1. What are the key meteorological processes that impact on our summer weather?
We are very lucky in the UK that we have varied and seasonal weather because of where we are located - an island in the mid-latitudes off a large continent with the Atlantic Ocean to the West. Much of our prevailing weather comes from the south-west in the form of mid-latitude depressions. In the summer months this generally changes and we have warm air that travels from the south.
What we often hope for in summer is an high pressure system that will sit over the UK and keep the warm, dry weather conditions with us for several days (and sometimes even weeks) at a time. We call this a 'blocking' high pressure, because it pushes away the incoming low pressure systems. It can have the down side thought that it also traps in pollutants and can cause poor air quality.
Over the last three summers the jet stream has been much further south than we would expect for the time of year. The jet stream is a fast flowing, narrow current of air that ribbons around the globe at high levels in the atmosphere (around 10km or so). The jet can help weather systems travel across the Atlantic and when the jet is far enough south it directs the prevailing weather towards the UK. This brings with it the unseasonably wet and windy weather conditions we have seen in recent summers and makes it more difficult for the high pressure systems to settle over the UK.
2. The Met Office produced a forecast that predicted a 'BBQ summer' that the Society reported on; how complex is it to make future forecasts like this?
It is quite complex to make seasonal forecasts. We do this very differently to the way in which the usual 5-day forecasts are made. When we want to go beyond 5 days we have to build different forecast models that join together what's happening in the atmosphere with what's happening in the oceans, as the oceans transport a lot of the energy that drives our weather on longer timescales.
We also make use of our knowledge of how weather across the world is related. For example if you look at the relationship between both the sea-surface temperature (SST) and pressure around Iceland and at the Azores in May, then this has been shown to be a good indicator of the likely winter weather conditions. This is called the North Atlantic Oscillation (or the NAO). You have probably heard of another of these oscillations, the more famous 'El Nino'. El Nino is a large-scale warming of SST in the tropical Pacific which is so large that it can disrupt weather patterns around the globe.
So in making a seasonal forecast, meteorologists bring together the atmosphere-ocean model predictions and the statistical relationships into one combined forecast. Because of the nature of how the information is combined, the forecast is probabilistic and broader in detail. Therefore rather than saying it will rain, for example, on Saturday 15 August in Manchester at 4pm, the equivalent seasonal prediction would say it would be more likely to be warmer and wetter than the average for the north of England in August. This type of forecast is more useful for long term planning.
Just a quick word about the 'BBQ summer' forecast. The Met Office's forecast said that it would be more likely that we would have warmer than average temperatures and average or less than average rainfall for the period June, July, August. We have had warm temperatures, but it has been much wetter than expected. In fact in July we had twice the normal rainfall - certainly not good BBQ weather!
3. What weather conditions does Britain have in a typical summer?
We define summer in meteorological terms as June, July and August and 'typicalí is what we would expect from the average as calculated over a 30-year period. This is an internationally defined standard and the timescale is chosen so as not to be too influenced by the variations in our year-to-year weather. Below are some 'typicalí summer weather conditions, based on the 1971-2000 30-year averages:
|For the UK ||Max. Temp. |
|Min. Temp. |
As a northern hemisphere country our summer is the warmer and dryer part of our year, in general. Although being in the mid-latitudes, each of our summer months have rain on about one-third of the days.
You can see from the table that July is typically the warmest and driest of the summer months. Interestingly though, the month that is the driest and has the most sunshine hours in the whole year is May, so you can see that itís no co-incidence that we have two May bank holidays.
You can find more useful information on the monthly and yearly climatology across the UK
on the Met Office: UK climate and weather statistics web pages
Paul also drew attention to the fact that there are now many sources of weather forecasts. the met office is not the only one providing forecasts for the British Isles. The weather satellites provide data that is available to various organistions. Cloud formations and the local observations were covered in his talk.
A very lively question and answer session followed the talk. The talk was much apreciated by the audience and Andrew Smith expressed our thanks to Paul Hardaker.
Dr Peter Ford was a member of the Physics Department of the University of Bath until his retirement in 2007. For many years he carried out research into the behaviour of materials at very low temperatures including their superconducting properties. In 2004, together with George Saunders, he published a book "The Rise of the Superconductors", which attempts to explain the subject to senior sixth form students and beyond.
More recently he has become prominent in the "Public Awareness of Science" and has given his "Liquid Nitrogen Show" at many schools and other venues. In 2004 he was made a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and is currently chair of the History of Physics Group of the Institute of Physics. In the Queen\'s New Year Honours List for 2008 he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for "services to higher education and to science".
Albert Einstein, born March 14th 1879 in Ulm,Southern Germany.
The World in 1897
In 1897 Queen Victoria was on the throne. Bismarck was the "The Iron Chancellor" of Prussia. Leon Trotsky, Russian Revolutionary, and Josef Stalin, Soviet leader, were both born in 1879. Russia and Britain signed the Treaty of Gandamak which established the state of Afghanistan.
It was the era of the beginnings of Electrical Technology. Joseph Swan in England and Thomas Edison in America demonstrated the Electric Light bulb. Siemens demonstrated an electric train in Berlin.
Locally The first directly driven generator sets were commissioned in the Beaconsfield Road Tramways Generating Station, 4 sets in all powering the Bristols Tramways System ( Reviewers addition
The Early Years
Childhood spent in Munich where his father an electrical engineer and uncle ran a small electrochemical plant.
The young Einstein was slow at learning and disliked school. Interest in science caused by reading popular scientific books.
When he was fifteen years old, Einstein's parents moved to Milan after a failed business venture leaving the young Einstein in Munich to finish his schooling.
Einstein quit the school, and spent most of a year enjoying himself in Italy.
He realised that he would have to acquire a profession and so studied at Aarau in Switzerland and then studied mathematics and physics at the ETH in Zurich with the idea of becoming a teacher.
After graduating Einstein was unable to obtain regular employment and did occasional tutoring and substitute teaching.
Appointed as an examiner in the Swiss Patent Office in Berne. In this employment he completed his days work in 2 - 3 hours and spent the rest of the time working on his papers. Luckily for him and us he had a very accommodating boss.
In 1903 he married a Serbian girl, Mileva Maric, who had been a fellow student at Zurich.
They had two sons, Hans-Albert and Eduard, both of whom were born in Switzerland.
Before they were married, they had a daughter, Lieserl, but she was given for adoption and nothing more is known about her.
Einstein's 1905 papers
- "On the Motion of Small Particles..", this gives an explanation of Brownian Motion in terms of the random impacts of molecules on visible particles, and thus gives convincing evidence for the existence of molecules
- "The Emission and Transformation of Light" In this paper, Einstein proposes light quanta (photons), and shows that this idea leads to an explanation of the photoelectric effect
- "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies", this is the paper which explores the implications of an invariant speed of light: the foundation of the Special Theory of Relativity
- "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on its Energy Content?", here he deduces the relation E=mc2
The text on the right shows the first paragraph of his paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".
Peter Ford then gave us the inside view of the above papers.
For the Brownian Movement we had analogies with a Drunkards Walk, Snakes and Ladders and Stock Market Prices. First real physics evidence for molecules
For the Photoelectric Effect - A comparison between the classical ( Maxwellian) theory and Einsteins prposition that energy comes in quanta which explains experimental facts. First evidence of particle properties of light: E=hf
Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for this work.
For Special Relativity we had a series of diagrams illustrating "Moving clocks run slow, moving objects contract"
using a light clock consisting of a pulse of light between two mirrors, with the tick being the time taken for the pulse to travel betwen the two mirrors. If the clock is moving the pulse has further to travel as viewed by a static observer but the original distance to an observer moving with the clock.
Albert Einstein - Later Years 1906-1955
1906 Promoted to Patent Examiner Second Class.
1909 Associate professor of physics at the University of Zurich
1911 Professorship at the University of Prague
1912 Professorship at the Polytechnic in Zurich
1914 Moved to Berlin as a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physics.
During World War I Einstein worked extensively on his General Theory of Relativity.
Einstein's fame soared when in 1919 Sir Arthur Eddington led an expedition to observe the solar eclipse and observed a deviation of light passing near to the sun as predicted by his general theory of relativity.
From then on Einstein was very much in the public eye and he was able to put the weight of his name behind causes which were important to him.
The two main causes were pacifism and Zionism. Einstein was very active in the creation of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Einstein, who was Jewish, came under increasing attack by anti-Semitic groups in Germany. These were both personal attacks and attacks on his ideas of relativity.
In 1933 he accepted a position at the newly formed Institute for Advanced study at Princeton, New Jersey and became an American citizen in 1940.
In 1939 he wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt pointing out the feasibility of an atomic bomb based on nuclear fission and the possibility that Germany might be actively constructing one. This was partly instrumental in the foundation of the American atomic bomb project at Los Alamos.
Einstein's Final Years
In 1952 he declined to accept the presidency of the state of Israel following the death of Chaim Weizmann.
Einstein died on 18th April 1955. One of his last letters was to sign a plea initiated by Bertrand Russell for the renunciation of nuclear weapons and the abolition of war.