Weather news

Exploring climate science

The Science Museum in London has opened a brand new gallery entitled ‘Atmosphere: exploring climate science’. The gallery's aim is to improve visitors' knowledge of the weather and our climate, and to do it in a hands-on, enjoyable and engaging way. Displays have been developed in conjunction with leading climate scientists who have provided the latest research and thinking on how the Earth's climate is changing, what is causing the changes and the impacts on our planet, people and wildlife. It also explains how this information is used by bodies such as the IPCC, governments and businesses to plan for the future. This comes as the WMO reports that the main greenhouse gases have reached their highest levels since pre-industrial times, with 2001–2010 the warmest 10-year period on record.

The Science Museum, and the gallery, is free to enter and more details can be found on their website:

2010 North Atlantic hurricane season

As forecasters had predicted, the 2010 North Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record: there was a total of 19 named tropical storms, including 12 hurricanes of which 5 were categorized as ‘major hurricanes’ with sustained winds of more than 111mph. However most of the storms stayed out over the ocean, leading Jack Hayes, director of the US National Weather Service, to comment: For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant.

Accumulated cyclone energy is an index measure of the collective intensity and duration of all the tropical storms over the season: the 2010 figure was 170, the joint second highest since 1944.

Landmark anniversary of storm warnings

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the first storm warnings to be issued to the maritime community by the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade. In October 1859 a violent storm led to the loss of the ship the Royal Charter, along with 459 lives. The tragedy spurred Admiral Robert FitzRoy to establish a network of 15 coastal stations around the UK. This was the birth of the much-loved shipping forecast, with the first shipping warning issued on 6 February 1861; the service was extended to the first weather forecasts for the general public on 1 August 1861. (Information supplied by Malcolm Walker.)

Winter 2010/2011

The last few weeks of 2010 reminded us that we can still experience the effects of severe winter weather – some of the most severe to affect the UK in living memory – despite the warming trend in the global climate. Amongst the worst impacts was the prolonged loss of water supplies across parts of Northern Ireland into the New Year as frozen pipes burst on thawing. In addition, there was disruption at many of the UK's airports, causing delays and cancellations to the Christmas get-away. Gatwick airport reported clearing over a hundred thousand tonnes of snow in one 24-hour period. Motorists also suffered as compacted snow and icy roads across the country made conditions treacherous for days on end. On 9 December, with surface and ground temperatures below freezing, milder air moving across central and northern regions led to rain freezing as it came into contact with the ground surface, causing sheet ice. More generally, icy pavements and footpaths prevented many elderly and disabled people from leaving the house for lengthy periods, whilst the dangerous driving conditions had knock-on effects on Christmas deliveries, with many delivery dates being missed as couriers were unable to reach parts of the country. This had similar effects on services such as bin collections with some towns and cities not having any collections for four weeks or more.

In contrast, some were less unhappy as many schools closed early for the Christmas period, giving children the opportunity of an extended holiday and the chance to enjoy the snow. Other ‘benefits’ were the relatively sunny conditions (in some parts of the country), a white Christmas (at least on the ground), some beautifully picturesque scenes and great opportunities for photography.

One other unusual phenomenon relates to the dense freezing fog patches that developed under clear skies with light winds. These conditions would not normally be associated with precipitation, but light snow was reported in various districts. For example, on 6 December, satellite images confirmed a lack of cloud, but with a layer of fog over central and southern England. A radiosonde ascent from Larkhill showed a freezing fog layer up to 184 metres. This fog layer was deep enough to generate precipitation that fell as snow, giving a light covering on the ground. (Information on ‘fogsnow’ supplied by Curtis Wood.)

Floods in Australia

In early December heavy rain affected areas of New South Wales, resulting in flooding. A broad trough stretching across the continent from northern Western Australia to the east coast near Sydney moved slowly east and triggered a series of thunderstorms. Several people died and many others were made homeless as the Queanbeyan River rose 8.4 metres after 103 millimetres of rain fell during one night. By 13 December there had been almost two weeks of continuous rain, with further thunderstorms following, and natural disaster zones were declared. The contrast to this was that, on the other side of the Tasman Sea, New Zealand suffered prolonged drought conditions. (Information supplied by Brian Giles, who writes on page 55 about the Queensland floods.)

Wiley Online Library

Wiley Online Library now includes the option for authors to receive an alert when an article is cited, using CrossRef Cited-by Linking data which includes citations from over 200 publishers. This allows researchers to keep up-to-date on the latest developments with their research or find out when their own articles are cited. When viewing an article, readers will see the new ‘Get Citation Alerts’ option in the Article Tools menu. If they choose this option they will receive an email alert whenever that article is cited somewhere. To use this option you must be a registered user and logged in.