Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 5.1M, Depth:90.35km) in Papua New Guinea 16/02/2014 14:22 UTC, 456294 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.6M, Depth:25.3km) in Greece 15/02/2014 07:31 UTC, 290148 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.6M, Depth:32.62km) in Near Coast Of Oaxaca, Mexico 14/02/2014 21:53 UTC, 529053 people within 100km.
As we have seen over recent weeks and months, observations for the UK are essential to put recent weather into context and to detect variations and possible long-term trends in UK climate. So, when the Met Office quotes “the wettest on record” what does that mean?
All our time-series of rainfall come from observations made by rain gauges and their length is determined by how long the recording stations have been open.
Stations with long records are a very important part of the UK’s weather station network. These time series provide an accurate picture of rainfall for that particular location, provided there are no significant changes in instrument type or station exposure. One of the longest in the UK is the weather station at Oxford Radcliffe Observatory, which holds nearly 250 years of rainfall observations from 1767 to the present day and is maintained by Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment.
This will give an accurate picture of rainfall for the city and will be broadly representative of the year-to-year variations of rainfall across Oxfordshire or even central England, but it won’t be useful when looking more widely across England and Wales or the UK.
So, to accurately make comparisons across regions and countries we need to create a different time-series.
One way of doing this is to calculate the average of different weather stations across an area – for example England and Wales. The England and Wales Precipitation series (EWP) is such a series of monthly rainfall totals from 1766 to the present day. For the most recent decades, the EWP series is based on over 100 stations, although this number decreases as you go back through the 20th, 19th and 18th Centuries.
The EWP series is much more reliable than a single station at representing rainfall for England and Wales overall and, because it extends back to 1766, it is very important climate series.
However, it does not cover the whole of the UK or take full advantage of the complete network of several thousand stations currently recording rainfall across the country.
Met Office national records are created using gridded datasets which interpolate observations from the full network of stations onto a 5km by 5km grid covering the UK. The gridding method is a more sophisticated approach for analysing rainfall than simply taking an average of station data. However, because it is a digital series it is shorter than the EWP – the number of rain gauges with data in our electronic archive decreases rapidly by the early 20th Century.
So, the UK’s national climate series – the records you will see quoted when the Met Office releases statistics – is a comprehensive gridded rainfall analyses back to 1910. This series provides the best estimate of overall rainfall and its distribution across the UK.
The gridded rainfall analysis also enables us to produce maps showing UK rainfall patterns, for example January 2014:
How do the series compare?
Here are the headlines for January 2014:
- For the England & Wales areal series, January 2014 (173.5mm) was the wettest January since 1948 (176.8mm) and the second wettest January in the series from 1910
- For the EWP series, January 2014 (185.0mm) was the wettest January in the series from 1766, marginally wetter than 1948 (176.8mm)
- For Oxford, January 2014 (146.9mm) was the wettest January in the series from 1767, wetter than 1852 (138.7mm)
You can see from the graph below that the EWP and the national England & Wales series both represent the same area and are very similar. Rainfall totals for the Oxford Radcliffe Observatory series are generally lower.
For any individual year there can be significant differences between series. For example we would probably conclude that January 1988 was climatologically more extreme for England and Wales than for Oxford, similarly 1997 is the driest January for England and Wales by a reasonable margin, but there are a number of similarly dry or drier Januarys than 1997 for Oxford.
So which is the best series to use?
Well, the answer is that we need to use them all. The Met Office routinely quotes rainfall statistics based on the gridded data, because these are considered the most reliable estimates, are based on the full network of observations, and can provide the regional pattern of rainfall.
The EWP series is an invaluable climate series because it provides a much longer near 250-year perspective but has less regional detail.
However, our climate analyses would not be possible without the long running high quality individual station series such as Oxford. These are the foundations of historical climate analysis.
January saw a succession of weather systems tracking across the UK from the Atlantic which brought high winds, at times gale force, and persistent rain to the country. This extended a sequence of deep lows that began in mid-December. The worst of these were over by the 7th to give some brief respite, but rain continued through the remainder of the month with very few dry days. For the period from 12th December to the end of January some stations in the south of England had recorded over five months worth of rainfall.
The UK mean temperature for January was 4.8 °C, which is 1.1 °C above the 1981-2010 average. The UK overall received 151% of average rainfall making it the third wettest in the series. A broad region from east Devon to Kent and up to the central midlands received well in excess of 200 % and some more localised regions were closer to three times the average. Visit our climate section for a full written summary of the month.
