2018 Rainfall Observer Newsletter

Welcome to the 2018 Newsletter

Dear Rainfall Observer,  

Thank you for your dedication and service during 2018. As always, we are extremely grateful for the data you provide, for the effort you make and the commitment to supplying quality readings on a regular basis.

We hope you find the content of this newsletter interesting. There are plenty of details and statistics in the articles which follow, many of which are dependent on your high quality observations. 2018 has certainly sent some interesting weather our way – from early storms to heavy snow after which we seemed to switch almost immediately from winter to summer and were enjoying more than our usual share of dry, sunny and warm days for much of May, Jun and July. The year so far seems to be ending on a more typical note however. It’s your data that allows us to put weather into context and to preserve the nation’s memory of the weather.

What will 2019 have in store for us-only time will tell!

We would like to take the opportunity to send compliments of the season and to wish you all the very best for 2019.

From SEPA and the Met Office

Met Office Staff News

Hello and greetings from the North of Scotland.  Some of you will know Andy Moffat who was based at Lossiemouth and looked after site management and inspections in the North of Scotland for many years.  Andy retired earlier this year and I have taken over.  My name is Simon Thompson and I’ve been in the Met Office since 1979.  I have mostly served as an Observer in a variety of stations in the UK and abroad, latterly I had been working with the Met Engineers here at Lossiemouth and I’m now the Regional Network Manager North joining Ian Dawson the RNM South.  I stood in for Andy on occasion so some of you may know me already but I’m very much looking forward to getting out and about and meeting you.  Simon Thompson Regional Network Manager North Scotland

Celebrating dedication and commitment

Long service awards have been presented in 2018 to six rainfall observers who have been recording data for over 30 years.

The long service observers we want to thank for their dedication and commitment are:

Leslie Milne from Tullynessle, Aberdeen – started in 1966 – 52 years of service;John Anderson from Meikle Tombane  – started in 1985 – 33 years of service;Stuart Smith of Bankfoot in Perth – started in 1985 – 33 years of service;John MacArthur of that Ilk from Castle Kennedy, Dumfries – started in 1986 – 32 years of service;Mike Chalton from Saughall – started in 1987 – 31 years of service;Mr and Mrs Rattray of Deskry Shiel, Aberdeen – started in 1988 – 30 years of service.

They have been presented with a portable sundial, sponsored by the Met Office.

We asked Mike Chalton (pictured receiving his award from SEPA Area Hydrologist – Eddie Jow) to share some of this thoughts and experiences of being a rainfall observer

Why did you start rainfall observing?

While in temporary lodgings after moving up to Scotland, I noticed the chap next door was taking rainfall and weather readings every morning. After chatting to him, I thought that would be something worthwhile I could do.

What has kept you observing all these years?

The fact that weather and rainfall records become more valuable and interesting the longer you keep doing it.

What aspects do you find interesting?

A personal goal to take readings as accurately as possible.

Would you recommend rainfall observing to others?

Yes!! It takes only a few minutes of your day, and is most rewarding.  

Are there any particular rainfall events that stand out as unusual or do you have any interesting stories from your years observing rainfall?

A day earlier this year when I had to poke around with a stick to locate the rain gauge in very deep snow! Then to carefully carry in the ‘ice cream cornet’ indoors for melting and measuring.

If you have been observing for over 30 years and have not received an award, please contact Grant Kennedy (telephone) 01698 839 359 (email) grant.kennedy@sepa.org.uk

Other Rainfall Observer News

Retired – Betty Boyd rainfall observer at Ardgour Clovoulin, on the western side of the Corran ferry south of Fort William Before her, her Father and Grandfather took the readings.  The gauge itself has removed from the big house to Mrs Boyds garden and has recently moved again to her son-in-law who lives next door, the 4th generation observer from the family. Records first began in the 1890s . 

