Archives For Forecast

2015-11-19_21-56-59

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.

 

2015-10-05_22-02-26

Hurricane Joaquin tracks NE then E across Atlantic

Hurricane Joaquin, previously a Category 4 hurricane, tracked across Bermuda today and dropped to Cat 1.  Nevertheless, maximum sustained winds were near 85 mph with higher gusts. Joaquin is expected to transition to a large extra-tropical low pressure system on Wednesday. The chart below shows how many extra-tropical storms (those named previously as tropical cyclones) reach or have got near to the UK, many of these would have passed unnoticed as regular autumnal stormy weather.

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extra-tropical storms that have reached or nearly reached the UK

The tracks below show the remnants of Joaquin apparently taking direct aim at the UK but it’s not unusual to have extra-tropical storms arriving in UK waters during the autumn.  Of course, extra-tropical storms lose much of their tropical characteristics and potency as they recurve and track across the cooler mid-latitude Atlantic.  Even if extra-tropical storms track directly across the UK they are usually not much more than a nuisance storm, like Bertha in August 2014.

Beyond Friday, model tracks are more uncertain on whether the remnants of Joaquin will actually impact the UK at all, or linger offshore.  A ridge of high pressure builds later this week and acts as an effective buffer to block off Atlantic LOWS, including Joaquin.  He is therefore reduced to sitting offshore.

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HIGH pressure ridge blocks entry to Joaquin

Of the main models the ECM sees ex-Joaquin taking a more direct track across the country later in the weekend.  The GFS is keen to disrupt the trough and send a secondary LOW across the south of the UK later in the weekend while the main system seems to merge with a trough to the NW.  The UKMET sticks the LOW offshore for longer and sweeps the system to the NW of the UK with any wind impact mostly limited to the far west. This disagreement between models shows uncertainty so … keep watching forecasts if weekend weather (especially later) is important.

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Ex-Joaquin location by Saturday Oct 10

Prior to this the pressure across the country is set to build after an unsettled start to the week.  The charts below show a purposeful rise in pressure to the end of the week, with the Joaquin uncertainty kicking in thereafter, although Saturday looks good on most charts at present.

The Atlantic satellite view shows the impressive swirl of Hurricane Joaquin tracking near Bermuda today and the UK top right.

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2015-07-04_07-01-46

UK thunderstorms July 3-4 2015 analysis chart modified spanish plume

Very quick update on the (grand?) finale of the Spanish Plume that has ebbed and flowed this week. (directly above is the analysis UKMet synoptic chart posted this morning after the event.  “In the event” round up see foot of this post (please send photos, I didn’t get any ;-( )

Today, Friday sees a final push of warm/hot continental air into Southern England with Tmax 28C or more today.  The synoptic and upper air charts above show a Modified Spanish Plume set-up which is potentially conducive to MCS (big storms) pushing further north across the UK. The chart below shows this matches one of the three types of Spanish Plume identified by Lewis and Gray (2010) and further by Nat Melia (2012).

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modified spanish plume (after NatMelia 2012)

Winds charts below show a sheared wind environment with SE surface winds and a jetstream from the south.  This is conducive to thunderstorms and some rotation which organises storms and produces possible tornadic features.

Tonight thunderstorms are forecast to develop locally across S UK as elevated features and move north into N / NE England.  Models disagree on the track of these storms so some places are likely, as usual, to miss out.

The development as whole is debated too so could change during today.  Models show vastly differing rainfall patterns.

Nevertheless, the potential is there for severe thunderstorms, even a meso-scale convective system (MCS) which is a group of sustained thunderstorms.  Intense rainfall and large hail is also possible.

The charts below are a collection that illustrate the set up in more detail. These are posted for future reference and reanalysis of any event or non-event that occurs. Interestingly the storms arrive overnight (as usual) and surface based cape is therefore extremely limited with no solar heating. These are therefore likely to be elevated thunderstorms. During this potential episode overnight do stay weather aware in case you come across one of these potential beasts! Equally the set up is, as usual, not certain with convective forecasts so check weather professional media for updates.

