Archives For Forecast

2016-03-27_08-43-08

Before we get to Katie, it’s worth mentioning recent and current weather for Easter Sunday: the first convective day of 2016.  A cold pool of polar upper air followed the impressive cold front yesterday which developed a very long squall line.

Thundery conditions followed the cold front in an unstable Polar airmass with notable CAPE (convective available energy) and negative 2 Lifted Index for the time of year – both indicators of potential thundery heavy shower activity.  The limiting factor on multicell thunderstorms locally was lack of wind shear and an anticyclonic jetstream, both subduing anything truly impressive or sustained. Nevertheless, some hail and thunderstorm activity is rife across the UK today in this unstable polar maritime airmass.

Storm Katie is riding a powerful jetstream and deepening rapidly over the Atlantic through today.  She is some 600miles away to the SW but approaching and deepening rapidly as she undergoes rapid cyclogenesis (RaCy) falling from 999mb to 975mb:  24mb in 24 hours, qualifying as a “bomb depression”.

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Katie emerged out of Canada earlier this week as cold continental air met humid sub-tropical maritime air.  She engaged with an active jetstream to be launched across the Atlantic.  Storms tend not to move fast and deepen rapidly at the same time, so her rapid progress across the Atlantic will now slow as she now expends more energy lowering pressure on her approach to the UK.

The evolution and track of this storm is similar to St Jude October 2013, but Katie is forecast to be less powerful, due in part to the slacker pressure rise on her departure into the North Sea.** (update: in the event Katie pipped StJude, see below!)

Katie also has some similarities to the October 1987 but again is significantly less powerful than that rare 200 year event.

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The water vapour sat pics below show the evolution of Katie and cirrus cloud associated with the jetstream.

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Baroclinic leaf in the Atlantic, jetsream cirrus to the UK

 

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dark slot shows rapid intensification stage as strat air descends into LOW, showers over UK

Storm Katie is forecast to deepen through the SW approaches to below 980mb on an expected track overnight Sunday-Monday from Biscay into the Bristol Channel through to exit around the Wash.

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The pressure gradient between the Isle of Wight and the Wash could be as much as 12mb… the highest of our Wight-Wash Oscillations recorded, and greater than the 10mb WWO recorded in StJude, if this comes off.

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However, the pressure rise behind Katie is expected to be less rapid and sustained than St Jude, so this critically reduces the potential for highest gusts, sting jets aside.

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The highest wind speeds for Storm Katie will be south of the low core in the occluding warm sector in the small hours of Monday morning.

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Max gusts of over 80mph are possible in the Channel, 70mph along Channel coasts and 60mph further inland.  For Reigate this means a brief episode of gusts possibly exceeding 50mph and more over exposed hills.  This could wake people up momentarily as gusts roar through trees and round houses.

Rainfall will be significant too and some hi res models put down >40mm over parts of the North Downs, showing the significance of small hills in generating orographic rainfall.

Rainfall more widely is more likely to be around 20-30mm, enough for local flooding. The MetOffice have issued a yellow warning for Storm Katie.  Check the weather impact matrix showing moderate likelihood of moderate impact (low yellow).

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Update: Amber warning issued for Storm Katie.

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The shipping forecast is less equivocal and shows storm warnings right around the UK associated with Katie and other low pressure systems.  Storm Force 10 is possible in the Channel for a while. http://bbc.in/1RtwvyS

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Furthermore, evolution so far matching StJude and the Wight-Wash pressure gradient forecast seems to be matching or beating St Jude.

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Below is a Meteosat picture (courtesy Dundee sat receiving station) showing Katie moving into the North Sea, deepening again slightly to 972mb,

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Meteosat visible photo of Storm Katie moving into North Sea on Monday 28 March

Post-Katie we enter a broadly zonal westerly flow but turning cooler as slack winds swing northerly through the week as LOW pressure moves into North Sea/Scandinavia. Unsettled and showery activity continues through the week but with pressure slowly rising from the west by Thursday. No further significant storms are expected for the time being. Into the start of April, pressure over the Atlantic is expected to rise and progress over the south of the UK into Europe to give a settled period for the start of April.

RGSweather is off to East Iceland, so expect occasional tweets and updates from cooler climes.

Storm Katie: In the Event:

various meteorological impacts show Katie exceed StJude in power but both fall well short of October 1987 Great Storm.

