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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
Weather forecasts 'more accurate'
Gridlocked traffic in the snow
The Met Office predicted January's heavy snowfalls
The Met Office's forecasts have improved over the past year, according to the organisation's annual report.

It exceeded its targets for both computerised forecasts and also the quality of service provided to its customers.

Computerised predictions improved over the past 12 months as a result of new scientific and mathematical breakthroughs as well as better use of satellite observations of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans.

The accuracy of the Met Office's forecasts is heavily dependent on the performance of its computerised models.

These are run twice daily for the whole planet's atmosphere and oceans, and four times a day for the UK, Europe and the Atlantic.

Extreme weather

But the office is concerned that the UK's infrastructure might not yet be able to take full advantage of the improvement in weather forecasting.

The severe winds that affected England last October resulted in several deaths and widespread power cuts, as did the heavy snowfalls in many parts of Britain in January 2003.

Storms lash the seafront in Blackpool
Predicting severe weather is important for public safety
In both cases, the Met Office had forecast the extreme weather conditions several days in advance, but some local authorities and agencies were still ill-prepared.

The annual report, published on Monday, said that 2002/03 had been an exceptionally "challenging and successful" year for the Met Office in terms of its ability to predict major weather events.

In July and August last year, the Met Office successfully predicted the change from a prolonged period of very hot, dry weather to severe thunderstorms, which caused floods in parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England.

Business director at the Met Office, Steve Noyes, said: "I am delighted that the leading-edge science of the Met Office and the UK's major investment in the meteorological satellite programmes are feeding through into real benefits for our customers in such a positive way."

Weather warning after flash floods
17 Jul 03  |  Northern Ireland
Just for the record
02 Apr 03  |  UK
France may provide forecast
21 May 03  |  Europe

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