale force gusts across England and Wales ahead of the cold front tomorrow morning.

All I can say is that they must be supremely confident that their NWP model (not that we can see any output from it) has got this nailed on the head, and that the current yellow warning they have in place are sufficient – time will tell.

Met Office leave it to Met Éireann again…

I didn’t notice but it looks like Met Eireann have named storm Fionn because of the current west northwesterly winds that are affecting the country today (161500 UTC to 170300 UTC), that low is currently lying northeast of Iceland. There have been gusts to 74, 72 and 67 mph respectively at Mace Head, Sherkin Island and Valentia already this afternoon.

The “separate weather system” mentioned in the tweet by the Met Office (above) is the developing low that’s set to run across the country overnight Wednesday into Thursday. This could of course trigger the naming of that system “Georgina” which could confuse people even more. I don’t see that much difference in the wind speeds across the Irish Sea, all this does is highlight the differences in approach of the two weather services.

Figure 2

Rather surprisingly the Met Office have chosen not to issue even a yellow strong wind warning for the UK today, even though there have been gusts to 62 mph at Culdrose, 66 mph at St Mary’s and 83 mph from the Seven Stones lightship. They certainly seem to be flying by the seats of their pants at the moment, I wonder just what the latest gusts are from the likes of Berry Head or the Needles Battery or High Bradfield?

Snow starting to mount up over higher ground

The incessant band of wintry showers that are feeding into western parts in the fresh or strong west northwesterly airstream means that snow is starting to accumulate quite significantly over higher ground at the moment. There’s 25 cm at Eskdalemuir in the southern uplands with more to come (fig 1).

Figure 1

The freezing level across Scotland is close to the surface this afternoon, at Watnall it’s lower at around 1500 feet, but at Camborne it’s still up around 3200 feet. I notice from the T+15 frame of the 06 UTC GFS model that cold air advection will continue through the evening and night, so we might even see a covering of snow (the purple contours) in the southwest away from windward coasts (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of www.wxcharts.eu

Not a peep out of the Met Office about the possibility of a named storm on Thursday. The latest GFS run shows the low deepening very little as it runs quickly across Northern Ireland and northern England. I’m surprised that Met Éireann have not named the storm anyway, because they have a status Orange alert out for severe gales – mean speeds 35-43 knots – with gusts to 65 knots (fig 3), perhaps they’ve been leaned on by the big Chief at Exeter.

Figure 3 – Courtesy of Met Éireann

Why do BBC weather presenters always stand on the left?

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the BBC
Why do BBC weather presenters always stand on the left*?

I suppose the simple answer to that is because it’s were they have been told to stand by the producer. In recent years the BBC presenters have definitely become more animated with their arms and hands gesticulating in an attempt to show the inner workings of any intense storm that comes along, but they always have remained on the left. There’s no comparison these days between the almost static approach of Michael Fish and Tomasz Schafernaker for instance, but I’m sure if he were allowed to move – instead of being almost nailed to the spot – then he would.

* It’s obvious that I’ve never been a presenter, because after writing this I realised that BBC presenters do in fact stand on the right – so I should clarify that I mean on the ‘left’ of the viewers screen!

Why the left’s not good for the UK

Our weather in the UK is predominantly driven by the Atlantic Ocean and comes in from the west or southwest – so where do we position the presenter? Yes, precisely in the wrong place – where any low pressure or frontal system first shows its hand. I’m not suggesting they should all now stand on the right, or that they should be continually moving around, what I’m suggesting is to let them decide where to stand depending on the weather situation. For instance if the flow was westerly the right hand side of the screen would be surely the best place. (I’m not suggesting for one moment that in a southerly situation that we should suspend them by sky hooks and drop them down from the ceiling of the studio on a pulley hoist, it’s a great idea, but I’m sure health and safety wouldn’t be keen).

What do they do elsewhere?

