Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What is happening to the weather???

Clouds at Crinan, Argyll, December 2012

The news about weather continues to confuse us. 2012 was one of the wettest years in the UK, 2013 will be one of the warmest years globally, yet the years from 2013 to 2017 will not be any warmer, and we are in the middle of the coldest winter for years.  All of these stories have appeared recently so what is really going on?   Let’s look at each in a little more detail. 
Wet, Wet, Wet
2012 was one of the wettest years recorded in the UK – unless you were lucky enough to live in the western isles.  The figures from the Met Office can be found here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2013/2012-weather-statistics
This shows that 2012 was the second wettest year in the UK national record dating back to 1910, and just a few millimetres short of the record set in 2000. All parts of the UK experienced above average rainfall, with the exception of northern Scotland, which received only 93% of the average.

What About 2013?
According to the Met Office it is very likely that 2013 will be one of the warmest years in the record, and it is likely to be warmer than 2012.  2013 is expected to be between 0.43 °C and 0.71 °C warmer than the long-term (1961-1990) global average of 14.0 °C, with a best estimate of around 0.57 °C.  For the details see:  http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2012/2013-global-forecast .  However before we all head for the beach it must be remembered this is a global forecast and temperatures in Scotland will not necessarily follow the global projection.

And For the Remainder of the Decade?
The Met Office publishes decadal forecasts , available here: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/seasonal-to-decadal/long-range/decadal-fc
Global average temperature is expected to remain between 0.28 °C and 0.59 °C above the long-term (1971-2000) average during the period 2013-2017, with values most likely to be about 0.43 °C higher than average.  The forecast of continued global warming is largely driven by increasing levels of greenhouse gases.  This 2012 decadal forecast attracted attention in the news because it shows a down turn in temperatures  toward the end of the decade.  This need not surprise us as temperatures will continue to go up and down from year to year, but the long term trend over the century is higher global average temperatures.  

So what about climate change?
This brings us to the big story: that despite the day to day, month to month and year to year variation the long term trend for the rest of the century is clear: climate change is happening and it will lead to profound and disturbing changes.  If you have any doubts just click here:  http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change/guide

But The Daily Express says!
“COLDEST WINTER IN 100 YEARS ON WAY.  A severe bout of cold weather looks to be heading Britain's way . Britain will grind to a halt within weeks as the most savage freeze for a century begins.” (Tuesday November 27, 2012)
Winter has a long way to go and the weather forecast for the remainder of January 2013 is looking colder so you have been warned!

By Adrian Shaw
8th January 2013.

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