Skip to content

Met Office Warn Cold Weather Could Return In February

December 26, 2015

By Paul Homewood 


The Met Office 3-month outlooks more often than not tend to be pretty bland affairs, as of course our weather is most of the time. One of my criticisms in the past has been that they usually fail to spot the more extreme events that come our way, such as the wet winter of 2013/14, the wet summer of 2012 and the snow in December 2010.


They have just issued the latest outlooks, and for a change have stuck their necks out, with a warning of much colder weather in Feb/March.




A strong, mature El Niño event continues in the tropical Pacific Ocean and is currently at its peak. This El Niño is comparable in strength to the 1997-98 and 1982-83 events and is highly likely to rank among the strongest on record.

El Niño is already creating wide-ranging weather impacts across the globe. The influence on UK weather, however, is more subtle. El Niño moderately increases the probability of the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in early winter. At this time of year, the positive phase of the NAO is associated with milder- and wetter-than-average conditions, whilst the negative phase is associated with colder- and drier-than-average conditions. In late winter El Niño increases the probability of sudden stratospheric warming events occurring. These events disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex and, more often than not, bring cold weather to the UK.

The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO), an oscillation of the equatorial winds in the stratosphere, remains in a strong westerly phase. The QBO influences winter conditions over Western Europe by modulating the strength of the stratospheric polar vortex and thereby the phase of the NAO at the surface. The westerly phase of the QBO tends to favour a stronger stratospheric polar vortex, leading to a higher likelihood of a positive phase of the NAO. This effect is primarily seen in the early winter but its influence will gradually diminish during this outlook period.

During January, the factors described above suggest a continuing likelihood of positive NAO. This has consistent support from predictions by the Met Office seasonal prediction system along with systems from other global forecast centres. The left-hand graph in figure T2 shows a clear shift towards milder conditions. Although milder than average conditions are expected overall, this does not preclude temporary incursions of colder weather. At the start of the 3-month period, milder-than-average conditions are more likely than colder-than-average. However later in the period, particularly from February onwards several seasonal forecasting systems, including the Met Office system, are in good agreement in suggesting a shift towards more blocked weather patterns; these patterns increase the chance of cold northerly or easterly winds affecting the UK.



Watch this space!

  1. December 26, 2015 11:35 am

    When one factors in the quiet sun with the El Nino it fits with this scenario:

    We currently have a global battle between warm air from El Nino pushing poleward and colder polar air caused by the quiet sun pushing equatorward.

    The result is wildly oscillating jet stream tracks, increased global cloudiness, less solar energy entering the oceans and, eventually, cooling global temperatures.

  2. roy andrews permalink
    December 26, 2015 11:39 am

    To be fair to the Met. Office, by the laws of averages they’re sure to get it right sooner or later. Though i have to confess to feeling a warm glow when they don’t! Happy New Year all.

  3. December 26, 2015 11:41 am

    This is little better than the idle speculation of people down the pub, dressed up in pseudo scientific language.

    “It’s been mild so far but the law of averages, (which doesn’t exist) would suggest that it’s bound to get colder.”

    Why don’t they admit that they can’t forecast (to any degree of accuracy) more than two weeks ahead.

  4. December 26, 2015 11:48 am

    So: 20-25% probability it will be in the coldest of five categories.
    And: 20% probability it will be in the warmest of five categories.

    Probability of each of the five categories is 100/5 = 20%.

    Are they really sticking their necks out?

  5. MJB permalink
    December 26, 2015 1:07 pm

    Joe Bastardi back in September:

    The coming El Nino will be cold relative to 1997-98.

    El Nino Decembers are typically warm.
    The winter in Jan-March in the southern half of the US will be brutal.

  6. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 27, 2015 10:46 am

    This is the long range forecast that I use. It has been reasonably accurate in my experience.;sess= Have a look too at their jet stream forecast which is a useful tool.

  7. December 27, 2015 7:45 pm

    According to the UK Met Office and to Mr. Adam Scaife, the exceptional warmth, in December, in Britain and Northern continental Europe is linked to the strongest El Niño ever recorded, causing unusual weather from Britain to Australia. What Mr Adam Scaife does not tell us, how a warm-water –section in the Pacific can warm the water around Europe from Gibraltar to Svalbard/Spitsbergen? Without mentioning a correlation between warm air temperature and the warm seas in Europe is of little help. Not even mentioning the sea water conditions is weak science, and not worth to be taken serious:

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: