Sea Surface Temperatures: What a difference a year can make...



About this time last year, we wrote a news item about how cold the sea surface temperatures were at the beginning of March 2013 in the southern North Sea (especially near the East Anglian coast). What a difference a year can make; this year, it's hard to imagine such a turnaround. Temperatures on the 1st March 2014 were about 8.5C just off of the coast of Suffolk, compared to the same day last year when they were at 3.7C.

This marked change is the result of the two contrasting winter seasons that much of Britain has experienced. The winter of 2012-13 was dominated from January through March by a blocking area of high pressure over northwestern Europe which brought a persistent flow of very cold easterly winds, resulting in temperatures 1-2C below average for February 2013 and as much as 3-4C below average in March 2013. Winter 2013-14 has been quite the contrast with a very active jet-stream across the north-central Atlantic bringing successive storm systems from the west. This has brought wet and windy conditions to much of Britain, and as a result kept the southern North Sea from cooling down as much as it would on average.

Another interesting signal in the sea surface temperature difference from early March this year compared to 2013, is that the Atlantic to the west of the British Isles is generally colder than it was this time last year. This is also the result of the more unsettled and windy pattern to the weather across this part of the Atlantic during winter 2013-14. The windy conditions have lead to a more mixed top layer of the ocean water, which in turn has created slightly cooler sea surface temperatures compared to last year.

SST data source: NASA JPL

Chris Bell  10th March 2014


The Northern Lights! Solar Cycle 24 Finally Produces

It has been a relatively inactive peak to the latest solar cycle, and for UK sky watchers who look for the Aurora Borealis this has meant dark skies for most of the winter. However, Sunspot 1990 emitted a large eruption of radiation on the 25 of February 2014 from the sun's atmosphere and this provided one of the best displays of the "Northern Lights" in the last decade over the British Isles.

A large, pale green glow was visible by the naked eye for most of the evening along the northern horizon and occasionally it came to life with brilliant displays of red and orange over the top of it along with auroral pillars moving along the horizon like waving curtains. The peak of activity across East Anglia was just after 8pm and just before 10pm on the evening of 27 February 2014.

One of our meteorologists, Chris Bell was out with his camera and snapped dozens of pictures during the evening and here are a few

Chris Bell  28th February 2014