  • Max wind gusts Needles 105mph (St Jude 99mph)
  • Reigate max wind gust 51mph, widely 50-60mph and 70mph on North Downs (Kenley) Gatwick 59mph
  • Redhill aerodrome recorded 70mph gust at 04:50
  • Lowest pressure: 971mb (St Jude 2013 976mb; Oct’87 958mb)
  • Reigate lowest pressure 976mb (St Jude 980mb; Oct ’87 est
  • Reigate rainfall 20mm
  • Wight-Wash Oscillation 14mb (St Jude 12mb, Oct ’87 storm 20mb!)
  • Rapid rise in River Mole catchment – no significant flooding but overtopped bankfull stage.

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Note, compared with the Oct ’87 storm Katie and St Jude are found wanting.  The Wight-Wash Oscillation for the 200 year storm of October 1987 was a whopping 20mb! See the chart below for the exit of the Oct 87 storm through the Wash on 16 October 1987.

Finally, which of these big SE storms are most powerful? Play SE storms TRUMPS to find out..

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-35910151

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24708614

http://www.chichester.co.uk/news/update-more-than-600-incident-in-sussex-as-storm-katie-batters-the-south-1-7299324?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=dlvr.it

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/weather/12205613/Storm-Katie.html?frame=3601967

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35909651

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3512119/Storm-Katie-batters-Britain-Gales-100mph-dozens-flights-cancelled-UK-wakes-Bank-Holiday-washout.html

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/28/storm-katie-flight-diversions-wind-rain-batter-southern-england-and-wales

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/see-full-carnage-storm-katie-7644830

local coverage

http://www.dorkingandleatherheadadvertiser.co.uk/Storm-Katie-Trees-power-Surrey-storm-hits-PHOTOS/story-29006658-detail/story.html

2016-03-21_19-02-57

The Atlantic is showing off some classic visible cloud features of cyclone birth and decay today.  Systems labelled 1-4 on the satellite photo above show different features including stages of cyclone / mid-latitude depression formation and decaying high pressure ridge all on one satellite picture.  The chart below shows the same view with fronts.

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Starting with LOW number #2 (why not?!): the spectacular classic cloud spiral of LOW #2 indicates a mature low occluding and filling.

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This maturing occluding LOW has a couple of interesting extra vortices near the low core.

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Despite their angry look, classic cloud spirals like this on satellite photos are actually decaying and filling lows, losing their strength as pressure rises in the low core.  This particular LOW has a spectacular cold front of over 1500 miles stretching from 60N to the sub-tropics. The red colours on the RGB false colour eumetsat image below shows the cold continental polar air surging in behind the cold front.

Low #1 is a rapidly intensifying LOW off the coast of Labrador.  It looks harmless as a smudge of cloud but this shape … a so called “baroclinic leaf” indicates the birth of an angry developing storm: rapid cyclogenesis.

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This will deepen and pressure will fall rapidly in the next 24 hours as frigid continental air collides with humid maritime air under the influence of an active 200mph jetstream.

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LOW #1 is expected to form a big storm in the Labrador Sea by Wednesday. The fronts on this storm are then forecast to stretch clean across the Atlantic and bring the SE our first frontal rain for over a week by later Thursday.

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System #3  on the top satellite photo shows the HIGH pressure lingering over the South of the UK but regressing into the Atlantic.  This ridge has dominated mid to late March weather in the UK but brought a lot of anticyclonic gloom to the SE.  The deflating ridge will allow a more unsettled Atlantic westerly regime to dominate late March and early April weather.

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Low pressure #4 is an interesting developing depression in the Mediterranean, courtesy of a southward limb of the jetstream. Currently a disturbance dumping snow over the N Atlas in Morocco, this LOW is set to deepen across the Mediterranean through the week.  It will track directly ENE through the Med and bring snow to the Atlas mountains, rain to N Algeria and foul wet, windy and wintry conditions to Italy and then more snow and wintry weather to the Balkans.

Finally, for the UK our weak ridge is deflating to the SW and this will open the door to zonal westerlies and frontal systems bringing rain and wind from later Thursday and into the weekend.  Ensembles below show the dry spell ending this week and some notable rainfall spikes in the days to come, especially over the weekend.

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High pressure has dominated the last week of our weather but it has turned out disappointing here due to cloud cover lingering under a persistent temperature inversion, not unusual for this time of year.  Lingering decaying fronts have caused drab stratocumulus cloud to spread out beneath an anomalously warm upper air mass causing anticyclonic gloom for much of the SE.

