bike in snow

Demanding days

1 July 2010

All in all, 2010 was a busy one. With a quick glance back at the year's weather and environmental events, you can see we've been critical to keeping the UK informed. Confronted with snow, gales, heavy rain, floods and international disasters - the UK has kept calm and carried on.

While the environment has placed differing demands on all of us, our early warnings have contributed to saving lives and property. Here's a round-up of how we were involved in some of the most important weather and environmental events of the past twelve months.

"The Met Office had predicted when the snow was coming. Therefore, there was a window of opportunity for getting gritters out on the roads." Edmund King, President of The AA

In our own backyard

Coldest winter for decades

This winter we experienced the most severe weather we've had in the UK for over 30 years - the coldest since 1978/79. Since mid-December cold weather dominated much of the country, with snow and very low temperatures.

The mean UK temperature over the entire winter was 1.5 °C, the lowest since 1978/79 when it was 1.2 °C.

From tip to toe of the UK, travel was disrupted, flights were cancelled and schools closed. Despite the challenges, our forecasters accurately predicted the wintry weather before it arrived. We had around 100 million hits on our website during the cold spell, with 15 million hits during the snow on 5/6 January when up to 40 cm of snow fell in places.

Through the season, the accuracy of our forecasts and warnings was widely acknowledged as we helped the emergency services, our customers and the public to cope with the adverse conditions.

Extensive flooding

Rising to the challenge of the wettest November in the UK involved strong teamwork and consistent messages from the Flood Forecasting Centre (FFC) - a partnership between the Met Office and the Environment Agency.

In Cumbria, over 1,300 homes were affected and many more were left without power and water. There was severe travel disruption - several bridges collapsed and others were closed. Cockermouth was the worst affected town where water levels reached 2.5m. There was also flooding in Scotland with some property flooded and travel disruption in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. There was also some flooding and travel disruption in parts of north Wales.

cumbria flood

It was a real highlight that the FFC's joined-up approach was so successful. Rainfall estimates from our forecasters and interpretations of impact and early warnings from the FFC helped emergency responders to save lives and property. To find out more about how the FFC has improved flood forecasting guidance and alerts see pages 21-22.

"We are delighted to support the invaluable work that the Met Office performs. The extreme weather events we now experience and the very real threat of rapid climate change make the work provided by the Met Office invaluable and vital to the UK and the rest of the world. The Flood Forecasting Centre performed to an exceptionally high standard in its prediction and response to the recent events in Cumbria. Without its sterling work, the situation in Cumbria could have been a great deal more traumatic for all involved."

The then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Right Honourable Hilary Benn MP, December 2009

Severe weather in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Snow, gales and heavy rain hit Scotland and Northern Ireland in March, causing transport and power problems. Rail services were disrupted, ferry crossings between Scotland and Northern Ireland were cancelled and Belfast International Airport was closed for a few hours. Snow, ice and strong winds led to accidents including a bus crash in South Lanarkshire that sadly resulted in the death of a 17-year-old girl.

Our Public Weather Service Advisors were in close contact with emergency responders and we kept the Scottish and Northern Ireland government departments and the Cabinet Office briefed throughout. We issued Emergency Flash Warnings for Scotland and Northern Ireland. As the highest level of warning for severe weather these are issued rarely. They were also issued for the Cumbrian floods in November and the unusually heavy snow in January.

Global support

Haiti earthquake

Internationally, we were able to help in the response to the earthquake in Haiti, providing daily forecasts to UK non-governmental organisations working in the worst hit areas.

Flash floods in Madeira

We were proud to offer support to the Portuguese weather service after the island of Madeira suffered flash floods on 20 February.

Volcanic ash from Iceland

To top it off, it was an eventful week or so in April while we monitored the spread of ash from the eruption of the volcano in Iceland.

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In brief