Helen Roberts

Helen Roberts

My weather career has been incredibly varied, from working with the RAF, to presenting the weather on TV. I am currently a Media Advisor and Senior Operational Meteorologist at the Met Office.

Location Met Office Exeter


  • Good spot. In fact the tropopause varies in height with temperature, latitude and season, so it can be as low as 7 km over the poles in winter, and as high as 20 km over the equator in summer. However, we ought to be consistent with our diagrams.

  • That's not particularly unusual. If you think about what a front is - where 2 air masses meet - a cold front moving one way is the same as a warm front moving the other. So if a pivot point occurs in the front, with one section moving north and the other moving south, it results in what you describe.

  • These are not terms I'm very familiar with here in the UK, but I believe it's just the temperature. So a freeze would be temperatures below 0 °C, and a hard freeze would be perhaps temperatures below -3 °C. It could also be dependant on duration?
    We also have the term 'penetrating frost' which is when sub-zero temperatures combine with strong winds.

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  • It's just a temperature, 0 °C at about 1 m above ground (this is where we measure temperature using a standardised Stevenson Screen).

  • That's a really good question, I suppose different cloud will behave/move differently, and a big cumulonimbus might tend to more more slowly than a small cumulus cloud given the same wind speed.

  • A source of moisture is required for fog to develop, this can be from a permanent water source such as a lake or rive, but can also be from damp ground after rain.

  • Yes, you can calculate how far away a thunderstorm is by using the fact that light travels faster than sound. Count how many seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder, and divide this by 5 to get the number of miles.

  • There is some debate as to whether sunburn and windburn are different. More info here https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/medical/windburn.htm

  • I've never heard of cat ice, that's great!

  • Frost on cars is hoar frost, but generally not feathery because the water tends to condense onto widescreens fairly evenly.

  • Radiation fog is so called because it generally forms on clear, calm nights when the radiation balance is negative. It doesn't always form as a result of katabatic drainage.

  • I think you have largely understood Robert. Hoar frost is frozen dew and rime is - as you correctly say - airborne super-cooled water freezing on impact.

  • In answer to your first question, you tend to get more intricate patterns and feathering with a hoar frost.
    Visible frost forms when air cools to it's dewpont (and is below freezing), and this is much more likely to happen at night, though it could feasibly happen during the day if conditions allowed.

  • That phrase is normally used when heavy showers are likely to be accompanied by gusty winds.

  • It's difficult to say exactly without any context, but small cumulus like this are normally between around 1200 and 5000 ft.

  • It's a kind of layer (flat) of heapy clouds! Sometimes 'heapier' than others :)

  • The speed at which a cloud moves is dependent on the wind speed at that height.

  • @FrancesTogneri I think you're referring to Undulatus Asperitas which was officially accepted as a new cloud in 2015 when it was added to the WMO Cloud Atlas https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/learn-about/weather/types-of-weather/clouds/other-clouds/asperitas

  • I believe you are correct, in fact it still is measured in tenths in some parts of the world including Canada I believe? Perhaps any Canadian learners can confirm?

  • I think it helps to see a time-lapse of these cumulus cloud developing and dispersing. When viewed in real-time, it is difficult to see exactly what is going on.

  • We still use weather balloons, they give us very useful information, but we use much fewer than we used to.

  • The jet stream has been very strong over the last week or so, and it has been particularly unsettled as a result. Things are quietening down this coming week.

  • We have had a few such names, for example Kamil was on the season 2016/2017 list. The names were chosen from the most popular to be sent to us by the general public.

  • There was a low moving across the UK on Friday 15th. This resulted in strong winds across the south of the UK and northern France.

  • Yes, these types of cloud are associated with the fronts you mention, though there's more to it than that. For example, warm fronts will often be preceded by cirrus, then medium level cloud before the stratus or nimbostratus arrive. And cumulus are more usual following a cold front in a polar maritime air mass once the cold front has moved through. More on...

  • I don't think it was prolonged enough to be record breaking, but it was certainly noteworthy. One of the more unusual aspects was the freezing rain on top of the snow. Freezing rain (where the rain is supercooled and freezes immediately on impact) is pretty rare in the UK, and red warnings are exceptionally rare too. Here's some more info on the event...

  • @WendyCooper Exactly!

  • @ChristineBiggs Just coincidence - a consequence of the plumbing of that particular plug hole.

  • Yes, tropical storm including hurricanes require a number of other factors including a warm water source, which is why they form in the tropics only. More on this later in the course.

  • There are no upper or lower bounds for high or low pressure systems, however standard sea level pressure in the UK is around 1013 hPa, so on average, highs would be above this and lows below 1013 - but not always! 972 hPa is a very deep low, so this would be significant wind storm.

  • High sea surface temperatures (usually above 26 C) are required to create a tropical storm, so higher sea temperatures as a result of climate change may result in more storms, or could lead to more intense storms as there is more energy available, or perhaps both. It is an ongoing area of research.

  • The occlusion process tends to 'lift' the warm air above the cold air and away from the surface.

  • The wind is a result of air moving between highs and lows (as well as Coriolis), not a high or low in isolation. It's all interlinked.

  • On most weather charts they are, yes.

  • The criteria have changed a little, it is now possible to name a storm if there is the 'potential' to escalate to amber. Also, it is a joint enterprise between the Met Office and Met Eireann, and in this case, the Irish Met Service named Gareth due to potential impacts across the Republic of Ireland.

  • It's a bit of all those things you mention, the jet stream's meanderings can be influence by what is happening at the surface, but vice-versa is also true. The strength of the jet stream is influenced by temperature contrasts across North America. You can see currently that there is very cold arctic air digging a long was south across the US, at the same time,...

  • Helen Roberts made a comment

    Note that we have a named storm crossing the UK today - Storm Gareth https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2019/storm-gareth-11-mar

  • Yes, you're right that one of the changes made as a result of the 1987 storm is that we now have more observations in the Bay of Biscay. The Met Office's National Severe Weather Warning Service was set up as a result as well.

  • Yes, this pattern is very common, if you keep an eye on the weather charts over the next few days and weeks, you will see this recurring frequently https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/surface-pressure/#?tab=surfacePressureColour&fcTime=1552219200

  • Absolutely, the jet stream is very strong at the moment and heading across the UK and in your direction, resulting in a particularity unsettled and stormy spell of weather for parts of N and NW Europe.

  • We certainly don't want to remove the Earth's atmosphere. The problem is that humans have been putting more and more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, which is resulting in detrimental climate change. We need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas we release into our atmosphere.

  • Yes, it's a strange concept, but a desert region is classified by lack of precipitation.