The outlook is for cooler Atlantic (still tropical) air to sweep away the continental plume during the weekend.  Thereafter, mostly dry pleasant temperatures for the SE. Wetter further west with chance of showers as troughs drag fronts (mostly weak) across the north.

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GEFS outlook

In the event:

Big storms erupted quickly from 10-11pm and intensified as they drifted north / NE.  Reigate experienced some heavy rain and plenty of lightning. The storms produced over 93000 lightning strikes over the course of the night. The SE, always hit and miss with models for this event, scored only 17418 strikes. Below is an animation of radar and strikes.

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Locally Reigate had some early action from developing storms before and through midnight.  Storms then intensified further N/NE. Note the rainfall rate before midnight 135.6mm/hr giving approx 10mm (tbc) and associated pressure spikes with descending air from storms. Nice event, some spectacular lightning but not as much or as intense as further north. Pictures and video below from local photographer Simon Spiers who caught some amazing lightning shots around the area. Thanks for sharing.

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synoptic chart for heat spike

synoptic chart for heat spike

In the event: July 1st 2015 Heathrow Airport recorded highest ever July Tmax at 36.7C. More here

http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2015/07/07/on-the-record-observing-a-heatwave/

Reigate and the southern half of Britain could see some very high temperatures from mid-week next week.  Technically this will probably struggle to become a “heatwave” because it looks like too brief a hot spell, ending by or through the weekend, to exceed the 5 day threshold for an official designation (see below). Nevertheless, a significant HEAT SPIKE is certainly on the cards.

Some very high, possibly record breaking upper air temperatures are due to arrive aloft (forecast 23C 850hPa temperatures for South are quite unheard of in recent years) and, if it’s not too cloudy, 2m surface temperatures could soar to over 30C and possibly even nudge up to 35C.

This is not a forecast, and models will ebb and flow with the event intensity up to the wire, but it’s a review of some factors that will play a part in this heat spike episode.  The synoptic set-up, on charts below and top, shows a blocking HIGH developing over Scandinavia (an omega block) and a trough in the Atlantic with a heat LOW over Iberia. This set-up brings the well known “Spanish Plume”.  Typically this involves a warm, dry upper air flow from the South, drawn up by a perky northward limb of the jetstream and accompanied by an easterly or SE surface flow.  The combination is associated with heat and thunderstorms, though not necessarily extremes of either.

Whilst the Scandinavian Omega Block persists, the easterly continental wind and drier conditions should prevail over the UK but we are close to the edge of the anticyclone and in the line of fire from Atlantic fronts nibbling at the edges and thermal LOWS from Spain running north under the jetstream. The interaction of the advancing cool Atlantic air with the warm upper flow and the increasing surface heat can crank up convective instability as the plume migrates north across France to the UK.  The CAPE and skew-t charts below show the possibility of (elevated) thunderstorms by mid week.  Interestingly at times there is a strong cap near the surface, but great instability aloft, so storms likely to be elevated AcCast (altocumulus castellanus) with potentially strong lightning shows but maybe little rain getting to the surface, at least at first / Wednesday. CAPE is through the roof on some runs but too dry at lower levels and too strongly capped to yield widespread storms as shown below on the skew-t chart.

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upper level instability for potential elevated thunderstorms

Later in the week cool Atlantic air from the west is likely to interact with the plume, descending behind cold fronts and this process can cause CAPE values to increase bringing the chance of more organised thunderstorms that usually herald an imminent invasion of a cooler westerly regime.  Cool tropical maritime air behind fronts typically descends and causes increased lift as it runs into the unstable plume. Recent runs show the GFS wants to hang on to the heat longer while the ECMWF brings back westerlies more promptly by the weekend.  (update: now reversed!) This is not, therefore, likely to be a completely dry hot episode, because thunderstorms threaten especially after any really hot days.

The cross section below shows the flow of upper air clearly swinging round from a southerly direction.  Note the surface flow from the SE.  This combination, brief though it is, raises the risk of unstable conditions and thunderstorms indicated by the raised lifted index (LI) and Total Totals at the foot of the chart.  The average weekly 2m temperature anomaly charts below show how brief the heat might be… the second 5 day average returns back to normal.