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Any convection has been limited to the lowest 1km and been unable to break the inversion, so cloud, unable to rise into cumuliform tufts associated with the stronger sunshine in April, simply spreads out into a boring grey blanket, especially when the flow arrives from the North Sea bringing additional moisture in the lower layers. An inversion is when temperatures increase with height through a part of the atmosphere, usually referring to a lower layer.

So, whilst upper air temperatures have been anomalously warm, the surface temps have been kept disappointingly low.  Somewhat “upside-down” weather.

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This is because the Spring sunshine has been unable to break through the cloud and warm the surface.  The exception has been the north and west of the country, especially the hilly parts of Wales and NW England, which have enjoyed more sunny days.

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anticyclonic gloom

Today it was the turn of the E/NE coast to get the sunshine as weakening fronts shifted south around the high.

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The coming week sees the HIGH slowly deflating, like a sad party balloon, into the sub-tropical Atlantic.  A couple of powerful late winter storms emerging out of the NE US and Newfoundland start the onslaught to break a westerly unsettled flow back across the Atlantic by Easter.

For us in the SE this change to unsettled conditions happens slowly but ensemble runs are showing around 20mm of rain is possible before the end of March. So we might expect some wet and windy days before the end of March, including a risk of a wet bank holiday period.

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A return to more mobile frontal conditions is not all bad news, especially in the SE.  A westerly flow with weakening Atlantic frontal systems will break the gloomy cloud cover and bring sunny intervals and showery episodes to clear the pollution phase we have experienced lately.  The risk for us is any fronts stalling over the SE in front of a European HIGH – this situation can dump fairly large amounts of rain. Chart below shows wind speed and an active cold front for Sunday, too far off to be reliable but worth watching.

 

The multi-model charts below show this change from HIGH to LOW during the next week.

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Note the model agreement below by Saturday for SW winds, bringing temperatures up possibly into the mid-teens in the SE.

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In short, we can expect the weather to turn the “right way up” again and we should enjoy more mobile, fresher, brighter conditions, albeit with breezy episodes of potentially heavy rain at times. The charts below show temperatures rising in the SE but rain returning by Friday.

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Further into April there are hints that pressure rises across the Pole which will bring the potential for further unsettled cooler conditions during the school holiday period. RGSweather is off to Iceland (East fjords) again so this could mean some nice cold conditions for our trip there as the AO is expected to turn negative and the flow northerly, at least for the N Atlantic.  The UK appears to get stuck in an unsettled trough for early-mid April. Worth watching as JMA and CFSv2 both agree on this blocked pattern.

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2016-03-07_19-50-17

After a pleasant dry and sunny day in the SE, the satellite photo from this evening spells trouble ahead for mid-week with a deep depression over Iceland and an increasingly active Atlantic with a long frontal boundary trailing across the ocean into thick bands of cloud.

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Reigate and the south of England are set for a potentially very wet day on Wednesday as shown on the Euro4 chart below showing just 12 hours of rainfall during the morning.

Unusually high rainfall totals could mount up, possibly to around 30mm for the day on some models. However, models usually exaggerate rainfall totals but it is likely to be soggy!

A strengthening Atlantic jetstream is causing the convergence of moist sub-tropical and polar air at the Polar Front over the Atlantic Ocean.  The winds can be seen converging on the Atlantic chart below.

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The convergence of Polar and Tropical airmasses can also be seen on this chart showing the trajectory of winds arriving in the UK on Wednesday.  Note the surface tropical airmass circulates round the Azores high and meets the incoming Polar air from Canada.  It’s the less dense moisture laden maritime tropical air which is lifted over the cold, enhancing rain on frontal boundaries.

The 850hPa (15oom) temperature chart below shows the steep temperature gradient between contrasting airmasses across the Atlantic.  The water vapour Meteosat satellite picture shows a broad sweep of moisture laden air crossing the Atlantic from the Sargasso Sea.

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The boundary of the contrasting moist Polar and humid Tropical airmasses causes lift and this is set to rapidly form a depression over the UK later on Tuesday into Wednesday courtesy of a jetstreak to the west of the UK.

Large amounts of Atlantic moisture are set to converge in this low pressure as airmasses meet at frontal boundaries.

