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West is Best

The Met Office need to overhaul their Warning system

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I still don't understand why the Peaks, Pennines and Cumbrian fells weren't under a red warning. Gale blowing, powdery snow, huge drifts, very low visibility, blizzard conditions,  severe windchill. I would have thought that warranted it. 

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The key point to this is that Yellow, Amber and Red are ALL warnings of Severe weather.  There is also Green.  They are all impact based. That is key, they don't just relate to amounts of snow or highest winds, they consider location, population, time of day, part of the week, usual and recent conditions.

One issue is that they are seen by the general public but also kick off processes for local councils, emergency services etc. So, issuing a red can not be as a blanket.The NHS England has separated their process into a cold weather health warning, but people were posting that incorrectly and causing confusion. 

To doubt the effort and care put into weather forecasts over this fortnight is insulting.

People who work for the Met Office and other weather companies have worked really hard to get a clear, consistent message out about this upcoming severe winter event. This is what they live for, extreme weather and it is a difficult job, predicting the future. Never mind getting people to listen, properly. And as a forecast event this has been a huge success overall.

In the past, the IMBY voices would have been people moaning at the post office, to colleagues or over the garden fence. Now social media has made that seem different. Some people don't prepare, about anything, they are last minuters and react loudly when things aren't as they assumed. Others do want everything lazily brought to them/given on a plate, or are just selfish. 

What would make it better? 

Clarity about what happens within a red (would that then mean enforcement?)
More information about Yellow/Amber warnings still being important.
Some comeback for ongoing print media scaremongering. 
People listening, thinking and adjusting their plans, 
Realising this is area/regional/ national forecasting. This system may not be perfect but it is simple. What is the answer then?

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22 hours ago, NL said:

I really can't see any problem with the Chief Forecasters assessment in the detail Nick. This is from tonight's yellow warning for Northumberland.

  • Northumberland

Chief Forecaster's assessment

Frequent snow showers are likely to continue feeding in from the North Sea on a very cold easterly wind. Due to the nature of showers, some places are expected to receive an additional 5-10 cm of snow per day, whereas other places nearby may only receive small amounts. Strong winds will lead to severe drifting of lying snow in places, as well as a severe wind chill, although these are expected to begin to ease through Friday night. This is an update to remove much of both southwest Scotland and northeast England where snow showers have largely died out.

This is exactly what occurred here over the last few days, only 5-6 mile North of my location had streamer after streamer for 4-6hrs as here got a few flurries at best..but on other occasions this location fared better than other areas a few mile away..

Damned if they do damned if they don't. Totally agree with you on the lack of understanding that most people have of the dangers traveling in adverse weather. Ive long claimed that common sense should be replaced with un-common sense as there seems to be quite a shortage of it going around..!!

 

That's just one example though, there have been cases where I've disagreed with their analysis but on the whole they've been good through this spell.

The warnings website, however, is terrible. The fact they don't put an issue time on the warnings is really daft.

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22 hours ago, NL said:

I really can't see any problem with the Chief Forecasters assessment in the detail Nick. This is from tonight's yellow warning for Northumberland.

  • Northumberland

Chief Forecaster's assessment

Frequent snow showers are likely to continue feeding in from the North Sea on a very cold easterly wind. Due to the nature of showers, some places are expected to receive an additional 5-10 cm of snow per day, whereas other places nearby may only receive small amounts. Strong winds will lead to severe drifting of lying snow in places, as well as a severe wind chill, although these are expected to begin to ease through Friday night. This is an update to remove much of both southwest Scotland and northeast England where snow showers have largely died out.

This is exactly what occurred here over the last few days, only 5-6 mile North of my location had streamer after streamer for 4-6hrs as here got a few flurries at best..but on other occasions this location fared better than other areas a few mile away..

Damned if they do damned if they don't. Totally agree with you on the lack of understanding that most people have of the dangers traveling in adverse weather. Ive long claimed that common sense should be replaced with un-common sense as there seems to be quite a shortage of it going around..!!

 

That's just one example though, there have been cases where I've disagreed with their analysis but on the whole they've been good through this spell.

The warnings website, however, is terrible. The fact they don't put an issue time on the warnings is really daft.

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I think the current warnings system is ok. Not saying that improvements couldn’t be made but if specific warnings were issued every time the forecast models were showing cold a week away, they would have about as much credibility as the Daily Express and we would soon have ‘the boy who cried wolf’ scenarios all over the place and when a genuine situation occurred most people would ignore them. What I would like to see is some enforcement when amber and red warnings are in place. I don’t quite advocate curfews but what the hell was a coach doing on the A303 and why were trains even trying to run in that area when a red warning had been issued. Better education of how we react to such warnings and improving the public’s understanding of the gravity of them would achieve better outcomes.