Despite the likely short duration, it could be a notable period due to other factors playing a part.  Important ingredients that can be thrown into the mix of heat and thunderstorm potential are sea surface temperatures and soil moisture content. Despite a cool Atlantic, the seas immediately surrounding southern Britain are currently anomalously warm and ripe for transport of heat and thunderstorms across the Channel.

Similarly, dry soil enhances potential heat build up by reducing evaporative cooling and possibly kicking up temperatures higher as less heat is “used up” evaporating soil moisture.  Also, dry soil can enhance instability due to the rapid surface heat build increasing lapse rates.  I’m not quite sure how models handle these factors when producing their 2m temperature forecasts.

Locally, it’s worth noting the frequency of summer days exceeding 30C in Reigate, Surrey. Since 2009 only 29 days have reached or exceeded 30C and only 2 of these have been in June, most in July.  Also note the increase in hots days recently, though of course this is not a big enough sample to be significant.

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It’s still too early to be precise about when and how hot and how thundery it might get next week but the ingredients are at least in place for some very interesting weather!.  Further ahead this looks like a brief heat spike as westerlies resume promptly.  However, the overall pattern seems to favour a blocking HIGH over Europe which could continue to feed the UK with warm Southerly or at least SSW winds for a while.  A cool Atlantic also favours higher pressure so this ought to reduce the chances of very wet conditions, especially here in the South East. Phase 6 of the MJO is also correlated with blocking HIGH patterns over Europe.  So July ought to continue warm, dry and occasionally sultry but with possible thundery episodes.

Media references:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2015/hot-july?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/25/mini-heatwave-forecast-for-uk-next-week-temperature-30c

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3138816/Glastonbury-Wimbledon-UK-weather-Britain-set-hottest-temperatures-year-week.html

http://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2015/06/25/hotter-weather-for-the-start-of-july/

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/shortcuts/2014/sep/17/continental-blow-torch-warm-weather-britain

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11733731/Met-Office-caught-out-over-its-hottest-July-day-ever-claim.html (twaddle)

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/587218/Heatwave-UK-weather-forecast-summer

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/new-data-from-ruislip-casts-more-doubt-on-heathrow-record-temperature-claims/

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/07/met-office-wind-data-dispels-doubt-about-cause-of-heathrow-high-temperatures/

2015-06-20_07-45-37

June has been a cool month so far and is on target to be the coolest June since 1991, or certainly close.  It has also been dry with just 28% of monthly rain so far for SE England.

In contrast to the June trend, mostly due to the Azores HIGH lodged firmly to the SW and dragging in a cool dry NW flow (bit unusual for a summer regime), today a humid moist warm sector crosses Reigate and this will bring a minor hiccup to the dry weather of the last week when there has been no rain at all in Reigate.  Humid air is due to arrive in the warm sector and this is indicated by modestly raised dew points (high teens) and PWAT (precipitable water) exceeding 30mm, showing potential for some heavy rain around but this is hit n miss. (update: metoffice weather warning issued in morning for heavy thundery rain)

Of interest are surface winds which appear to converge in a zone, associated with a cold front, across the south later today (spot the twisty wind barbs below): convergence is where winds arrive quicker than they leave a region and, as winds “pile up”, this often promotes LIFT (upward air motion) that encourages convection and storms. But it’s a slack scene and by no means a classic stormy picture. Scattered slight risk of heavy showers is likely to be about it.

converging winds

converging winds

Skew-t charts (cross-sections through the atmosphere showing temperature, wind speed, direction and humidity etc) also show reasonably high CAPE >600j/kg (convective available potential energy) and some negative lifted index in central southern England. These values are indicators of instability: which means air is free to rise to a great height, condense into tall clouds possibly forming cumulonimbus.  Note the change of wind speed with height, such wind shear also acts to duct air from the surface.  Well, the ingredients are there for heavy showers later today but they were also present in the much heralded plume last week and that came to nothing, catching out professional forecasts as well as amateur enthusiasts. There were a few notable heavy thundery outbreaks last week but many convective forecasters and storm enthusiasts were stung by the lack of activity and model predictions appeared to founder.  The scenario today is decidedly less “stormy” so storm fans should not get excited either!

