Weather forecast for the UK General Election 2019, what to expect?

Much like the meteorological symbol for an occluded weather front, the UK’s political timeline alternates between blue and red through the last century, with David Lloyd George’s Liberal party being the last non-Conservative / Labour government to hold power all the way back in 1922. The current period of political volatility has delivered a December election – somewhat of a collector’s item - with May or June much more typical. What difference might this make, what can be expected weather-wise, and what is being done to mitigate against poor weather?

 

Will it affect voting behaviour?

 

December 12th is only 10 days away from the winter solstice on 22nd December. The sun will rise around 8AM and set around 4PM, and with daylight in scarce supply many people will commute to work and back in the gloom. Meanwhile, December temperatures for the UK average a daily high of 7C and a low of 2C and, depending where you are in the country, the likelihood of precipitation is between 30 and 50% on any day. Snow is relatively infrequent, occurring on average 3.9 days in each December (but on considerably fewer days in lowland southern areas).

With the generally inclement conditions then, there is some logic to the idea that voter turnout will be reduced. However, there is scant academic evidence to support this, and research shows that both the ‘closeness’ of the election and the magnitude of political differences are much more important determinants of turnout. With Brexit being such a contentious issue, we are in somewhat unchartered waters, but arguably this will be ample motivation for many to brave the cold and dark.

 

What about the risk of severe winter weather?

 

At the time of writing, the election is exactly one month away. At this kind of forecast horizon, the ability to determine exact weather conditions on an individual day is beyond the realms of science. The laws of physics dictate that it always will be this way, and no credible meteorological organisation will tell you otherwise (though in the age of fake news you can find some more dubious sources that pretend they can!).

However – and it’s a big however - by using powerful computer models coupled with sophisticated statistical techniques and expert analysis by an experienced meteorologist, it is possible to produce probabilistic forecasts that determine the relative risk and confidence of certain weather conditions occurring. For example – is it more likely to be colder or warmer than average, wetter or drier etc?

Such specialised ‘sub-seasonal’ and ‘seasonal’ forecasts are used by many organisations that need the ability to plan and prepare for weather that might impact their operations – e.g. here.

 

As for the election period itself, senior meteorologist Matt Dobson offers the following insights:

"A consensus of latest forecast guidance from several sources suggests that the week of the General Election is most likely to see an enhanced westerly wind flow across the North Atlantic into the UK and northern half of Europe. This weather pattern would favour wetter and windier than normal conditions over the UK, for the week as a whole. Temperatures are most likely to be near or above the long term average for mid-December, with prospects for an extended or severe cold spell limited”.

 

What is being done to de-risk electoral activities?

 

Local authorities have a duty of care to do ’everything practicable’ to keep highways safe. In winter this means gritting and snow clearing during periods of cold, but also potentially clearing up after wind storms or flooding events.

Says Chris Capps, Senior Highways Manager at Rutland County Council:

‘Weather forecasts are key when road temperatures may fall close to or below freezing and whether the road may be dry. Other severe events which may disrupt traffic, cause road issues and need us to gear up to take appropriate action, short term and long term.

For winter maintenance we are well set up, though the day to day forecast is important. Good warnings of any snow, or other severe events is also important as we need to mobilise our contractors and now via social media get the right messages out about what the public should be doing and what we are going to do’.

 

Besides routine winter maintenance of highways, election officials also need to ensure that polling stations are snow and ice free so that voting can be conducted safely and that ballot boxes can be returned. This is just one important consideration in an immense logistical operation - one that is hardly made any easier by December conditions.

Forward-thinking local authorities such as Rutland are however bolstering their election planning by subscribing to MeteoGroup’s specialist sub-seasonal forecast briefings, which are delivered twice weekly. This extended range means that whatever the weather holds in store for voting day, it will not come as a surprise (perhaps unlike the actual result).

 

Interested in long-range forecasts or have any questions? We are always happy to have a chat.

 

Contact us!

 

 

A consensus of latest forecast guidance from several sources suggests that the week of the General Election is most likely to see an enhanced westerly wind flow across the North Atlantic into the UK and northern half of Europe. This weather pattern would favour wetter and windier than normal conditions over the UK, for the week as a whole. Temperatures are most likely to be near or above the long term average for mid-December, with prospects for an extended or severe cold spell limited

Matt Dobson
Senior Meteorologist