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The impact needs reviewing just because only two people live in the hills for example it shouldn't mean theydon't get a warning for severe weather. If there is going to be severe weather a warning should be issued as this may prevent other people entering the area of danger.

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Posted (edited)

The premise of this thread is relevant and does warrant discussion.  

Commenting a bit late in the day, I suppose.

My view, by their own rules the Met Office have in my opinion done nothing wrong and forecast this cold spell accurately  and responsibly throughout. 
The warnings for Friday 2 March started as a yellow warning, but if you look at the warning impact matrix, it was already at highest impact, as the week went on it increased in likelihood but to get to a red warning the Met Office need to be certain, not so much if, but where, and were able to do that on Thursday morning. 
To someone who understands the warning impact matrix that is fine, but I would suspect that most people have no knowledge of this, so it could be communicated better.   


I fully understand this conundrum of what to say when, as the unofficial weather geek at my company, it falls to me to be first with the story, let's face it on here we've known about the fall out from the SSW for ages.  I sent my first email message to colleagues on Mon 19/2/18, taking as cue the Met Office press release, which was largely ignored by the media, including BBC until much later in the week.


The point I'm making is that there are many aspects of the communication of potential weather hazards to the public, and the Met Office is only one element of that, and they do that element well, in my opinion.

Edited by Mike Poole
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On 3/2/2018 at 17:30, Nick L said:

People are just too thick to understand the words "Do not travel unless urgent".

It really is that simple.

It isn't quite that simple.

They also aren't experienced with cold conditions in this country, so it came as a shock.

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On 3/3/2018 at 08:40, Jo Farrow said:

The key point to this is that Yellow, Amber and Red are ALL warnings of Severe weather.  There is also Green.  They are all impact based. That is key, they don't just relate to amounts of snow or highest winds, they consider location, population, time of day, part of the week, usual and recent conditions.

One issue is that they are seen by the general public but also kick off processes for local councils, emergency services etc. So, issuing a red can not be as a blanket.The NHS England has separated their process into a cold weather health warning, but people were posting that incorrectly and causing confusion. 

To doubt the effort and care put into weather forecasts over this fortnight is insulting.

People who work for the Met Office and other weather companies have worked really hard to get a clear, consistent message out about this upcoming severe winter event. This is what they live for, extreme weather and it is a difficult job, predicting the future. Never mind getting people to listen, properly. And as a forecast event this has been a huge success overall.

In the past, the IMBY voices would have been people moaning at the post office, to colleagues or over the garden fence. Now social media has made that seem different. Some people don't prepare, about anything, they are last minuters and react loudly when things aren't as they assumed. Others do want everything lazily brought to them/given on a plate, or are just selfish. 

What would make it better? 

Clarity about what happens within a red (would that then mean enforcement?)
More information about Yellow/Amber warnings still being important.
Some comeback for ongoing print media scaremongering. 
People listening, thinking and adjusting their plans, 
Realising this is area/regional/ national forecasting. This system may not be perfect but it is simple. What is the answer then?

No one doubts the effort etc of the Met O.

I think something along the lines of Serious, Severe, Life-threatening rather than the (meaningless) colour codes would help.

In general, the Met Office should take the rap for over-doing warnings. In other words, better to err on over-warning than under-warning. I agree about the scaremongering amongst the media. The Daily Express is the worst culprit for this.

The timings of the warnings were awful, however. It was blatantly obvious what was coming. Issuing a red warning the morning of the event: at 08.05 is negligent on the part of the Met Office who should have issued red 3 days before and then hammered it home at every single juncture. This is the only way to get people, who don't understand such conditions and who live in blissful ignorance, to pay heed. The problem arises when too many degree-educated people are huddled in the same building without contact with every day folk who are, frequently, pretty ignorant.

 

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Posted (edited)

On the whole I think Met Office did a great job. My only issue is the headline of the amber warning being "be prepared". If I am someone who has no interest in weather, that wouldnt sound too threatening to me and it sounds like something that is not a done deal, so I could take the risk with travelling for example. Amber warnings should have the headline "take action" while red gets something even more severe.

Edited by Snowy L
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Posted (edited)
On 3/15/2018 at 09:10, Snowy L said:

On the whole I think Met Office did a great job. My only issue is the headline of the amber warning being "be prepared". If I am someone who has no interest in weather, that wouldnt sound too threatening to me and it sounds like something that is not a done deal, so I could take the risk with travelling for example. Amber warnings should have the headline "take action" while red gets something even more severe.

