Are January’s getting more anticyclonic?

Figure 1

The short answer to the question “are January’s getting anymore anticyclonic over the British Isles” appears to be no, they’re not. That’s according to the objective LWT series that extends back to 1871 at any rate (fig 1). But January 2017 did rate fairly highly as joint 10th most anticyclonic January in the series (fig 2), and does explain why January has been quite a dry month across the country, there must be good correlation between daily rainfall and MSLP. There also seems to be some kind of 4-6 year period to the January anticyclonicity looking at the figures for the last 30 years (2017, 2011, 2006, 2000 etc).

Figure 2

Rather mild January 2017 in Central England

Figure 1 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

A bit of a late look back at the CET values for January 2017, which was not a particular exciting month in Central England, with a mean temperature of 3.95°C, and mean anomaly that was +0.13°C higher than the 1961-1990 long-term average. Although the first half of the month was very mild, a cold anticyclonic spell from the 18th to the 30th, brought the mean temperature for the month back closer to average. Because the Central England region lies further north than the southeast of England, it escaped the worst of the frosts that occurred there. Just five of the last twenty January’s have been colder than average.

Figure 2 – Data courtesy of the Met Office
Figure 3 – Data courtesy of the Met Office


If there are any Guardian comment readers still here at this point, I must confess that I did screw up with the comment saying that the January CET value was wrong, it was correct, well I may have rounded it down to 3.9°C, but it wasn’t the 4.45°C that I said it was but actually 3.95°C. I hadn’t downloaded the latest verified daily values for the month, and so the value that I calculated was still based on the estimates from the Met Office. The reason why I say the January value is +0.13°C above average and the article in the Guardian says it’s -0.2°C below the average, is that I used the 1861-1990 long-term average and the article quotes the 1981-2010 long-term average. 

I’m still sticking to my guns about the other comments I made about the January sunshine though, but as I said the statistics used to produce the graphic may well have been calculated from individual station rather than gridded data. If you want to download the data and work out your own anomalies please feel free to do so.

Figure 4 – Data courtesy of the Met Office

I can’t add to the comment (or delete it for that matter) so this will have to suffice as an apology for the moment.

Kurt slips between St Mary’s and the Seven Stones Lightship

Low Kurt is now moving quickly north, and just before 11 UTC had slipped between the Scilly Isles and the Seven stones Lightship (fig 1).

Figure 1

Here’s a bit of a close up (fig 2), the highlighted station is St Mary’s, the observation to the northeast is the Seven Stones Lightship.

Figure 2

It’s been quite a couple of days at St Mary’s here are the last 24 hours plotted observations (fig 3). There’s a sharp drop in temperature behind the occlusion from 9.6 to 5.1°C I notice.

Figure 3

And here’s the Lightship at Seven Stones, although it looks almost circular in this image, I’m sure that it does have a bit of length about it.

Figure 4

A little bit wilder than in the image as you can see from the observation from the Lightship itself (fig 5).

Figure 5

Candlemas analysis

I thought I would just do a full analysis of all the available SYNOP data for Candlemas, Thursday the 2nd of February 2017, to get the complete picture as far as maximum gusts were concerned, and what a complete farce it makes of the current warnings and named storm approach by the Met Office. As you can see from the ranked list of highest gust the 76 mph gusts from St Mary’s on the Scillies wasn’t in fact the highest across the British Isles, there was a gust of 83 mph at good old Capel Curig, and an even higher gust of 85 mph at South Uist range on Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

Figure 1

These gusts in themselves, would normally have merited a yellow ‘Be aware’ National severe weather warning from the Met Office, at least for western districts of the UK from Cornwall, through the west and northwest of Wales and into western Scotland, but for some reason the Met Office chose to focus all their attention on Friday rather than Thursday. I don’t know why this was, but earlier in the week there NWP was providing very inconsistent guidance, and that may have written the event off too early.