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The result over SE England is an unsually steep rise in dew point to 6-7C, indicative of increasingly moist air.

The atmospheric column looks to become exceptionally moist on Wednesday and saturated through to a height of 25,000 feet.  Cloud depth will make it a very dull day.

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Rainfall charts look impressive and, at the moment, show the rain arriving on Wednesday morning. Here is a medley of rainfall charts from 3 different models showing the potential for a deluge, though do note that models tend to exaggerate these totals this far out.

The 6 hourly total chart from GFS shows an extraordinary 26mm over parts of SE on Wednesday morning.  This would lead to local surface flooding on roads.

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Note this is not a convective event so no thunderstorms are likely, which makes such high rainfall even more unusual. It could be the biggest daily rainfall total for quite a while, over 36.6mm of rain in a day was recorded on 24 August 2015. Keep posted on twitter and check MetOffice forecasts for updates if travelling.  Some disruption could occur if this comes off as models suggest.  Milder and settled conditions are expected into the weekend after our mini-monsoon!

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8-10 day mean upper air chart

The most wintry set-up of the “winter” has decided to arrive at the start of Spring! High pressure over the Pole is still keen to push out polar air into mid-latitudes as the meteorological Spring starts tomorrow.  The Arctic Oscillation shows this tendency as it has been dipping negative, showing relatively high pressure over the Pole and lower pressure in mid-latitudes. The belated rise in Polar pressure has been attributed to the stratospheric warming which occurred around a month ago.

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Unfortunately, for most of late winter the jetstream has remained strong enough to push a predominantly Atlantic flow into the UK and breach any blocks attempting to drag in sustained cold air. This is shown by the slight but persistently positive North Atlantic Oscillation below: this set-up spoilt any chance of proper cold this half of the winter.

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However, this week the wind is expected to turn more northerly as pressure lowers first over the North Sea and then the Channel / N France. By the weekend the UK will be in a cold Arctic flow courtesy of the same LOW lingering over Europe and a blocking Atlantic ridge. Between them and the jetstream they will do a good job of pulling down a cold Arctic flow this weekend. Spot the cold anomalies in the chart below. Lots of lying snow is not likely but some wintry precipitation is possible at times here, especially a marginal chance on Friday am.  Things change though, so check weather professionals like the MetOffice to make any weather related decisions.

Here is the story of how we get to some belated cold by this weekend.  Tuesday sees an end to the cool clear HIGH that brought Spring-like sunshine to Reigate and Tmax 9C.  A warm front will sweep in tomorrow morning and bring rain for most of the day for the SE.  It will be breezy, though relatively mild in the warm sector shown below, Tmax 10C.

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warm sector Tuesday

Things cool off into Wednesday as an active blustery cold front ushers in colder polar maritime air through the morning.  Any snow is restricted to the NW of the UK.

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The flow swings increasingly to the north west during the day with the possibility of showers later here, some quite heavy, maybe even with the outside chance of hail and thunder thrown in.  Tmax 6-7C.  Update: The video below shows how that showery trough passed through Reigate during Wednesday:

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Thursday is the crux to building a set-up capable of producing any snowfall at all for the SE.  A LOW is forecast to develop from a system off Greenland and cross the Atlantic smartly from the NW.2016-02-29_19-50-10

This low, with rapidly occluding warm sector, will deepen slightly and meet the cool pool sitting over the UK from Wednesday’s Polar attempt. The LOW is expected to arrive late Thursday and track south east overnight into Friday bringing in a cool NE flow capable of wintry precipitation for a while on Friday morning.

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The latest charts suggest the track into N France will result in NE winds which could bring snow for a time in the SE on Friday morning.

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meteoearth Friday ppt

It is all rather marginal for us in the SE and Reigate though. A rain / sleet event with a possible wintry mix at times is more likely and nothing much is expected to settle.

By Saturday and into the weekend a cold northerly / NE flow sets as the “Greenland” LOW settles over Europe. Wintry showers could develop across the SE, especially in any distrubances in the Arctic flow.  However, pressure is likely to be on the rise as the Atlantic ridge creeps in from the west under an increasingly anticyclonic jetstream.

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How long any early Spring cold lasts is not certain, the Atlantic ridge looks like toppling over to bring in warmer conditions later next week.

