Thursday 22nd June 2017, 10:43am
The Met Office has made major changes to its mountain weather forecasts.
The Mountain Region Forecasts cover a wide range of high altitude areas across Great Britain including most of the high ground in Scotland north of the central belt, The Lake District; The Yorkshire Dales, The Peak District, Snowdonia and The Brecon Beacons.
In Scotland, where the forecast was simply split into east and west Highlands, it now has separate forecasts for Northwest Highlands, North Grampian, South Grampian & Southeast Highlands, and Southwest Highlands.
The forecasts provide area-specific risks of weather hazards and forecasts for weather conditions in three-hourly periods, including wind speed and direction; temperature; the probability of rain or snow; visibility levels; and whether cloud is expected to cover hill tops – to help outdoor enthusiasts prepare routes, clothing and equipment.
The new format was launched with news of a survey which shows 58% of people in the UK have been ‘caught out’ by the weather whilst taking part in an outdoor activity – for example, 26% have been soaked due to not having waterproof clothing, whilst 12% have become dangerously cold due to a lack of warm clothing. One in ten (9%) have fallen over due to not wearing suitable footwear whilst an unlucky 2% have been forced to spend a night out in the open due to being unable to get back to a safe location or their home.
When asked about their approach to checking the weather, only 38% of outdoor enthusiasts use a weather forecast specifically tailored to the activity they are taking part in. This is all-important when taking part in any activity in hilly or mountainous regions – as weather conditions can vary dramatically at different altitudes. For example, temperatures can drop by several degrees Celsius with just a 100m rise in elevation.
Richard Orrell is the Deputy Head of the Public Weather Service. He said: “It is clear from our research that too many outdoor enthusiasts suffer needlessly because of a lack of preparation.”
Shaun Roberts, Principal at Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, said: “Detailed mountain weather forecasting is an integral and critical part of our daily planning. We are delighted that the SportScotland Mountain Weather research in 2015 has helped influence commitment and developments into public mountain weather service provision and welcome the investment that the Met office has made to support those heading into our hills and mountains.”
Richard Orrell added: “Our new and improved Mountain Forecast is compiled by specially-trained meteorologists who often spend time in the hills and mountains and know the ins and outs of mountain weather. This helps them to provide accurate altitude forecasts.”
Mountaineering Scotland’s advice is always to check a dedicated mountain weather forecast as an essential part of preparation before heading for the hills. Weather in the mountains can be very different from that at lower level - and is notoriously fickle - so even when you've checked the forecast you should ensure you have suitable clothing and equipment.