I thought that I’d take a quick look round the world and see which side  of the screen other weather presenters stood. It looks like in Western Australia they stand on the right, it might be that the left might be better here though (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology

In New Zealand they also seem to stand on the right, but standing on the right looks far better than standing on the right because of the geography of New Zealand (fig 3).

Figure 3 – Courtesy of the New Zealand Met Service

In America covering the entire country from west to east means that nailing the presenters shoes down on the left will definitely not work. The presenter can freely move around to point out weather on the east coast just as Bill Murray did in Groundhog Day (fig 4).

Figure 4 – Courtesy of Weather Channel

At least the BBC presenters can rotate a little on the spot, but the forecasters of Meteo France seem to have both feet firmly rooted to the studio floor with their upper body hardly swivelling at all (fig 5).

Figure 5 – Courtesy of Meteo France

The Germans are pretty mobile, but again they favour the right rather than the left, perhaps it’s because most people are right-handed and that suits them better (fig 6).

Figure 6 – Courtesy of ARD

The Irish seem to have gone along with the BBC and stand on the left (fig 7), but again why not be daring and stand on the right!

Figure 7 – Courtesy of RTE

Not surprisingly there’s been little thought given down at the Met Office to doing any differently from how its been done for the last 63 years at the BBC, with Alex Deakin again stood on the left, completely blocking any potential developments at 50N and 50W in the NWP forecast animation (fig 8). It’s such a pity, because the graphic are great, and it looks like they’ve still not managed to figure out how to change the spacing for those ridiculously closely packed barbs on all the cold/warm/occluded fronts produced by their new graphics engine, compare it to how it should look in the German and New Zealand graphics.

Figure 7 – Courtesy of the Met Office

In my quick tour of the world of weather forecasts, courtesy of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, I would say the majority of presenters still stand on the left rather than the right for some unknown reason, but I think things maybe be slowly changing as the weather presenter is “unchained” and becomes more mobile.

It maybe that weather presenters stand on the left around the world because on the 11th of January 1954 – George Cowling (fig 8) presented the world’s first live broadcast weather forecast on BBC TV – probably stood on the left (I can’t be certain because I don’t think there’s a video of that forecast), or then again maybe not.

Figure 8 – Courtesy of the BBC

There’s change coming to the BBC weather this spring though, because Meteogroup are taking over. I’m not sure if they are going to use weather graphics supplied by Metraweather, but if they do they may well swap from the left to the right, or maybe even allow them to be as mobile as the presenters are on Channel TG4 in Ireland are who do use Metraweather (fig 9). This is how a weather forecast should be presented, with the presenter unfettered to move about wherever he or she wants depending on the situation – very impressive.

Figure 9 – Courtesy of Metraweather and TG4

Eleanor more firey than the GFS anticipated

Figure 1

The latest large pressure falls (3 hourly pressure falls of -13.5 hpa) from Eleanor in Western Ireland seem to have caught the midday run of the GFS model out a little already. If you ignore the contouring at 17 UTC there is a discrete centre around Eleanor of around ~977 hPa across Galway in Ireland (fig 1). This is less than the 978 hPa forecast for 18 UTC, and further southeast than the T+6 forecast position for that time (fig 2).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of wxcharts.eu

I notice that Met Éireann have upped their yellow status to orange for the northwest of the country (fig 3) on the strength of this, already the winds at Mace Head are meaning 52 knots and gusting to 76 knots. I wonder if the Met Office will have to follow suit?

Figure 3 – Courtesy of Met Éireann

Met Office relent regarding storm Dylan

Figure 1 – Courtesy of the Met Office

The Met Office have now added an amber warning for strong winds on top of the yellow warning that they already had in place (fig 1). They seem to have got over the sulk that they were in after Met Éireann named the storm yesterday, they really do have a problem with that superiority complex of theirs.