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The UKMet analysis chart for today shows a building ridge in the Mid-Atlantic and a complex large LOW over Scandinavia.  This is dragging down a cold Arctic airmass, which will usher in progressively colder upper air each day through to Thursday.  The low NW of the Azores is drifting ESE but filling and can be ignored for now.

Air at 850hPa, roughly 1500m up, is used to judge airmass characteristics because, at this height, the airmass is not affected by diurnal and surface changes like sea, forest, mountain, towns, which can create big temperature variations near the ground.  The 850hPa temperature by Thursday could dip as low as -8C over Reigate.  Whilst this is not extra-ordinary it is about the coldest and most sustained chilly dip we have seen so far this winter.  Skies will be mostly clear and nights will turn frosty with day Tmax struggling to 5-6C. Wind chill will make it feel more like freezing for most days this week.

High pressure nudging in from the Atlantic will keep any precipitation light and restricted to coastal areas.  Friday sees things get interesting and unusual.

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A southerly diving jetstream gets into action on Friday and is set to amplify the 500mb trough and deepen a low off the west coast of the UK and develop it further into Biscay into Saturday and create a cut-off feature by Sunday.

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The Atlantic / Biscay LOW is unlikely to impact us in the SE much directly but, as it passes south of us through the weekend into Europe it will drag in cold easterly and then NE winds.  Our own mini-Nor-Easter!

Nor-Easters are famous powerful winter storms in the USA.  Our own version this weekend is a rather tame feature in comparison but notable because it is relatively unusual and has potential to bring a more sustained wintry feel to the SE through the weekend and maybe into next week.

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This southerly tracking LOW will move NE through the continent and will set up a cool Easterly then NE wind over the SE. Nothing outrageously cold for us because the coldest air is likely to stick further to the north east in Russia and Scandinavia.  Nevertheless, by Sunday a brisk NE wind with upper air of -8C or so will continue to make it feel chilly, after a cool week.

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The winds over the SE will therefore swing from  Northerly mid-week through to Southerly on Friday and thence to Easterly and finally Nor-Easterly / Northerly by Sunday. This anti-clockwise rotation is called backing and often ushers in cold air.  This is despite the wind turning through a seemingly mild southerly direction.  Remember we are sitting well north of the jetstream this weekend, which is somewhere in the Mediterranean, thus all airmasses are relatively cold and polar.

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Pressure stays relatively high throughout this “mini-nor-easter” episode and so this will limit chances of any snow unless the low decides to track further north nearer the UK OR we pick up sea effect snow as winds turn NE over a relatively warm North Sea.

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Snow showers are theoretically possible near the North Sea coast if Sea Effect / Lake Effect snow can be kicked off.  Such sea effect snow occurs when (very) cold air masses cross warm sea surfaces.  This can trigger lines of convective showers that dump lots of snow in places like the Great Lakes in the US.  Sea Effect snow occurs best when there is a temperature contrast of at least 13C between 850hPa (which must be well below freezing of course) and a warm sea surface.

The charts above show the North Sea is anomalously warm at more than 8C across a large area, although cooler near UK shores.  The upper air temps this weekend are around -8C, making a potential 16C contrast in temperature, theoretically sufficient to trigger showers. Unfortunately the airmass seems to be dry and, at this stage at least, rather stable. Looking ahead the cold spell could last into next week. Check our twitter account @rgsweather for local updates but always check professional weather forecast providers for decision making, of course.

Imogen is the ninth named MetOffice storm this winter.  She formed in the Atlantic in an area of steep temperature gradients under control from an active jetstream.

 

Storm Imogen is deepening rapidly today to 953mb, though on arrival in the UK she will be occluding and filling gradually to above 960mb on her track over N Scotland into the North Sea on Monday. The exact track makes a big difference to where the strongest winds are.  Current trends are for the storm to pull wind fields further north so impacts could be less than expected. Keep an eye on the MetOffice forecast as things are likely to change. Below is an outline of Imogen’s likely activity:

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Unlike the previous eight named storms, Imogen has a more southerly track, guided by a more southerly tracking jetstream, and the field of strongest winds and heavy rain are possibly set to impact the densely populated southern part of the UK, including the SE. High waves are also expected on the Channel coast.

 

Strong winds on Sunday night will be associated with Imogen’s fronts running ahead of the depression.  The cold front is an active kata-front, associated with descending cold dry air from the stratosphere running ahead of the surface front and enhancing lift and potentially generating heavier rain and gusty conditions (image and info courtesy UKweatherworld).