Deceased – Major General Sir John Swinton, rainfall observer at Kimmerghame House in Berwickshire, died in October after many years providing valuable data. Fortunately the family will be continuing to undertake observations for us from this site which first opened in 1959.  (One famous member being Tilda Swinton)

Retired – William Fairbairn, Met Office observer at Leadhills in the Southern Uplands, has taken retirement after over thirty years providing valuable data for us. Temperature and rainfall readings from Scotland’s highest village are naturally of great importance, so it’s reassuring to know that two village volunteers have taken over his duties.

The use and importance of rainfall observations

Recording rainfall is crucial to a number of national services, including weather and flood forecasting. Each individual gauge contributes to a network of gauges that attempts to capture rainfall distribution. SEPA currently manages around 400 rain gauge sites around Scotland, of which 120 are public observers.

Grant Kennedy, Hydrometric Specialist in SEPA says “as well as informing the management of Scotland’s water resource and helping protect the water environment, the observations helps understand and prepare for the impacts of Scotland’s changing climate

View the Met Office rainfall distribution maps to see the data in action at www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/anomacts

Source – Met Office www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/anomacts

Storm Names 2018/19

This is the fourth year the Met Office and Met Éireann (the meteorological service in the Irish Republic) have jointly run the ‘Name our Storms’ scheme, aimed at raising awareness of severe weather before it hits. 

This season’s names have once again been compiled from a list of suggestions submitted by the public, choosing some of the most popular names but also selecting names that reflect the nations, culture and diversity of Britain and Ireland.  As in previous years, Q, U, X, Y and Z will not be used, to comply with the international storm naming conventions. 

When is a storm named? 

A storm will be named on the basis of ‘medium’ or ‘high’ potential impacts from wind but also include the potential impacts of rain and snow, i.e. storms will be named for weather systems which we expect an Amber or Red warning will eventually be issued by Met Éireann and/or the Met Office’s National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS).

Met Office Weather Warnings – Next Generation

Strong winds and heavy rain from storms Ali and Bronagh

Storm Ali brought very strong winds and heavy rain to Scotland and Northern Ireland on 19 September 2018. Storm Bronagh brought further strong winds and very heavy rain across England and Wales overnight 20 to 21 September. The storms tracked rapidly eastward across the UK, driven by a powerful Atlantic jet stream, and continued to deepen as they moved into the North Sea. Storm Ali brought widespread gusts in excess of 60 Kt (69mph) across the north of the UK, making this one of the most notable storms at this time of year in recent decades. Storm Bronagh brought some very wet weather with well over 50mm of rain recorded across upland areas of Wales and the south Pennines. The storms marked an emphatic transition from the fine summer of 2018 to autumn.

Storm Ali caused extensive power outages and travel disruption in Northern Ireland and Scotland, including the closure of exposed bridges. There were rail cancellations due to fallen trees on the line. Thousands of homes and businesses in Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England experienced power outages. There was also damage to buildings and vehicles alongside many fallen trees across the northwest of the UK. Unfortunately, two people lost their lives as a result of the storm, in County Armagh and County Galway (Irish Republic). Five hundred cruise passengers and crew were stranded in Greenock after severe weather broke their ship’s mooring lines.

Storm Bronagh brought further travel disruption and localised flooding in the Sheffield area and mid-Wales. Ferry services from Holyhead to Dublin and some flights from Cardiff Airport were cancelled, while debris and fallen trees blocked some roads and railway lines. The following links from BBC news provide some indication of impacts experienced through this period.

Deep areas of low pressure are to be expected at this time of year, for example storm Aileen brought strong winds to southern England and Wales on 12 to 13 September 2017. However, the strongest autumnal Atlantic storms tend to be later in autumn – more typically October than September. Storm Ali was a particularly powerful storm in terms of the number of stations in the observing network which recorded gusts in excess of 60 Kt (69 mph). The figure below provides a count of the number of stations in the wind network which recorded gusts >= 60 Kt for a) Scotland and b) UK

In terms of the area affected by gusts exceeding this threshold, this was one of the most notable storms to affect the UK in recent decades. (However, other storms, while less extensive, may have been much more severe – such as 16 October 1987). One of the most notable autumn storms of recent decades was 27 October 2002, while ex-hurricane Ophelia on 16 October 2017 also brought some very strong winds to western parts of the UK and Ireland

