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The Met Office - not fit for purpose?

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The Met Office - not fit for purpose?

Old 25th Aug 2009, 21:21
  #61 (permalink)  
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...and why oh why were the fronts removed from the Sig Wx charts, doesn't seem that the user figured in that gem at all
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Old 25th Aug 2009, 21:34
  #62 (permalink)  
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@ Just Wondering : First of all thanks for taking the time to give a detailed description of your thoughts. I read both what you wrote to me and Captain Smithy and I think I can see a good part of your view of things, now.

Please correct me, where I'm wrong in my following hypothesis :

From the whole of what you write I conclude, that you thought of the bad weather area as a more or less homogenuous entity that would move in with lengthy periods of rain, poor visibility and low ceilings in connection with strong winds. Maybe like a warmfront or a weather active warmsector after a warmfront.

With your statements and after having watched the RADAR pictures from the 23rd of the whole of the British Isles ten times or more I get a totally different "greater picture", as you put it.
What you are calling "the storm" was a multitude of smaller and larger rainbands with frequent embedded shower-CBs within a very clear airmass, that all would travel on a northeasterly path from the Irish West Coast over Northern Ireland and then deep into Scotland. They gained and lost intensity in very rapid cycles as dictated by a) available radiation and b) the superimposed complex pattern of secondary troughs (fluctuations in upper winds rapidly changing lifting and instability patterns.)

I disagree with your opinion that most of the bad weather "steamed up the Scottish West Coast" as I couldn't see that on the composite RADAR pictures at all. The rain bands spawned many CBs with strong showers over Ireland, which infallibly lost some power over the stretch of water enroute to Scotland, which might be the reason, why the forecasters wrote rain in the TAFs and not rain showers.

Nevertheless it was a convective weather pattern and the lateral structure of the precipitation area was as complex as the blossom of a rose and as predictable as the trajectory of a falling feather, while I suppose you thought of the "weather area" as a rigid structure like a brick, with a similarly predictable trajectory. While it is easy to forecast the flight path of a brick after its launch - e.g. you can catch it - what you are demanding is like a forecast of the shape of the rose blossom, while we are still looking at its bud.

To illuminate what I just said I will show some METARs from Belfast, as you gave me a very valuable hint by mentioning RVRs.

Belfast had basically the same weather as Glasgow that day. But, inland the shower-CBs could pick up a lot more energy from surface warming than their wrecks which stranded every now and then in Glasgow. Just one of the CBs made a direct hit in Belfast and you can see the result here:

SA 23/08/2009 17:20-> METAR EGAA 231720Z 18010KT 150V220 9999 FEW018 SCT039 17/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 16:50-> METAR EGAA 231650Z 19011KT 9999 FEW013 SCT016 18/16 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 16:20-> METAR EGAA 231620Z 18009KT 140V220 8000 SCT015 17/16 Q1001=
SA 23/08/2009 15:50-> METAR EGAA 231550Z 17012KT 8000 SHRA SCT019CB 17/16 Q1001=
SA 23/08/2009 15:20-> METAR EGAA 231520Z 21006KT 170V230 6000 VCSH SCT016CB 16/16 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 14:50-> METAR EGAA 231450Z 20009KT 8000 VCSH FEW007 SCT015CB 15/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 14:20-> METAR EGAA 231420Z 23018KT 1500 R25/0600 R07/P1500 +SHRA BKN010CB 16/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 13:50-> METAR EGAA 231350Z 17015G27KT 140V200 9000 -RA BKN019 18/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 13:20-> METAR EGAA 231320Z 16016KT 130V190 9999 BKN026 18/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 12:50-> METAR EGAA 231250Z 16015G27KT 9999 -SHRA SCT017 18/15 Q1002=
SA 23/08/2009 12:20-> METAR EGAA 231220Z 18012KT 140V210 9999 FEW014 BKN017 18/16 Q1002=

It ws just one strong shower out of many others that missed the airfield by a small margin. What the forecaster is scared of, is that you might be caught in weather like that of 14:20z when strong showers are underway. That is why during days with shower activity some harsh minima are included in the TEMPO groups, although the weather may be perfectly flyable for 95 % of the day.

Still it is not state of the art to predict the trajectory and intensity of single convective cells such as those of showers and thunderstorms over an extended period of time, say more of 30 minutes, with reasonable accuracy.

I already wrote a lot, if you are still with me, one more word to TAF interpretation with regard to the wind, that you stressed so highly. TAF compilation is regulated by ICAO Annex 3, as already mentioned in this thread. Annex 3 allows the inclusion of gusts in TAFs only above 25 knots. So, if I think the wind will be 16016G24KT I only write 16016KT, while only 2 measly knots are separating my expectation from the 16016G26KT you are taking offense at. At least during the afternoon I'd be surprised, if gusts hadn't come in the 20 to 23 knots range in Glasgow.