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Heathrow Saturday unstable showery chart.. dry-ish mid level slot too?

Of note is a dry slot at 700hPa mid levels (shown well on the chart below) that can induce evaporative cooling.  Evaporative cooling is caused when moisture evaporates and reduces temperature.  This reduced temperature at mid levels of the atmosphere can create higher CAPE as warm parcels excitedly find themselves rising through ever cooler environmental air. If sunshine heats the surface this can promote heavy showers and possible thunderstorms, albeit scattered and only a slight risk today. In addition a weak jetstream moves to a position later pm where any showers will find themselves on the left-exit region of the jetstream.. this is area known to further lift air from the surface, like a hoover dragging air upwards into divergent air aloft.

The forecast is for scattered showers, some thundery later.  So, as usual, some places could miss them though it’s a moist air flow so some rain is likely most places.  Rainfall totals will vary between almost nothing to possible >10mm.

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more unsettled to end June

Sunday looks cloudy but mostly dry as showers clear off tonight. Next week and towards the end of June there is a threat of more rain, possibly pretty heavy on Monday as Atlantic LOWS nibble away at the Azores high that has dominated our weather recently.  Monday sees a frontal wave low sticking wet conditions across the south which could yield high rain totals. Thereafter, mid week sees the Azores HIGH ridging back in with pleasant warm and dry conditions but this looks temporary as Atlantic LOWS nibble away with wetter westerlies always trying to edge back in.

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Azores ridges back in, but looks temporary

The outlook is therefore occasionally unsettled, especially in the north further from any ridges, though with the risk of heavy showers at times in the south.  Gradual warming trend into July with possibility of a brief warm or hot SE flow to start the month, as shown below on the 850hPa temperature GEFS chart: note the “plume” (oh no) with regressed Azores HIGH and thermal heat LOW over Spain. Way off, but worth watching 🙂

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brief hot spell to start July?

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synoptic chart spanish plume event on 12/06/2015

Review: In the event: this was largely a fizzle! Few thunderstorms emerged until later and the SW missed out completely, which was the favoured area for action by some forecasts. One or two heavy tstorms impacted Sussex / Kent and East Anglia later in the day and into evening.  Surrey largely missed out, probably due to too much cloud cover, which left insufficient surface based heating to trigger home grown storms.  Also, a lack of soil moisture is significant too and humidity was left crashing by the afternoon.  Tmax Reigate barely scraped 25C here and, at 18C, dew points were on the low side all day, with RH similarly unimpressive hovering as low as 67% for a good while.

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complete lack of humidity in SE by evening

Imported storms attempting to cross the Channel generally couldn’t make it and, those that did, clipped Kent and Sussex late in the evening.  An interesting local convergence line in the evening popped up convection late on but this was mostly not thundery and missed Reigate anyway.  This was always forecast as an isolated tstorm event and heavy showers did occur but nothing of note over Reigate.  Many forecasts were found wanting and many convective storm specialists and enthusiasts will probably be smarting over this partial non-event.  Possibly the biggest “miss” in forecasting for a number of years.  In reviewing the charts below it’s worth noting that the individual ingredients were modelled but did not come together on this occasion and others were not solid: GFS CAPE and dew points significantly lowered in runs prior to the event.  There was little wind shear to drive storms along in a very slack flow. It wasn’t a classic Spanish flow from the SSW – drier easterlies dominated. Finally, the initial flurry of Channel storms left a good deal of cloud clag across the region and did not permit surface heating.

original post:

Southern England, including Reigate, is likely to have a first proper convective event of the year tomorrow including moderate to possibly even severe isolated storms with some heavy rain in a short space of time and a chance of hail, thunder and lightning.   Not everywhere will get a storm but, if you do, it could be a pretty big one.  For us in Reigate thunderstorms are most likely towards the afternoon and into Friday evening, though they could “pop” almost anytime during the day, especially if it is sunny and heat builds early.  If it stays cloudy through the morning the set-up could fizzle out spectacularly!  Expert convective forecasters say that this is a highly complex situation and forecasts, even at this late stage, are prone to inaccuracy when pinning down potential storms like these.  This post is not a forecast but outlines some key ingredients for thunderstorms and sees how tomorrow is set up to deliver the goods, at least some of them.