Strong winds and heavy rain from storm Callum

Storm Callum was the third named storm of the 2018/19 winter season, bringing strong winds and heavy rain to western areas of the UK on 11 to 12 October 2018. Persistent heavy rain continued to fall across western upland areas into the 13th from a weather front associated with the storm. The wettest area was south Wales, with much of the Brecon Beacons National Park recording 100 to 150mm of rainfall over a 2-day period, and up to 200mm across the higher ground. This was one of the most significant extreme rainfall and flood events to affect south Wales in the last 50 years. The frontal system also led to a dramatic temperature contrast of more than 10 °C and unseasonably high temperatures across parts of eastern England.

Storm Callum brought widespread travel disruption from strong winds and flooding. Large waves battered exposed coastlines in the south and west. Power cuts affected thousands of homes and there were flight cancellations, travel disruption on roads and rail cancellations due to landslips. The most severe impacts were across south Wales. Homes and businesses were flooded in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Powys. Rail services were delayed or cancelled across Wales, south-west England and between Preston and Scotland.

The map above provides rainfall totals for the 4 days of 11 to 14 October 2018 from this event. Western parts of the UK received well over 50mm – in particular across upland areas with 100 to 150mm or more across the higher ground of Wales and the Lake District.

The frontal system associated with storm Callum which brought the extreme rainfall was also responsible for some very large temperature contrasts across the UK. On 13 October, daily maximum temperatures across Norfolk and Lincolnshire widely exceeded 25 °C, compared to less than 10 °C across Scotland’s central highlands. Temperatures subsequently fell by around 10 to 15 °C the following day as the front moved eastwards – although parts of Kent still exceeded 20 °C. In terms of historical context, 11 to 12 October 2018 was one of the most notable extreme rainfall / flood events across south Wales in the last 50 years.

Learn About the Weather

Blending the public’s interest in weather and climate with the learning resources of the Met Office has led to an exciting, new course for the general public; Learn About Weather.

Learn About Weather launched last year, attracting over 10,000 people with an interactive, four-week online course, free at the point of use for the general public.

Met Office Senior Operational Meteorologist and Learning Consultant, Helen Roberts said: “The course provides accessible education on weather and climate, and requires no prior knowledge, just a curiosity about the weather.”

We worked with the University of Exeter and Royal Meteorological Society to develop the course, the Royal Horticultural Society on some of the gardening focused learning, and the Royal Photographic Society for some of the photography content.

Running over four weeks, the course involves just a few hours of learning each week. Weeks one to three cover the basics of weather, before moving on to synoptic charts, air masses, fronts, wind and clouds. Week four focuses on leisure activities that are affected by the weather. This involves putting knowledge into practice, with specialist advice for gardeners, photographers and walkers. There’s something in there for everyone, so why not sign up yourself?

Are you a gardener? Alongside the Royal Horticultural Society, we’ll be offering expert advice on how to make the most of the weather, ways to garden in an environmentally friendly way and how you can adapt your garden to the changing climate.

Perhaps you’re a photographer? The weather can have big impacts on outdoor photography, and along with experts at the Royal Photographic Society, we can help you understand the weather and how it might impact your photographs.

Maybe you’re a walker? Being out in all weathers is part of the fun, but we’ll make sure you understand the dangers and implications of hazardous weather, and find out how to make the best of the weather forecast.

The course starts on 4th March 2019, but you can find out more and sign up now. It’s free, and no prior knowledge is required.

To sign up or see more information on the course visit www.futurelearn.com/courses/learn-about-weather.On Twitter use the hashtag #FLLearnAboutWeather

Clouds- Wordsearch

Clouds are continually changing and appear in an infinite variety of forms. The classification of clouds is based on a book written by Luke Howard, a London pharmacist and amateur meteorologist, in 1803. His book, The Modifications of Clouds, named the various cloud structures he had studied. Can you find the following words in the grid below?











Cirrocumulus Cumulonimbus

For further info on cloud types see https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/clouds/cloud-names-classifications

The Met Office publication Barometer is available online https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/barometer/

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