Thanks again for sharing your detailed opinion - it was very insightful for me to see your practical view point and what you expect from a TAF.

I'm sure, in just a few years there will be a lot of competition in European Aviation Meteorology services. So maybe soon you might be able to choose where you get your information from. Additionally modern self briefing providers are giving professional pilots more and more opportunities to browse weather data according to their own demands and skills.
So, if you don't like the MET-office, I see some hope for you.
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Old 25th Aug 2009, 21:47
  #63 (permalink)  
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was an almighty storm the year I was born which Michael Fish told us not to worry about...
Remember it well had to divert from Heathrow that day !
I too remember that day - I was working in Central London that night and the storm happened during the small hours over a period of around 40 minutes. The day before was ok, and the day after was too, except for the fresh to strong winds.

It was well forecast from the Sunday farmers forecast and arrived pretty much as expected. Everyone remembers the Michael Fish 'not a hurricane' speech, but no-one seems to recall his appearance on the Sunday.

Actually, as I write this, it astounds me that they were more accurate with their timing than we are now. They just got the track of the storm slightly wrong.
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Old 25th Aug 2009, 22:42
  #64 (permalink)  
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I use the Met Office 'civvy forecast' a lot.

It amazes me how many times a forecast 2 or 3 days away can be plagues of frogs and bolts of lightning, yet by the time it is within 24 hours away, it is peace calm and fluffy clouds.

I have heard a lot of complaints from event organisers - both aviation and not, complaining that they have had overly pessimistic forecasts result in them cancelling events - very poor

I am now reverting to good old ATPL techniques and looking at the synoptic charts on the Met Office site and doing my own - it is usually better

Here is a prediction - later on Saturday and into Sunday, clearing weather to calmer, pleasant conditions over the south, spreading to the north.

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Old 26th Aug 2009, 04:16
  #65 (permalink)  
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Cool Changing forecasts

A Light one

After 12 Hours across the Pacific, B744 inbound to California's Finest. A couple of hours out the ACARS delivers `Revised forecast'. LAX has gone from from the forecast 8K HZ to being out, in fog, clearance some time away.

Being tired etc, forgot my usual rule of never sending an ACARS without crew consultation and a 30 min. thinking delay. So I sent a reply "Updated Forecast copied. Here is my updated fuel requirement, Please advise coordinates, frequencies, etc for tanker rendevous for airborne refuel'.

We thought it was funny so off it went.

Tea with no biscuits ensued on return to base where the cost of `Frivolous use of the ACARS' was explained to me--particularly as it `Automatically went to many departments other than Flight Ops'. Funnily enough I was told the other departments loved it to lighten a long and difficult night they were having.

Also, as a command trainee, on another flight, complaining bitterly about the difference between the forecast and the actual we were facing, looked across to see the TC with a smile. After confirming that I a few thousand hours, his words, with a sigh, were`And you still believe in forecasts! I 'm not really interested in the quality of the forecast, I'm interested to see how you propose to get us out of this deepening hole!".

Sorry for droning on, but we should keep a certain sense of humour to illuminate the darker days. As someone told me`Aviation is the art of defying gravity, so there surely is a place for a little levity. I'm also recovering from the Valium I had to take on seeing the word `Tephigram' in an earlier post. Some wounds remain unhealed by time!
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 08:43
  #66 (permalink)  
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Fragman88 (what happened to the preceding 87 I wonder) Sorry for jangling your nerves with the word Tephigram, I promise not to mention theta -w's, mintra or drytra......doh, too late.

I'm on my hols in the sunny Baltic at the moment and the weather forescast on Estonia TV is followed immediately by the frigging horoscopes. I take back all I said about the UK telly forecasts. Never mind, it's 8/8 CAVOK and the local time is beer o'clock.

Ref the storm on October 15-16 1987, I was at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF or Early Closing Monday, Wednesday and Fridays as we called it) for a couple of months secondment and those dastardly Frogs were on strike comme toujours. There were no reports out of Biscay hence we didn't see it coming.

The "old lady" mentioned by Michael Fish who called in to warn of a hurricane was ... as rumour has it.... a senior BBC forecaster with the initials BG. He was referring to the remnants of a tropical storm that had the potential to undergo "explosive deepening". Perhaps BG had seen the horoscope on Scanditelly ?
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 10:45
  #67 (permalink)  
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The way I see it, the problem with the MO "civvy" forecast is not that it is inaccurate, rather the problem is it is too simplified. Looking at the synoptic chart on the MO website gives me a much better picture of what the weather is likely to be like. Beeb forecast isn't too bad but still overly simplified. I remember when I was a lad when Messrs Fish, Kettley et al appeared on Telly with the synoptic charts, was useful, especially when I was studying Wx in Geography at high school Forecast on a Sunday evening at the end of Countryfile is still alright however.

