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The meteorological spring is rapidly approaching. The winter has been mixed, with cold spells in January and February, but overall it has been quite mild. The mean UK temperature for December was 5.9C which is 2C above the 1981-2000 average. January was colder but the mean temperature of 3.9C was 0.2C above the average. Despite the current chill the Central England Temperature (CET) until February 10th was 4.8C which is 0.5C above average. The current cold conditions are expected to break early next week, so it's quite possible that all three months will be milder than normal.
After the relatively mild winter can we expect early spring warmth? The current signals are quite mixed. The raw data from the Met Office seasonal model (updated 11/02/2017 ) suggests temperatures for the March, April and May period as a whole being above average. There isn't a strong indication of precipitation amounts but, in our interpretation of the data, close to or above average levels are more likely than below average.
Medium range forecast models, which take us to the start of spring, point to a risk of colder conditions returning in late February or early March. Therefore, despite the milder than average signal for the season as a whole, there is an increased chance of early spring having a wintry flavour.
In addition to computer models some of the key background indicators are leaning towards above average temperatures. The Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) is expected to remain in a westerly phase and this is thought to increase the chance of a zonal flow across northwestern Europe. Also, recent seasonal trends suggest above average temperatures are more probable than below average ones. El Nino–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is expected to remain neutral during the spring suggesting it won't be a major player in the UK's weather.
Spring can bring a wide range of weather as the northern polar vortex begins to break up. An early break-up can lead to cold Arctic air being displaced to mid-latitude locations such as the UK. The flip side of the coin is that the second half of the season has the potential to bring spells of warm and settled weather before the European Monsoon develops in June.
Tentative suggestions for this spring are:
1) Over the 3 month period temperatures are more likely to be above average than below average
2) The rainfall signal is weak, but close to or above average amounts are slightly favoured
3) Despite the likelihood of above average temperatures over the 3 month period, there is an increased probability of colder conditions early in the spring
The TWO seasonal forecast will be updated to cover the spring months on February 28th.
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UK winter 2017/18
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