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A wet and dull April

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It will be no surprise for many to hear that April 2024 has been a wet month. In what has felt like an unsettled spring so far, the UK has had its sixth wettest April since the series began in 1836, according to provisional statistics from the Met Office.  

Sunshine has been in short supply, with the UK provisionally recording just 79% of its long-term average for the month.

Wetter than average

The UK experienced 55% more rainfall than an average April, with 111.4mm falling across the month, making it the sixth wettest April in the series and the wettest April since 2012.

Many areas recorded more than their long-term average monthly rainfall, with Scotland experiencing its fourth wettest April in a series which started in 1836. It saw 148.9mm of rainfall across the month – more than 60% of its average and the wettest April since 1947.

Some places in Scotland saw more than double their average rainfall for the month. Edinburgh in particular saw very large rainfall totals, receiving 239% of its average April rainfall, which is its second wettest on record, falling only behind totals in 2000. East and West Lothian, Aberdeen, Clackmannan, Berwickshire and Cumbria, among others, also recorded more than double their average rainfall in the month. A rain-gauge at Honister Pass in the English Lake District recorded more than 400mm of rain.

Met Office Scientist Emily Carlisle said: “April has been a continuation of the past few months: often wet, windy and unsettled. April showers were present from the beginning of the month, with frontal systems bringing persistent precipitation across the UK. Although a high-pressure system moved over the UK on the 20th bringing some drier weather, by the end of the month, low pressure was back in charge, bringing with it more rain.”

Temperatures around average

April was a month of two halves when it comes to temperatures. The month started off warm, particularly along the southeast coast of England. Writtle in Essex recorded 21.8°C, making it the hottest day of 2024 so far in the UK.

Temperatures then dropped, remaining slightly below average for most of the last two weeks of April. This balanced out the warmer temperatures at the start of the month and resulted in a provisional average mean temperature of 8.3°C for the UK, only 0.4°C higher above the 1991-2020 long-term average.

Cloudy conditions often resulted in overnight temperatures being held up, with the average minimum temperature being above average (+0.8°C).

A dull month

Along with being a wet month, April has also been a dull month. The UK provisionally recorded 79% of the long-term average sunshine duration, with 122.9 hours.

One named storm

April saw Storm Kathleen arrive on the 6th, bringing heavy rain to Scotland, Wales, parts of Northern Ireland and the west coast of England. Kathleen also brought strong winds across the UK, with gales along coasts, particularly in the north and west of the UK. Kathleen was the eleventh named storm of the 2023/24 season. This is only the second time that the Met Office has reached the letter K since they began naming storms in 2015.

Spring so far…

Meteorological spring (March to May) so far has been wet. Both England and Wales have already seen more than their long-term average rainfall for the entirety of the season, while the UK has seen 96%. At this point in the season, we’d expect to see 66% of average.

Provisional April 2024 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK  8.3 0.4   122.9 79  111.4 155
England  9.3 0.6   127.0 78 85.5 152
Wales  8.5 0.4  113.3 72 135.8 154
Scotland  6.6 0.0  119.2 84 148.9 160
N Ireland  8.3 0.3  118.4 80 104.6 141



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Sea ice loss remains a serious issue

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The Met Office has just published its latest briefing on Arctic and Antarctic sea ice.

The update doesn’t reveal any record-breaking figures, but it does reveal that sea ice loss remains a serious issue.

A view of Antarctica showing patches of sea ice, ice bergs and the Antarctic continent's mountains in the distance.

Alex West who co-ordinates the sea ice briefings said: “After last year’s record-breaking minimum extent of sea ice in the Antarctic, the latest update shows greater sea ice extent than last year, but it is still the second lowest on record for the time of year.

Following a warm June, Arctic sea ice extent is below average for the time of year but some way above record low levels, with conditions fairly typical of recent years.

“Extent is particularly low in the Laptev Sea and in the Atlantic sector, but nearer average in other parts of the Arctic.

“This year’s September Arctic sea ice extent is likely to be well below average, but there are not yet heightened indications of a new record low.”

See here for the full briefing.

Arctic insights

The Advancing Arctic Capabilities programme – a new project led by the Met Office -brings international partners to develop an improved understanding of what is happening to the region’s ice, ocean and atmosphere to support global climate resilience.