The pressure to issue an amber warning was really on, especially because of the closeness to the Hogmanay celebrations tomorrow evening. I think that I would rather err on the side of caution because of the potential disruption and resulting bad press that Dylan could cause, rather than be correct and stick at yellow. Having said that, they’ve not gone overboard, preferring to use the 55-65 with short periods of 70-80 mph ploy, which must mean that the high impact of the event swung it.

The o6 UTC run of the GFS indicates that the northwest tip of counties Mayo and Donegal is probably where the gradient will be tightest at around 03 UTC (fig 2). After that Dylan moves swiftly northeast and the gradient slackens just a little, but even so if this forecast is accurate, I can’t see why a station such as Tiree can’t manage a gust to at least 80 knots between 05 and 10 UTC on Sunday morning, and that’ll be 92 mph (fig 3).

Figure 2 – Courtesy of wxcharts.eu
Figure 3 – Courtesy of wxcharts.eu

Storm Brian a bit of a no-show

Figure 1

I have to admit it that in the cold light of the synop observations of wind speed for yesterday until 08 UTC this morning, storm Brian was a bit of  a no-show, and the Met Office were correct in distancing themselves from the naming of it. It looked pretty ferocious on Friday, but Brian was already occluding and starting to fill when it arrived in northwest Ireland, as the models correctly said it would be. The yellow warning issued by the UKMO, could have mentioned possible gusts to 80 mph (fig 2), and the state amber issued by Met Éireann was not really necessary, but they are probably still jittery after the intense exposure they got from Ophelia on Monday.

Figure 2

Coastal waters and headlands took a pounding as they always do, but actual gales when 10 minute mean speeds reach 34 knots or more, were confined mainly to the Atlantic coasts of southwest Ireland and southwest England, the eastern coast of the Irish Sea from St Bee’s head south and the Bristol Channel (fig 3).

Figure 3

I’m personally glad to see the back of Brian and move onto Caroline.

Cherry picking wind speeds

Figure 1 – Courtesy of Twitter & the Met Office

It strikes me as strange that when the Met Office need to justify a named storm or a yellow or amber warning that they’ve issued for strong wind, how they can seemingly pluck observing sites out of thin air, some of which you might never have heard of before, such as:

  • Berry Head, Devon
  • High Bradfield, South Yorkshire
  • Needles Old Battery, Isle of Wight
  • Orlock Head, County Down
  • Salsburgh, North Lanarkshire
  • Avonmouth, Avon
  • Lydd, Kent

But when the winds have been a little stronger than they forecast, as was the case today with storm Brian, they seem to be able to exclude some stations from the graphics they generate (fig 2) as if the offending station didn’t even exist. In fact the winds are higher in western coastal districts of Wales than anywhere in Ireland, the difference is that Met Éireann did issue an amber warning for gusts to 80 mph, and the Met Office didn’t. I would like to use observational data from these sites myself, but I can’t access them, the reason being that they don’t have a WMO number, and don’t report a regular SYNOP observation, more’s the pity.

Figure 2

Overnight gusts from Brian

Figure 1

Met Éireann might have a state amber warning in force for gusts to 80 mph, but the highest gusts overnight (as there were with Ophelia on Monday) have been in the southwest of England and the west of Wales, with gusts to 78 mph at the Sevenstones lightvessel and 71 mph at Mumbles head at 06 UTC this morning, both exceeding the 70 mph in the yellow warning issued by the Met Office yesterday. I doubt if the Met Office will update this warning, and are just hoping that the gradient doesn’t tighten anymore and there won’t be anymore gusts over 70 mph.

Brian is a stereotypical low that you get every so often in Autumn and Winter across the British Isles, but the way the threshold of the yellow and amber warnings are pitched means that we get into this situation with almost every low that comes along. Is it yellow or is it amber, which is complicated further with the storm naming. Perhaps if the thresholds were based on mean speeds as well as gust speeds, then a mean speed of 34 knots at a coastal site could be the yellow threshold, and a mean speed of 34 knots (gale force 8 or 39 mph) at an inland site amber? Well it’s just an idea.