On Monday gusts up to 80mph on the Channel coast are possible, while inland the MetOffice consider 60mph possible in exposed places.  Around Reigate and sheltered parts of Surrey, 40-50mph gusts are more likely.  The North Downs could see gusts approaching 60mph. The strongest winds for the SE are likely to be through midday and in the afternoon.

Yellow warnings apply to inland parts of Surrey and SE England while the entire Channel coast has an Amber MetOffice warning. The first impact will be frontal rain tonight.  Fronts passing through overnight into Monday could drop over 20mm of rain in places particularly linked to the occluding “triple point” forecast to cross the SE overnight.

 

Monday is likely to see showers, some heavy, appearing through the day.  Warm sea surface temps in the Channel are likely to cause more on the coast but the brisk winds could bring them inland as the day progresses.

The cause of the strong winds behind the cold front on Monday is a steep pressure gradient.  On Monday tightening isobars show the steep pressure gradient bringing gusty showery conditions in unstable Polar Maritime air behind the cold front later on Monday.

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The Wight-Wash Oscillation (WWO) measures the pressure difference between The Wash and the Isle of Wight and is designed as a guide to wind speed in the SE corner of the UK. The WWO on Monday shows a significant 16mb gradient between The Wash and the Isle of Wight on the WRF model.  The Euro4 model has a more modest 12mb WWO.  16mb would be the largest WWO pressure gradient recorded and greater than St Jude, which was 12mb.

On Tuesday models show a wave depression bringing more rain to the SE, some even show fleeting wintry precipitation on the back end of this low as colder air ingresses from the north.  This is unlikely to be significant, at least on Tuesday, as upper air temps remain mostly too high for snow in the SE.

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ECM colder flow mid-week

Colder conditions are preferred by the ECM as northerly winds bring cool polar air further into the country through mid-week.  The Arctic Oscillation is again going negative which shows pressure rising over the Poles trying to push Arctic air south into mid-latitudes.  However, the NAO remains positive so Atlantic depressions will continue to bring frontal depressions for this week.

The 8-10 day mean shows a deep trough over the UK meaning low pressure and unsettled conditions remain likely into half term.

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The ECM builds heights over southern Greenland which links with higher pressure over the Atlantic, a more northerly feed of cold polar air is likely in this scenario into half term . The ECM has been outperforming the GFS so the more Atlantic driven GFS chart would be the less favoured option.

The Sudden Stratospheric Warming going on over the Pole is another astonishing feature of weather at the moment.  Today (Sunday) temperatures in the stratosphere over Siberia has got up to an amazing +12C from a more usual -70C.  SSW events often build pressure over the Polar troposphere a few weeks later which can cause cold incursions into mid-latitudes.  This is by no means certain but is perhaps our last chance of any sustained cold this winter… if it were to happen it would be late Feb/March. One to watch!

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Jonas to UK this week

The phenomenal winter storm Jonas brought NE USA to a standstill over the weekend as more than 20 inches of snow fell on Washington and New York.   Jonas was a truly massive storm and broke regional snowfall records with up to a metre of snow in places, and brought a record storm surge of 9.27 feet on the Delaware coast with significant coastal flooding (beating Super Storm Sandy surge in places*). Weather Underground reported…

This nor’easter, dubbed Winter Storm Jonas, was one for the ages–among the most powerful and far-reaching in regional history.  Jeff Masters Weather Underground

Jonas threw blizzards, storm surge, heavy snow, icy rain and thundersnow at the US over the weekend.  Here is a brief outline of the storm and a look at where it is headed next.  It is worth noting that potentially another Nor-Easter snow storm is possible for this part of the USA later this week, although less likely to be as powerful.

New York had it’s heaviest daily snowfall total on record on Saturday courtesy of Jonas. Forecasters started warnings several days out and the National Weather Service made people aware of the seriousness of this storm in the lead up.

Jonas was a classic and historic “Nor-Easter” storm albeit with the potential added spark of warmer than usual Gulf Stream temperatures.  The system was well forecasted by the NWP models from several days out.  An insignificant low pressure disturbance entered the NW Pacific coast of the North America earlier last week, traversed the continent and emerged out of the SE dragging cold continental air to interact with warm Gulf moisture.

This explosive mix was exacerbated because both the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Stream sea surface temperatures were anomalously high adding to the moisture and energy available for this storm.