Figure 2

In fact the highest gusts from the Candlemas low of yesterday (fig 2), compare very favourably with the highest gusts from ‘storm’ Angus of last November (fig 3). Compare the two charts of maximum gusts and see which you think provided the greatest impact and greatest risk.

Figure 3

I think it’s the recent inconsistency that I’ve seen in how they respond to severe weather events that at issue. Last winter (in my opinion) they over reacted, as if they had their finger on a hair-trigger, naming even quite average Atlantic lows as storms. This winter in contrast they’ve definitely been more circumspect about the whole thing, and now a storm has to have a much greater impact than it did in the previous season. They’ve obviously made a conscious decision to change tack, but was it for the right reasons? Did they react in response to criticism from other Met Services, or perhaps professional Meteorologists or academia, or did they perhaps dislike the massive response that their storm naming scheme was whipping up in the newspapers, television, and newer forms of social media, and are just taking their foot of the gas?

What I have noticed is that storm naming scheme has somehow been inextricably linked to the issuing of NSWWS alerts, which of course a totally different system, and which over the years has earned itself a bit of a bad reputation. What I mean by that is that is that in the past it may have been overused, and as with the boy who cried wolf in the old Aesop’s fable, the warnings are now tending to fall on deaf ears. Linking the two only makes sense if one scheme does not interfere with the other, but this week it’s become clear to me that one is working to the detriment of the other, and that can’t be a good thing.

Figure 4

Finally after my little sermon of what’s wrong with the Met Office, I would just like to present one final graphic of wind speeds for the last three months from Exeter airport, close to where I live (fig 4). As you can see from the graph, even for an inland site in Devon, the Candlemas low had more of an impact that any of the named storms this season. Not only did it go unnamed, not one single alert was issued for anywhere in the United Kingdom for yesterday either.

Figure 5 – Crushed car from fallen tree in Plymouth on 2 February (Courtesy of Express & Echo)

Sailor’s warning

Figure 1

A bit of a short-lived red sky this morning here in Devon to presage today’s low that’s already developing quite nicely of the tip of northwest France as I type. It’s nice to know, that at least for today the Met Office have all the various alerts out, even though the anticipated highest gusts for today’s event are less than they actually were for yesterday, when they didn’t have a single alert out.  As you can see I still haven’t fully gotten over the complete absurdity that was the Candlemas low of yesterday. I have read that I might be getting confused by the risks and impacts of the event, which is probably quite right and can be probably put down to my age.

Figure 2 – Courtesy of the Met Office & EUMETSAT
Figure 3 – Courtesy of the Met Office

Hat’s off to the Americans for out playing the Met Office all week, with a consistent forecast from their GFS model right from the T+120. Let’s see how they do today.

Figure 4 – Courtesy of OGIMET

The Candlemas low – highest gusts

Figure 1

I’m usually criticising the Met Office for naming storms that are just run of the mill, or alerts that don’t quite make it, but today it’s because they wouldn’t issue a weather alert for high winds, that was from the looks of the gusts so far today would have been totally justifiable. The TV weather presenters were very loathed to mention the strength of the wind in the southwest, preferring to talk about tomorrow’s low, and gave very little guidance to the public in these areas.

12 metre waves at K1

The weather buoy K1 just out in the Atlantic (48.8° north and 12.4° west) reported a wave height of 12 M (39 feet) at 13 UTC today (fig 1), as the intense Candlemas low, now just to the west of Valentia, moved away from it.

Figure 1
Figure 2 – K1 plotted observations

Meanwhile, back on terra firma, the BBC weather presenters are trying very hard not to mention the wind gusts that are being reported in the southwest today, especially the 76 mph gusts at St Mary’s (fig 3), and then going on to say that tomorrow’s storm is the one to watch because there could be gust’s to 70 mph!?

Figure 3

Notice the gusts of 60 knots or more on the mainland at Camborne and Culdrose in the last hour (fig 4). There is no doubt about it, to my mind there should have been a yellow alert issued for western areas today.

Figure 4