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Old 26th Aug 2009, 11:05
  #68 (permalink)  
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When the BBC still used proper weather charts and chaps like Fish and Kettley, they were a 'must see'.

But meeja luvvies wanted something the ignorant unwashed could understand, so in came gushing weather-wenches and that stupid swooping camera thing.

Despite thousands of complaints, it's still rubbish. Although they did condescend to include wind velocity.....
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 11:22
  #69 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by fyrefli View Post
Or use MetCheck Yes, I know you can't use it professionally. Those of us needing accurate local forecasts for recreational purposes though, including planning flying with aircraft whose usable range of weather is very small, highly wind-direction dependent and needing little or no precipitation, generally find it remarkably accurate, up to several days in advance (once one factors in one's own understanding of the general synopsis and wider weather environment).
Funnily enough I've found the Metcheck forecast accuracy to have declined recently. I wonder if they've adopted a new model or data source?
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 11:34
  #70 (permalink)  
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Yup has gone down slightly, but then again the surfs up so maybe the folks are at the beach on lap tops (or board tops)
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 12:14
  #71 (permalink)  
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I have to agree with the moaners, in general.

Although not now connected with aviation, other than my lifetime of experience within it and PPRuNe, the weather the general public gets is absolute rubbish.

One example a while ago, someone rang in to BBC Norwich during the Look East program and said it was snowing. Young lady weatherperson, on air, categorically assured caller it wasn't and indeed could not be snowing. Cue to stick head out of window. I either had the worst ever case of instant dandruff or it was snowing. Rule 1, look out of the window!

Just last week, there was I driving to work when the wx forcast at three mins to eight comes on the Today program. Nice man says words to the effect that East Anglia, especially Norfolk and Suffolk would be nice all day and, indeed, were currently experiencing sunny blue skies. That adequately explained my windscreen wipers needing to be used occassionally and wall to wall grey up above. I refer again to rule 1 (above).

And another thing, where's my barbecue summer?

As a rule, if I want to know what the weather over UK is going to be like, I google the jetstream forcast and see where it's going to be. Top edge south of me wx crap, bottom edge north of me, a good chance of fine wx. Generally works.

Maybe we should just go back to the old "Weather Stone" we had on the 23 Sqn Ops outside windowsill at MPA!!

Doc C

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Old 26th Aug 2009, 12:55
  #72 (permalink)  
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The "Barbeque Summer" statement was, as usual, twisted by the British Media, who took it to mean that all Summer was going to be roasting hot and blazing sunshine for months on end. In reality the actual comment used by the Met was something along the lines of "65% odds on for a barbeque Summer", but the British Media being as they are, stunningly thick and ignorant, as always, took the bits of the quote they liked for their headlines and completely missed out the 65% bit, instead boldly stating in their headlines that the Met Bods were telling us that Summer 2009 for the UK was going to be resembling a Mediterranean Summer.

Then of course when it didn't happen the Radge Right-Wing journos (Mail, Express, Telegraph etc.) got angry and slated the Met. And of course there were the usual accusations from such nutters about "typical state wastage", tax being stolen from the Middle Classes to fund Lefty Loonyism being perpetrated by the Met Office, etc. Ad Nauseum

Put simply, the Barbeque Summer thing was a product of the British Media. Although admittedly the Met perhaps could've worded it slightly less, er, enthusiastically.

Good point about the jetstream though Doc C. And Wx stones are handy for making METARs, but not TAFs

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Old 26th Aug 2009, 17:28
  #73 (permalink)  
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....fit for purpose.....

I see we can now communicate with the Met OFfice by *******!! (that should read t_w_i_t_t_e_r, but the automatic censor clicked in - written by Airbus I suspect) Perhaps more attention to core purpose than window dressing would be a good idea and a better use of funds!!
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Old 26th Aug 2009, 18:45
  #74 (permalink)  
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I fully agree with the thread title. Many years in a fairly Big Airline gave me a good feel for the wx, but one of the best thing ever was the 30 second glimpse of the BBC synoptic chart shown before the news. That told me what I wanted to know, and come the Mr Fish storm, I took 20 tons for my Shuttle flight - much to the indignation of the redcap. Glad I did! Then, when the met office moved to FRA and I went there one afternoon, the upper air temp was something like -72, I forget exactly, but it was on the limit of the aircraft's operating range. Therefore, I took exception to the forecast saying it would be -60 odd. I took the trouble to go in to the brand new multi million pound edifice where some sharp foreign gent told me the temperature was -60. "Ve sent up a wetter balloon over Paris at 6 o'clock zis morning and it said it was -60, so -60 it is." I thanked him for his time, but it does all seem to have slid down hill a bit since the days of station met men.
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 14:12
  #75 (permalink)  
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Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but....