A MetOffice weather warning has been issued because the rain or hail could be heavy in a short space of time and cause local flooding and some disruption. The worst conditions are not expected here but further to the SW and S Wales. Severe thunderstorms have been occurring in France and Spain all day and, indeed across S Europe for much of the week, ours will be pretty moderate by comparison.

Thunderstorms need 3 things to get them going: moisture, heat and lift.  Here’s a quick review of some of these ingredients thrown into the Reigate and Surrey weather mix tomorrow with some charts to illustrate.

thunderstorm characteristics

thunderstorm characteristics

1. Heat

You may have noticed that today warmed up considerably reaching nearly 25C in Reigate . Tomorrow will be warmer still. This is due to a warm “plume” of air arriving from the continent, from as far away as S France, Spain and the Mediterranean.

This imported heat alone will raise the “airmass” temperature to over 15C at 850hPa (1500m).  Any sunshine, of course, will further heat the surface and this could raise temperatures on the ground to over 25C.  This is a critical ingredient for thunderstorms: air needs to be warmed so that it will rise into the atmosphere.

In conditions of potential severe weather it is useful to have sunhsine to heat the surface.  The cloud cover tomorrow looks broken and, if it remains like that through the morning, this will build bigger afternoon storms.

Whilst heat at the surface is a good thing to create warm rising bubbles of air, a comparatively cooler atmosphere through which the warm parcels of air can rise, is also a useful ingredient.  The air high up is unusually cool at the moment and this will create steep lapse rates… a rapid reduction of temperature with height.   Lapse rates can be shown on charts like below and on skew-t diagrams: these look tricky but show a cross-section through the atmosphere.

Steep lapse rates encourage warm parcels to stay warmer than the surrounding air.. so they will keep rising creating tall clouds such as cumulonimbus. It’s also useful to have droplets freeze at the top of clouds: it’s these ice particles that bounce around through the cloud, rising and falling to build a charge that causes lightning.

thundery skew t

thundery skew t

The red line is the “environment” air temperature: imagine taking the temperature of the air at regular heights as you rise up on a balloon flight: you’d expect the temperature to go down… usually by about 0.6C per 100m.  Now consider how a warm rising air parcel will rise, expand (as less pressure), cool and condense at a different rate: this is the dashed line which shows how rising parcels sometimes stay warmer (tomorrow) than the environmental air right the way to the top of the chart at some 30,000 feet.  So long as the rising parcel stays warmer relative to its surrounding then it will rise! The ultimate height of some well developed cumulonimbus clouds exceed 10km.  Freely rising bubbles of warm air (thermals) is known as an “unstable atmosphere”: like heating soup on the hob.. bubbles rise through it.

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Channel sea surface temperatures

The Channel is only 12-13C sea surface temperature at the moment and this can subdue thunderstorms attempting to cross from France. Nevertheless, storms currently approaching the south coast are pretty active still but are not expected to reach far inland to the SE as pressure is still comparatively high.

2. Moisture

Without moisture there will be no clouds and certainly no thunder.  The humidity and high dew points on the charts above shows how tomorrow there is plenty of moisture being advected into the country on the humid plume after the warm front passes north.

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theta e charts show airmasses well; spot the plume!

The synoptic chart shows the warm moist wedge that is due to pass over the UK tomorrow; it has large quantities of precipitable water (over 30mm) which could fall all at once in the right conditions.  Water vapour is a key ingredient: as water vapour condenses it releases latent heat which can drive upward lift in thunderclouds yet further (saturated air cools less slowly, so increases instability).