“Take unusually warm Atlantic ocean surface temperatures (temperatures are in the 70s off the coast of Virginia), add a cold Arctic outbreak (something we’ll continue to get even as global warming proceeds), mix them together and you get huge amounts of energy and moisture, and monster snowfalls, like we’re about to see here” Michael Mann, climate researcher who directs Penn State University’s earth systems science center.

The storm got hooked up by a strong jetstream and traveled rapidly north over Friday 22 Jan, hugging the east coast and intensifying as pressure fell into Saturday 23 Jan and leaving the coast by Sunday 24 Jan.

The chart below shows the jet during the lead up to the storm on Tuesday 19 Jan.  Spot the LOW mid-west, this was Jonas in the making.

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jetstream emerging out of Gulf of Mexico… perfect Nor-Easter set up, spot LOW Jonas over MidWest

Another important element making this one of the top two most intense Nor-Easter winter storms on record was HIGH pressure lodged over NE Canada which intensified the pressure gradient and increasing those north-easterly wind speeds.  These strong winds drove ice and snow across a vast swathe of the NE and dumped 2 feet of snow as far north as New York city.

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In addition to large snowfalls the low pressure and strong on-shore winds also created a storm surge risk on high tides.  The coastal impact was recorded by a series of video cameras placed along the New Jersey coast by Hurricane Track’s Mark Sudduth.

Jonas is now forecast to track across the Atlantic, riding the jetstream and deepening on approach to the UK by Tuesday.

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Jonas GEFS tracks set to cross near NW Scotland

Through Tuesday and Wednesday Jonas will bring some stormy and wet but mild conditions especially to the NW of the UK.  Nevertheless potentially 70mph gusts are forecast for parts NW Britain.  Gusty conditions on associated fronts are likely at times here in the SE as well, but nothing like the intensity or disruption of the US version.

Further ahead, at least this week, the NAO and AO are both trending positive and this is set to bring further unsettled conditions across the Atlantic separated by drier periods of higher pressure, but mostly staying a good deal milder than average.

The pressure over the Poles has weakened and the Icelandic low has deepend, both indicating a lack of sustained cold potential in the near future for the UK.  Nevertheless, action in the stratosphere is hotting up with a forecast sudden stratospheric warming afoot.  Sudden warming events in the stratosphere can build pressure over the Poles and increase the chance of sustained cold weather, sometimes, over Europe.  This occurs several weeks after an SSW and the forecast SSW, if it occurs, is still at the end of model runs so… any chance of sustained cold risk can most likely be reserved for several weeks ahead as things stand. The temperature and pressure anomaly scene in the Post – Jonas world looks like this: a warm NW Europe, warm Pole and cold NE USA.

 

Winter storm Jonas References

http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/colossal-noreaster-dumps-record-snow-from-maryland-to-new-york

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=19070

http://mashable.com/2016/01/22/causes-of-east-coast-blizzard-global-warming/#ZQIP9mQOOmqb

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GEFS cool dip mid January

A cold snap looks more likely next week from around 13 January. Nothing extreme, just a long-overdue “normal” wintry feel is on the cards.

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12Z gefs and ecm ensembles show more distinct dip in temps

 

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ECMWF upper air goes cold

Temperatures are due to take a dip below the seasonal norm.  It’s still a way off so details will change but here’s the current idea moving ahead.

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The current run of wet Atlantic westerlies (above) that has brought flooding to many parts of the country, is due to weaken as pressure rises over the Atlantic and further north over the Pole.   As the persistent Atlantic LOW pressure gradually moves East this week it will bring more rain across the UK.  As it moves further east over the weekend it is forecast to draw down cooler northerly winds from the Arctic next week, at least for a while. (see below). (update: “Atlantic block” noted on chart below is probably overstating it a bit … as HIGH is likely to give way fairly promptly)

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Arctic Oscillation goes negative january 2016

The cause of this Arctic outbreak is indicated by the Arctic Oscillation (AO) going negative.  The AO is a measure of air pressure over the Pole relative to mid-latitudes.  It has been positive for most of the autumn and winter so far and this usually means a strong jetstream and mild wet westerlies for the UK.

When the AO goes negative it indicates building pressure over the Pole and more likelihood of Arctic air “leaking” into mid-latitudes.  The chart below shows the 500mb mean heights for 8-10 days time.  Spot the anomalously high pressure over the Pole relative to the mid-latitudes.