Our infographic and video provide a summary of the weather throughout January:
Green alert for tropical cyclone FOBANE-14. Population affected by Category 1 (120 km/h) wind speeds or higher is 0.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.6M, Depth:11.5km) in Greece 14/02/2014 03:38 UTC, 334116 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.7M, Depth:9.92km) in Turkey 14/02/2014 00:33 UTC, 4554147 people within 100km.
The UK saw severe weather conditions throughout the course of Wednesday 12 February 2014 and as forecast the strongest winds hit the Welsh and Northwestern coast. Below you can see the highest gusts of wind and rainfall totals recorded at Met Office observing sites on Thursday 12 February 2014.
Maximum gust speeds:Site Area Elevation (m) Max gust speed (mph) ABERDARON GWYNEDD 95 108 MUMBLES HEAD WEST GLAMORGAN 43 96 WIGHT: NEEDLES OLD BATTERY ISLE OF WIGHT 80 96 LAKE VYRNWY POWYS 360 96 CAPEL CURIG NO 3 GWYNEDD 216 93 HIGH BRADFIELD SOUTH YORKSHIRE 395 92 PEMBREY SANDS DYFED 3 89 ABERPORTH DYFED 133 87 LOFTUS CLEVELAND 158 85 BERRY HEAD DEVON 58 85
Rainfall totals:Site Area Rainfall (mm) SHAP CUMBRIA 46 BAINBRIDGE NORTH YORKSHIRE 41 BALLYPATRICK FOREST ANTRIM 39 CAPEL CURIG NO 3 GWYNEDD 37.4 BANAGHER, CAUGH HILL LONDONDERRY 35.8 BALA GWYNEDD 32.8 ALTNAHINCH FILTERS ANTRIM 32.4 KESWICK CUMBRIA 29.6 PATELEY BRIDGE, RAVENS NEST NORTH YORKSHIRE 27.4 TREDEGAR, BRYN BACH PARK GWENT 26.8
The unsettled weather will continue over the next 48 hours with a system bringing heavy rain on Friday 14 February, however the latter part of the weekend should bring drier and brighter weather for many. Everyone is advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.6M, Depth:54.59km) in Papua New Guinea 13/02/2014 14:29 UTC, 199591 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.9M, Depth:9.93km) in Turkmenistan 13/02/2014 08:35 UTC, 272465 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.7M, Depth:21.15km) in Costa Rica 12/02/2014 20:38 UTC, 2938919 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 5.2M, Depth:43.68km) in Chile 12/02/2014 13:35 UTC, 1424967 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 5.5M, Depth:97.75km) in Chile 12/02/2014 11:43 UTC, 154086 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.6M, Depth:91.59km) in Argentina 12/02/2014 10:46 UTC, 632060 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 4.8M, Depth:9.94km) in Greece 12/02/2014 10:34 UTC, 228750 people within 100km.
Green earthquake alert (Magnitude 6.9M, Depth:10km) in China 12/02/2014 09:19 UTC, About 44369 people within 100km.
As the unsettled UK weather continues this week, the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre have looked at statistics for this winter so far (from 1 December to 10 February).
These add to previous facts and figures we put out earlier this week, and show a picture of continuing exceptional rainfall across many areas.
Looking at regions around the UK, these provisional figures suggest the region of SE and Central S England has already exceeded its record winter rainfall in the series back to 1910. It is currently at 439.2mm*, less than 2mm above the previous record set in 1915 with 437.1mm of rain.
For the UK as a whole, and also for Wales, both are fairly close to their respective record wettest winter levels in the national series dating back to 1910. Average rainfall for the rest of the month would likely see those records broken.
All countries across the UK have already exceeded their typical average rainfall for the whole winter (according to the 1981-2010 long-term averages). Normally at this stage of the season, you’d expect to have seen only around 80% of that whole season average.
All areas are also on target for a significantly wetter than average winter, with typically around 130-160% of normal rainfall if we get average rainfall for the rest of February.
All countries and areas are also on target for a warmer than average winter.
Current record wettest winters:Country Year Rainfall Winter 2014 to date* UK 1995 485.1mm 429.2mm ENGLAND 1915 392.7mm 328.0mm WALES 1995 684.1mm 618.7mm SCOTLAND 1995 649.5mm 558.5mm NORTHERN IRELAND 1994 489.7mm 360.0mm
*These are provisional figures from 1 December 2013 to 10 February 2014 and could change after final quality control checks on data.