3. Lift

Lift can be any forcing mechanism that encourages air upward.  Surface based heating (diurnal heating) is important tomorrow, but so are fronts.  An advancing cold front sometimes cools and dries out the upper atmosphere and this can increase lapse rates dramatically and encourage further lift.  Charts showing CAPE (convective available potential energy) and lifted index can both show the tendency for air to lift.  Higher CAPE numbers are good, negative Lifted Index numbers are good for storms too. LOW pressure is also important to encourage the mass ascent of air.  An upper ridge early tomorrow could inhibit thunderstorm development in the SE until the trough arrives later.

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CAPE and lifted index

A further source of lift is surface convergence of airflow.  Convergence is where air arrives in a location quicker than it leaves.  When surface winds converge air “piles up” at a location and has nowhere to go except UP.  Surface convergence, with divergence aloft, is a good set up for lifting.  Sometimes hills or coastal breezes can cause convergence and enhance lift too.

What’s missing tomorrow?

For the very biggest storms more of all the above is good.  Moderate storms and isolated severe storms might arise but there is a lack of wind shear to organise storms into supercells.  Wind shear is increasing wind speed or change in direction with height.  Tomorrow is a slack flow until a moderate jetstream appears later in the evening.

lacks shear strong upper flow

lacks shear strong upper flow

Wind shear has the effect of hoovering air up from the surface and separating the warm storm inflow from the cold outflow. An organised storm will thus keep hoovering up warm air which feeds further development into a severe storm or supercell (which starts rotating and is a precursor of tornadoes).

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organised thunderstorm formation

With little wind shear the inflow feeding the storm can be disrupted and stopped by cold air descending from the tops of thunderclouds and cutting off their heat supply.  Such storms die naturally after a few hours and are known as single cell storms.  Multicell, supercell or meso-scale convective systems (MCS) require some shear to keep them strong and well fed. The lack of isobars on the synoptic surface pressure chart below indicatea the slack flow.  This can cause high rainfall totals because  storms sit and soak the same place rather than move on.

slack plume

slack plume

The overall synoptic development of this plume shown below is good-to-go for storm action tomorrow for some places in the south and SE including Reigate. A separate article discusses Spanish Plume development here.

So, some factors favouring storm formation tomorrow include:

  • Heat: strong advection of very warm humid air across southern England.
  • Low pressure: allows air to rise on mass.
  • Winds from the SE / ESE: can import storms from France in a NW direction. (they often miss us and go off to Kent otherwise)
  • Moisture: humid air across the south throughout the day.
  • Lift: sunshine will hopefully lift temperatures and permit thermals to rise to develop home-grown storms later in the day.

Do watch out for the King of Clouds… cumulonimbus or any of the development clouds like altostratus castellanus, and share pics and stories of any storms that come your way. Meanwhile,check professional forecasts for updates of course if you are making decisions.

Note: this is not an expert convection article, but an educational outline of storm formation. Comments always welcome.

Try Lightning Camera app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pluto.aftershot&hl=en

Great article here from the expert seasonal forecaster Wanstead Weather , many thanks for sharing this.

Wanstead Meteo

This summer is looking an average one. Before you write it off, however, average summers do come with decent spells of warmth and sunshine. But I think the old saying that an English summer consists of three fine days and a thunderstorm will be used more than once this year…impending

To reach my conclusion on this summer I have used pattern matching of meteorological data from this area for March, April and May stretching back to 1799.

The dry and sunny weather of March and April was tempered by a very average May. The mean for the spring season was 10.5C with 75.8mm of rain and 511 hours of sunshine.

If you take into account all years that were within +/- 10 per cent of these figures, for rainfall and then mean temperature, you get the following table.

The ‘best fit’ years were revealed as 1844, 1870, 1880…

View original post 418 more words

2015-05-02_06-58-07

analysis chart shows HIGH edging out with moist Atlantic winds ready to pounce

The analysis chart above shows a weakening ridge of HIGH pressure over the UK being edged out north by a slow moving Atlantic LOW to the W/SW.  Reigate is still currently (Saturday am) in cool dull easterly winds generated by the HIGH but a significant switch in wind direction will take place over the next 12 hours into the bank holiday period as a wholly different mild and humid Sub-Tropical Atlantic air mass, with a source region round the Azores, takes hold from the SW.