The project will deliver cutting-edge insights into Arctic weather patterns and ocean currents.



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What has been driving Hurricane Beryl?

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Hurricane Beryl, which has been tearing through the Caribbean, has been hitting the headlines for several reasons.

Firstly, there is the undeniable fact that during her existence as a Category 4 and 5 hurricane Beryl caused much damage and loss of life across several nations and territories, including Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica and the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands.

Hurricane Beryl crossing Jamaica in early July 2024 as visualised by the Met Office computer model.

Satellite image of Hurricane Beryl crossing Jamaica in early July 2024

Secondly, Beryl has become infamous for being the earliest Category 5 hurricane in the historical record in the Atlantic Basin. Category 5 is the highest ranking for hurricanes requiring sustained wind speeds of at least 157 mph. Hurricane Beryl’s wind actually peaked at 165 mph on 2 July. The earliest date in the year any previous Atlantic hurricane had achieved winds of this strength was a full month later on 5 August.

Active hurricane season

Julian Heming is a Met Office tropical cyclone expert who has been studying these systems for many years. He said: “In the second half of May several prediction centres, including the Met Office, forecast an active Atlantic hurricane season with between 150% and 200% of usual activity.

“These Atlantic seasonal forecasts have been influenced by the development of cooler waters in the equatorial eastern Pacific in recent months – in line with the anticipated La Niña or cooler phase of the naturally-variable El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

“Developing La Niña conditions have a known association with a more active Atlantic hurricane season. So, we know that natural variation in the climate system has a huge observable effect on hurricane activity.

“But this trend towards La Niña favouring hurricane development would not solely explain Hurricane Beryl and the prediction of an active hurricane season.

“Sea temperatures across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea have been well above average since the Spring of 2023 which provides fuel for intense hurricanes like Beryl. There is much meteorologists do not yet understand about how these high sea-surface temperatures have developed and why they have persisted for so long. This is an active area of research.”

“Furthermore, higher sea-surface temperatures in line with a warming climate are expected to favour the development of a greater proportion of intense tropical cyclones in the long term.”

International effort

Will Lang is the Met Office’s head of Situational Awareness. He said: “Met Office forecasts are a crucial part of the international effort to predict Atlantic hurricanes, and our experts work at the heart of UK Government’s international response to damaging hurricanes such as Beryl.”

You can watch an interview about Hurricane Beryl here.



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Green light for space weather forecasting satellite

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The European Space Agency (ESA) today confirmed the contractors for the long-awaited Vigil mission which will transform global space weather forecasting.

The confirmation of the building of the satellite is the next step in the process positioning a satellite with a side-on view of the Sun to provide enhanced space weather forecasting.

The Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre, now celebrating its tenth year in operation, is one of a number of centres that will benefit from the new satellite.

The Vigil mission, as it’s known among space weather scientists, will enhance space weather forecasting capabilities and help provide more notice for potentially impactful space weather events such as coronal mass ejections.

Mark Gibbs, who leads the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC), said: “The Vigil mission represents a step-change in space weather forecasting capability. As well as replacing aging satellites, this mission will help to improve our forecasting capability and deepen our scientific understanding of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that generate geomagnetic storms.”

Confirmation of the contract for the mission, which is being managed by the European Space Agency, represents the next milestone in the process of launching the new satellite by the end of this decade and will revolutionise imagery and data available to space weather forecasts.

Mark continued: “A side-on view of the Sun-Earth line is critical to provide accurate predictions of CME arrival at Earth. We’ll get access to more reliable, more advanced data to initialise models to predict CME arrival and also to monitor their progress as they head towards the Earth. We’ll be continuing to work with ESA to help ensure there’s as much benefit as possible to not just us at MOSWOC, but also to forecasting centres around the world. The Vigil mission will work in tandem with the current and future US missions stationed at L1.”

The news comes after geomagnetic storms two weeks ago brought aurora visibility to much of the UK in what was the strongest event since 2003 to impact Earth. While auroras provide immaculate photos, impactful space weather has the potential to affect everyone and is recognised on the UK’s National Risk Register. The ability to forecast these events can help to mitigate the worst impacts.

Find out more about the contract announcement.

Find out more about the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre.




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