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8-10 day mean 500mb heights (ecm and gfs models)

The negative AO has been predicted by many expert long range forecasters for a long time partly because of a lack of sea ice in the Kara Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean near Siberia).  This is a long-term indicator for potential pressure rises in this region.

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In addition, the recent enormous pump of warm air, courtesy of the Storm Frank, will have encouraged tropospheric height rises over the Pole.  The result is an inflating balloon of relatively cold air waiting to pop into the populated mid-latitudes!

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surface temperature anomalies Jan 14 2016

As well as a push of cooler Arctic air, pressure is also due to rise over the UK.  With increased pressure we can thankfully expect a drier period.

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wintry pressure rise

A classic winter high might be expected to bring dry, bright clear days with cold nights with views of the stars.  On the other hand, frost, fog and icy conditions might also be expected too.  In the SE huge dumps of snow look most unlikely next week from current model runs but lows can move south in the Arctic flow and cause unexpected events. The duration of the cold snap doesn’t look long** as the Atlantic HIGH is swept away by more westerlies.  However, this is uncertain so stay tuned for more regular updates on twitter.  Of course, seek professional forecasts for decision making purposes.

update 06/01 **looking potentially more prolonged now. cold snap turning into a spell.2016-01-05_20-55-31

January 2016 cold snap

2015-16 winter forecasts have long considered the possibility of cold weather in the latter stages from Jan thru to feb. This was explored in a post here

https://rgsweather.com/2015/12/29/winter-is-nigh/

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MetOffice Fax chart Sat 21 Nov: cold UK weather

A cold Arctic surge will spill south over Friday night bringing a shock to the record-breaking warm November so far.  The airmass trajectory shows the extraordinary journey the air has taken to get to London.

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airmass trajectory (GFS)

It’s a brief Arctic attack but rather potent and Saturday morning will feel especially cold in strong northerly winds.

Snow is also forecast for Scotland and parts of the North of England as the Arctic air is brought south with a North Sea low and attendant fronts.  This system will reach Reigate and the SE early Saturday morning and likely bring a wintry miserable start to the weekend with sleety rain, maybe even some wet snow for the Downs. (in the event: snowfall in Reigate for an hour or so as front passed through, settled momentarily. front cleared off quickly)

In the South East, whilst the airmass temperature is just cold enough for snow and sleet, falling to a cool -5C at 850hPa by early Saturday morning, the dew point is shown to rise quickly above freezing as precipitation arrives in the morning and this will reduce the chance of any proper snow fall. This is fairly typical of the SE!

The main feature of Saturday morning in Reigate will be a truly miserable wet, cold windy start with an impressive wind chill well below freezing lasting all day, something we haven’t experienced in Reigate and Surrey for a long time!

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wind chill November 21 2015

Overall, this cold snap is not due to last long, warming slowly into next week but turning unsettled as the jetstream blasts back from the Atlantic. It will not, however, become as warm as it has been.

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unsettled due to return as jet bites back

Winter forecasters look high into the atmosphere to get an idea of what the winter will bring.  One feature they look at is the Polar Vortex.  The PV is currently getting stronger, which it usually does this time of year.  The vortex is the winter circulation of high altitude westerly winds in the stratosphere that keep the cold polar air locked up in the Arctic.  To get sustained cold outbreaks the vortex needs to be broken down: something that can occur when the polar stratosphere warms, sometimes suddenly.

However, with North Pole stratospheric temperatures taking a steep dive, lower than average, the temperature gradient between the Pole and mid-latitudes is increasing and so the subsequent pressure gradient is also steep: with generally low pressure over the Pole and high pressure further south.  This all really means cold air is less likely to leak south.

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The Arctic Oscillation is an index showing how atmospheric pressure varies between the North Pole and mid-latitudes.  In a positive phase the westerly winds are stronger and the jetstream more powerfully moves depressions across the Atlantic to the UK.  A negative AO is required for wintry outbreaks… El Nino can induce stratospheric warming episodes and many winter forecasters are expecting the Polar Vortex to come under attack later this winter, after Christmas, and possibly produce a colder second half.  meanwhile, expect more unsettled, relatively mild weather to return after this cold snap.

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The brief cold snap is shown in the ensemble forecast from the GFS and ECM models below: cold snap followed by a return to mild.