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weather cross-section

A mild moist S/SW wind drives in from the Atlantic as the LOW edges north east tonight. The first mass of rain is edging onto radar from the SW and is expected to arrive in Reigate by around mid-late pm today.  Most rain is likely for places further north and west but the SE is still likely to pick up plenty of wet weather overnight with low cloud and rain into Sunday morning when it could turn heavy and showery for a while in the early morning as the trough passes directly overhead and pressure continues to fall. Things are expected to clear to brighter conditions later in the afternoon as pressure rises and winds turn more westerly. Cloud cover will hopefully break and cloud height will lift during the afternoon becoming more cumuliform.

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trough and fronts migrate north, showers follow

If the sun comes out then there could be a low risk of an odd heavy shower Sunday afternoon, possibly thundery, but these are more likely further north of our area where more unstable air makes progress across the Midlands and East Anglia.

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During Sunday winds will be occasionally blustery with moderate convective gusts possible, especially on hills and nearer the coast, and make the mild temperatures Tmax 16C feel considerably cooler. Temperatures overnight could hold up to a balmy 12-13C.

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Overnight Saturday-Sunday rain could linger as showers through the morning

Winds turn from SW to more southerly through Monday and pressure should up-tick slightly giving a mostly dry and warm day and less windy as things stand currently.  Troughs could progress east during Monday and build cloud and produce some showers.  More importantly there is a looming threat of something special for later Monday-Tuesday night.

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As the northern block (high over Greenland) holds on, the Atlantic LOW just west of Ireland will usher in a mild and moist S/SW flow of air from the continent.  An unstable LOW brewing in the topical Atlantic today (Saturday) is forecast to sweep up and intensify from Biscay later Monday and into Tuesday and this might bring heavy rain and winds to the south and SE and a possible thundery episode later Monday but more likely overnight into early Tuesday for SE.  The jetstream is dipping well south and is forecast to perk up and approach the UK from an unusually southerly direction by Tuesday.  If this happens the jetstream could deepen this low considerably, as modelled by some charts (latest UKMet shows 980mb).

Depending on the evolution we could find ourselves in the unstable left exit region of a jet where divergence aloft enhances convective action and creates heavy rain.  Warm air from the south will also contain more moisture.  A dry slot at mid-levels might also enhance instability (rising dry air cools more quickly increasing lapse rates and CAPE, enhancing lift).  High dew points near the surface temperature also encourage condensation and indicate extremely moist warm surface flows.

So all these ingredients stirred up could be a good recipe for some briefly moderate-severe weather in our region especially some briefly torrential rain, though totals are unlikely to amount to more than 10mm.  Gusty winds and gales near coasts could also accompany this system.  Latest metoffice chart shows pressure dipping to 980mb in the North Sea which is significantly LOW pressure for the time of year.

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coastal gales and convective gusts inland

However these episodes have a habit of tracking across Holland and merely clip Kent with thundery showers and miss us entirely.  Models also generally exaggerate these early on and then things flatten out nearer the time considerably.  Nevertheless, it is worth watching this develop as our first potential “warm plume” of the year.  If we take a direct hit the SE could have some heavy rain.

The GEFS summary below clearly shows the two main rainfall spikes tonight and Monday night.

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GEFS 850hPa temperatures and rainfall London

Later mid-week the LOW is expected to drift east across the UK bringing in a more westerly pattern so unsettled showery weather is likely for a while. Thereafter, a rise in pressure from a developing Euro high pressure may then take place from the south and settle things down for us in the SE, though this might only make faltering progress.

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faltering pressure rise later next week

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cold plunge of polar air to end April

The newspapers have this colder than average week billed as a “polar plume”.  Cold air cannot really be said to “plume” like warm air (spanish plume).  Nevertheless, it is certainly cold up North with settling snow over the hills and wintry precipitation elsewhere too.

