A mountain biker in the Yorkshire Dales in December. The seasonal forecast as revised at the end of the month

A mountain biker in the Yorkshire Dales in December. The seasonal forecast was revised at the end of the month

Britain’s national weather forecasting body today announced it would no longer issue public seasonal predictions and would instead compile monthly forecasts.

The Met Office was criticised for failing to predict the exceptional winter – the coldest in 30 years across Britain – after having promised a barbecue summer that turned into more of a damp squib. The organisation, a Trading Fund of the Ministry of Defence, also produces specialised mountain forecasts for use by hillwalkers and mountaineers.

The Met’s winter forecast was for a mild period. At the end of December, after most of Britain had already encountered a prolonged period of snow and ice, it issued a revised seasonal forecast that said: “For the rest of winter, over northern Europe including the UK, the chance of colder conditions is now 45per cent; there is a 30 per cent chance of average and a 25 per cent chance of milder conditions. In fact, average temperature across the whole of the UK for December and January was just 1.5C. Scotland has had the severest winter since 1963, with a mean temperature in January hovering around the zero mark.

A statement by the Met Office today said: “The UK is one of the hardest places to provide forecasts for because of our size and location. The weather in temperate climates such as the UK is very hard to forecast much beyond a week.

“Of course, by their nature, forecasts become less accurate the further out we look. Although we can identify general patterns of weather, the science does not exist to allow an exact forecast beyond five days, or to absolutely promise a certain type of weather. As a result, ‘seasonal forecasts’ cannot be as precise as our short-term forecasts.

“The Met Office is working hard to develop the science of long range forecasting, including for the UK, and will continue at the forefront of innovation in this area.

“We take seriously our responsibility to provide the best possible service to the public. Although long range forecasts are vital in some parts of the world, and can be useful for some specialists, such as insurers and energy traders, we know that they are of limited use to the public – for example they are not something that could be used to plan a holiday.

“In our customer research the public have told us they would like a monthly outlook. We have therefore decided to stop issuing a UK ‘seasonal forecast’ four times a year. Instead, we will now publish a monthly outlook, updated on a weekly basis.”

Weather forecasts are vital for helping outdoor enthusiasts decide on their plans for activities in the hills, mountains and countryside of the UK.

grough provides links to the Met Office mountain forecasts, the independent Mountain Weather Information Service, to which we also provide a news feed, and to the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service which runs during the winter months and covers five areas of Scotland.

There are also links to the Lake District Weatherline which, in winter, has felltop reports from the service’s two assessors who climb to the summit of Helvellyn each day, and to other weather resources including synoptic surface pressure charts and forecasts for those who can interpret them.

Prospects for the weekend according to the MWIS are good, with two areas of high pressure, one to the West and another to the East, merging to give a few days of prolonged dry, cold weather with periods of sunshine. The Met Office is less enthusiastic, predicting more cloud.

The Lake District is still prone to avalanche, particularly on slopes facing from the North-East through to the South-East after westerlies have deposited loose windslab.

All five Scottish areas have slopes at considerable risk of avalanche tomorrow.

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