Yes I agree. That's one of my areas of concern where a change is needed. Unfortunately, for many people, amber means 'take the risk' hence 'amber gambler.' For the majority of people the equivalent of an amber warning ought to mean: Don't drive. It doesn't.

We must remember that many people don't understand the weather and they're not used to these conditions. Cars, in particular, are not geared up for old-style winters. Most people don't drive on winter tyres or snow chains, don't carry a shovel etc. Many are not 4WD. And most people have little idea how to drive on snow or ice.

My other major gripe is that warnings must be properly and repeatedly issued well in advance of the event. To whoever claimed otherwise, this is what the  United Kingdom Meteorological Office is there for. Issuing a red warning at 08.05 on the morning of the event, when it was obvious what was coming from all the charts (including their own Fax charts), is poor. Sorry. No other word for it. For the reasons I've given, warnings need to be issued much sooner and hammered home. Yes, sure, sometimes they will overstate it, but that's better than erring the other way.

Finally, there should be far less reticence to issue Red. It's a rather tiresome throwback to the old-school marking scheme. If you have marks out of 100 you should be prepared to mark to 100. If you have Red you should issue it.

 

Edited by West is Best
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I think there are 2 other issues here. Firstly a lot of people get their weather forecast from the BBC and they use Meteo who's forecasts are often rubbish yet use MetOffice weather warnings. In the last few days the "BBC" forecast has shown little or no snow for our area yet it snowed almost all day yesterday as Met Office and Netweather predicted.

Secondly the public ignore the weather warnings, the keep calm and carry on, should at time be replace by stay home and keep safe. Most of the road blockages were caused by people going out, unprepared, blocking the roads , so  that gritters could not get closed. Parents moan at the schools when they close, but then moan just as much when it starts snowing and they then insist on collecting their children during the day.

In Spain for example they would have shut the motorways and main roads to lorries, and if needed cars, to allow them to be plouged , and gritted. You don't have an option you are not allowed on them.

I would rather be too cautious than too optimistic.

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Posted (edited)

I live in Thurrock and the Met Office Weather station which covers my area is in Greenhithe in  Kent.  When there was an amber warning for snow for Tuesday 27th February but we hardly got any but Greenhithe did get more  heavy snowfall.  Kent has always got snow than Essex. This is not a criticism more of an observation. I wonder if it would be more for Essex to have their own weather station.  We got our heavy snow a day later. Thurrock and Kent are divided by the river Thames and there is a least 8 miles between South Ockendon and Greenhithe as the M25 is two or three miles away from where I live.

Edited by Katrine Basso
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Posted (edited)

Some changes are to be made to the warning system

Quote

What’s new then?

Two additional types of extreme weather are being added to the current list of rain, snow, wind, fog, and ice.

These are thunderstorms, and lightning.

These can also be combined if more than one could be a potential risk to the public.

Hot weather will still be treated as a public health warning rather than a weather issue.

What about timings?

The Met Office is also planning to change how far ahead it issues warnings.

Currently they only issue alerts five days in advance.

This is going to be extended to a full week, so warnings may be put out a week before the anticipated bad weather.

 

https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/met-office-changing-weather-warning-14441857?ref=BNTMedia&utm_medium=twitter

Edited by Summer Sun

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Similar to above but raw Met Office text  

What is changing?

Fundamentally, the weather warnings will remain the same - they will continue to be issued when the combination of severe weather impacts and the likelihood of those impacts occurring meet the criteria for a warning to be issued. However, improvements have been made to the way people can access, understand and use our warnings information. These improvements include:

·         introducing two additional warning types – thunderstorms and lightning

·         extending the warnings from five days out to seven days - It is unlikely that this will be used frequently, but it will mean that in some weather situations, such as St Judes’ or Ophelia, warnings can be issued with a longer lead time.

·         Likelihood and impact will be communicated more effectively using improved language and visualisation. This includes improving the way we communicate risk and retiring the Be Aware, Be Prepared, Take Action phrases.

Each warning will now contain the following sections:

-          Headline – a short weather headline, which states what weather type, is forecast

-          What to expect – details on the types of impact forecast and an indication of how likely those impacts are

-          What should I do – this section links to advice and guidance from our partners on how to stay safe in severe weather

-          Further details – additional information on the forecast weather.

 

·         being able to issue warnings faster and therefore with shorter lead times when the weather is changing rapidly

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I'm all for the thunderstorm/lightning warnings. I'm surprised it took them this long.

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