The GFS ensemble (several model runs combined at once) chart below shows that the colder than average (upper air) temperatures will last until the weekend at least.  Thereafter temperatures rise but note the rainfall spikes indicating unsettled conditions.

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upper air temperatures

For us here in the sheltered SE it is just cooler than average with patchy overnight frost and bright days with light showers Tuesday pm. A blustery cold front on Wednesday is likely to bring more purposeful rain for a while, as could further active fronts on Thursday when the trough axis moves through our region accompanied by the jetstream nearby to the south.  Friday is likely to see a transient high pressure ridge bringing settled weather and then a change in wind direction by the weekend.

The overall cool set-up is due to “northern blocking” which is when pressure builds over Greenland and the Pole and the, previously strong, Azores HIGH slackens off and nudges south. At the same time the usual Icelandic low pressure weakens or is dominated entirely by a HIGH pressure (see chart below).

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In this situation the jetstream works its way south of the UK.  The result is that cold polar air is able to leak south out of the polar regions and into the mid latitudes.

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The index shown above summarizes the overall pressure pattern in the Atlantic. It is called the North Atlantic Oscillation. The NAO measures the pressure difference between Iceland and the Azores.  It has been mostly positive this winter: meaning that pressure is LOW over Iceland and HIGH over the Azores.  Typically a positive NAO indicates a strong zonal jetstream and mild often wet conditions for Europe with relatively fast moving LOWS passing through.  The chart below shows how the NAO has gone negative recently and this indicates that pressure has built over the Pole, creating a blocking situation.

The charts above show theta-e temperature which shows cool airmasses over the UK clearly.  These are 850hPa temperature charts which represent temperatures at 1500m (1.5km) above the “boundary layer”.  This height is used to avoid disruptive temperature changes which occur nearer the surface caused by day and night, mountains and water bodies etc that upset the overall temperature pattern for analysis.  The situation shown below by this weekend is quite different, though still unsettled.  Note the warmer flow from the SW.

After the transient ridge on Friday it looks like pressure will fall into the bank holiday weekend as a low pressure nudges in from the Atlantic.

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pressure falls into weekend

The milder humid air brought from the SW by the Atlantic low could potentially cause some significant rain at times around the weekend and into early next week as this meets cold air over the country.  Despite the milder upper air arriving from the SW, it is unlikely the “milder” temperatures will be noticeable in such wetter and windier conditions. In winter this set-up could have brought big snow events but in early May it will simply bring rain. For the detail on timing and amount of weekend rainfall we will have to wait and see, but it certainly looks potentially quite wet, though models suggest pressure building briefly thereafter.

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Low cloud on a slack N/NE flow has sat over the SE overnight left by the weak Channel low.  This low cloud will clear during the morning, the question is will it clear by the eclipse maximum at 9.30am?  Low cloud can be seen on the satellite image below but the cloud mask image shows clearance occuring in Wales, parts of N England and E England.  This is behind a weakening frontal feature (no rain) which is slowing as it moves south. Our student forecast still holds true from yesterday.. so check our original BBC school report eclipse forecast here

Sat pics this morning suggest the NetWx charts are doing well with cloud forecasts. If this turns out to continue then we can expect a relatively prompt clearance of cloud between 9 – 10am. As cloud is likely to remain in some places locally it will be down to a lot of luck but regionally some in the SE, especially further NORTH should get a view of the eclipse between 9-10am. **as we know it stayed cloudy across Reigate and SE England during the eclipse and didn’t clear until midday. London had a better view so the clearer weather was never far away but took its time to arrive: better luck next time!** UPDATE ON IMPACTS OF ECLIPSE ON WEATHER FOLLOWING SOON

Watch out for subtle weather impacts such as an eclipse wind, changes in cloud formation and a slight dip in temperature during the event.  More on this from our weather students here 

Here is a reminder of the times and % cover of the sun during the eclipse.  Remember not to look directly at the sun at all.  Use a pin hole camera.