Tag Archives: summer forecast

UK media in a fog over El Niño predictions

When it comes to explaining weather phenomena the British media has often been found wanting over recent years. But when the Australian Bureau of Meteorology yesterday confirmed the emergence of a fresh El Niño newspapers and TV stations inevitably reached the conclusion that the phenomena will trigger a severe winter in the UK.

Sky News told us that it “could also result in a harsh winter for the UK; during the last El Nino in 2009/10, Britain suffered heavy snowfall”, before showing us newsreels of what looked like conditions in December 2010 – the winter after.

Not to be outdone the Daily Telegraph moved the effects forward to this summer, telling us the effect *could* herald a “damp summer with temperatures well below average”.

I decided to have a look at the facts to see what the effect of an El Nino episode was by comparing the US weather agency NOAA’s data on ENSO episodes going back to 1950 with my own data. For speed I used my top ten snowy winters and compared against the NOAA data.  The results showed that eight cold winters followed an ENSO pattern that was negative. The winter of 2009-10 seems to be the exception to the rule. Indeed, a significant El Niño episode in 1997/98, preceded the third warmest winter in my series going back to 1797!

el nino

El Niño / ENSO is just one variable when it comes to forecasting a season ahead. Other variables to consider are AO, QBO, MJO and this is before SSWs, sudden volcanic eruptions and sunspot activity throw spanners in the works.

It is exasperating that both the Sky and Telegraph stories were copiously shared on social media – prompting the inevitable comments along the lines of: “They’re talking rubbish, they can’t forecast what that weather will be tomorrow!”

But rather than badly informed journalists it is the Met Office and other noble agencies who will share the blame if the story is incorrect.

There is no doubt that El Niño will disrupt the weather around the Pacific rim but, considering the data we have available, I don’t think it, alone, will be the reason Britain may experience a severe winter this year.

* XMetman has had a long look at the data and couldn’t find a link either

** NOAA’s monthly diagnostic discussion just released (14/5) says:

There is an approximately 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere summer 2015, and a greater than 80% chance it will last through 2015.”

Read full advisory here


Summer forecast: barbecues and umbrellas

At the beginning of May I had a look at the March and April stats to try to decipher what the coming summer would be like. The results still suggest that summer will be a mixed bag weather-wise with only brief hot spells interspersed with humid thundery breakdowns and cool, cloudy and showery regimes.

mackerel2The third warmest March-April period since 1799 possibly prompted some weather ‘experts’ to claim that we’re heading for a hot summer. But converse to what the Daily Express told us in April I cannot see any signs of a ‘hottest summer ever’.  And it should be remembered that this rag also warned us that the past winter would see ‘100 days of snow’. In the event I think 100 days of rain was probably more true, and I would like to point out at this juncture that my own winter forecast was hopelessly out, along with many others.

To reach my conclusion on this summer I have used pattern matching of meteorological data for March, April and May stretching back to 1799. The mild and dry weather of March and April has been tempered by the wet May. The mean for the spring season was 11.7C with 116.4mm of rain and 473 hours of sunshine. If you take into account all years that were within +/- 10 per cent of these figures you get the following table.

When considering the data I first extracted the number of similar years by rainfall. Of these I then discounted any that were not within + / 10 per cent of the spring 2014 mean temperature.

The ‘best fit’ years were revealed as 1811, 1828, 1871, 1882, 1912, 1945, 1959 and 1989. Using sun hours similarities this could be narrowed further to 1912, 1945, 1959 and 1989, however it should be noted that I don’t have sun hours data prior to 1881!

As an average this summer could be expressed as:

Mean: 17.3C (about average) Rainfall: 186.1mm (slightly above average) Sunshine: 583hrs (slightly above average)

Or, expressed in probabilities, I concluded the following:

Summer probabilities
Summer probabilities

So from the above you could deduce that the next three months will be average to rather cool, with average to slightly below average rainfall. Sunshine below average.

Trying to predict details over the next 3 months is impossible, but looking at the ‘best fit’ years mentioned above a warm spell happened without fail between the dates June 18th – June 22nd. Other dates to bear in mind for possible fine spells are July 5th, July 12th-15th, July 22nd, August 4th and August 20th.


* Taking into account the fact that temperatures in London are up to 1C warmer than they were 100 years ago I have added 1C to mean temperatures before 1915.

** Obviously, in the event of a series of direct hits from thunderstorms, my rainfall estimate could be hopelessly short – a symptom of abundant solar energy at this time of year which creates a ‘noisy’ atmosphere compared with winter.

*** The 1981-2010 average mean for summer in this region is 17.6C, with 144.9mm of rain and 564 hours of sunshine