I have been told that the problem was that the old "local" forecaster would quite often issue much better forecasts than his more political orientated master, the area forecaster who earned a lot more money. Under the rules of the Public Service, this was clearly an anathema and had to be expunged.

The remedy was to centralise all forecasts and dumb them down to such an extent that whatever was forecast would cover every eventuallity and at the same time could not be seen as completely "inept". To complete the illusion, no-one was allowed to issue a forecast that varied with his masters' voice.


(PS. My most gracious thanks to the many metmen who have taught me the art and science of the subject and more importantly, have used every skill of their beings in providing me with forecasts that have enabled me to operate safely and successfully during a very long flying career!).
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 15:04
  #76 (permalink)  
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Flexible Response - couldn't agree more..... in an effort to not be wrong they are not getting it right.
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 17:46
  #77 (permalink)  
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Reading all the negative comments on this thread I just can thank heavens that in many years I've only met a few pilots and atc controllers with a "you-are-all-incompetent" approach towards modern aviation meteorologists. Infallibly it was impossible to do it right for those and I think that's the way it will stay.

Giving the forecaster a hard time you will achieve nothing.

To blame modern technology for allegedly poor forecasts is even more wrong. Todays cockpit and ground based weather information systems are such a wonderful resource to gain insight into complex weather patterns we dreamt of only 15 years ago.

I'm convinced that the proper way to go is to cooperate friendly with each other, to train with each other and to listen to each other to learn about the other party's perspective. That means also familiarization flights, sitting at the scope with atc staff and inviting aviation professionals into a MET office or at least meeting with them for discussion.

I'm grateful to the many pilots and atc staff in the past two decades who let me participate in their experience and therefore helped me, to do a better job. In most cases I was able to give them something back in return.
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 19:00
  #78 (permalink)  
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In case there's still someone on this thread interested in the original and quite interesting weather case presented by Just Wondering in his first post:

This is the sounding taken at Castor Bay in Northern Ireland, about 160 km or 100 miles upstream from Glasgow. I think it was fairly representative also for Glasgow that day. 50 knots southwesterly winds were present at 3000 ft amsl and higher, separated from the surface layer only by a weak 1.5 K inversion. Wherever this inversion was erased or weakened, the upper wind would enhance local surface gusts, such as in Glasgow Bishopton, a few miles away from the airport, where gusts above 30 knots were recorded during the afternoon of the 23rd, if I recall correctly.

So the author of the first TAF might be forgiven for including winds that didn't materialize and the author of the second TAF might have been a bit daring to let the gusts out of his forecast. If some chance gust had destroyed a piece of equipment I wouldn't have wanted to hear the comments. Either way as a forecaster you'll be hanged.

You might want to check this map of 850 hpa/5000 ft/1500 m to verify that Glasgow and Castor Bay near Belfast were comparably located with regard to the pressure field at noon that day.

My point being, both TAFs were justifyable and if seen without including the "bigger picture" could have led to a disappointing decision.
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 20:01
  #79 (permalink)  
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From my experienceI'd like to sketch a typical setup, how a pilot might be dissatisfied with MET:

Pilot: "I'll be landing at A tomorrow around sunrise, what do I have to expect ?"

MET: "weak easterly surface winds, a few clouds at 5000 ft amsl and a chance of shallow but dense fog patches that may at times cover parts of the runway system around sunrise. It will be gone in the first few hours of the day."

Pilot: "I can't work with that. I need a precise forecast."

MET : "Fog with 400 m RVR will come at 4 and be gone at 7 am local time."

Fog comes shallow at 2:30, grows 10 m high at 4 in the meadows along the runway, briefly rolls over the concrete with RVR 300 m, weakens to harmless state at 5 while a bank of cloud is hovering over the field and the last remaining fog patches finally dissipate at 6:30, one hour after sunrise.

Pilot lands at 5:30 and calls next day: "I knew you would be wrong, there was absolutely nothing, I could see the field from 30 miles out. You guys really need to get your act together."

(Exchange the fog for a thunderstorm scenario during the hot season )

My point being, with whatever meteorological sources you have, it's much better to evaluate and - if you like - discuss the risks and chances from a healthy mix of raw data and interpreted forecasts and then establish a strategy to cover those risks, rather than insisting on a precise and perfect weather forecast , which for obvious reasons is impossible.
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Old 27th Aug 2009, 20:37
  #80 (permalink)  
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An intrusion but

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Devon | Weather computer is air polluter

a bit ironic!

From another industry - we have problems with inaccurate forecasts as well!
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