Frequently asked questions

Before contacting us via our Customer Centre, please check if our frequently asked questions provide a solution to your query.

  1. Help using this site
  2. Questions about the weather and forecasts
  3. Questions about climate change
  4. Questions about units of measurement
  5. Miscellaneous questions

1 Help using this site

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1.1 Open question What are access keys?

Access keys are keyboard shortcuts which allow a user to navigate a web site without using a mouse or other pointing device. This can sometimes be quicker and may assist those with motor skill difficulties.
How to use access keys on this web site

1.2 Open question The weather forecast pictures don't match the text.

Firstly, ensure you are looking at the latest picture by pressing Ctrl and Reload/refresh. The graphic/text will be updated when there is a significant change in the forecast. The weather symbols are valid for the time shown above the map. The associated text should always be read as this will expand and amplify the graphic.

1.3 Open question I cannot get the charts to animate.

You need to ensure that JavaScript is switched on.

How to do this in Internet Explorer:

  1. From the Tools menu select Internet Options.
  2. From the Security tab set the security level to Medium. JavaScript will automatically be enabled.
  3. If you wish to have more control over your security settings, select the Custom security level and click on Settings. Scroll down to the bottom of the settings window and ensure that Active scripting is enabled.

How to do this in Opera:

  1. From the Tools menu select Quick preferences and make sure Enable JavaScript is ticked.

How to do this in Firefox:

  1. From the Tools menu select Options.
  2. From the Content tab make sure the Enable JavaScript checkbox is ticked.

How to do this in Safari:

  1. From the Safari menu select Preferences.
  2. From the Security tab make sure the Enable JavaScript checkbox is ticked.

You will need to look at your browser's help to see how to do this on other browsers.

1.4 Open question I keep getting Javascript error messages.

You need to ensure that JavaScript is switched on. See the answer to Q1.3 for how to do this.

1.5 Open question The font is too small to read.

See our Accessibility page for instructions on how to make text larger in your browser.

1.6 Open question When I look at TAFs and METARs on the aviation service, some time groups are displayed as phone numbers with country flags.

This is caused by some phone software pacakges (e,g, Skype) replacing numeric strings , which resemble phone numbers, with a phone number and country code flag. You will have to look in your software package or use Google to find out how to disable this.

1.7 Open question The data are out of date.

You need to refresh your page. We have extensive checks to ensure that data is updated on time. You might find the problem is at your ISP, contact them to ask for their pages to be updated. See question 1.11 on how to clear your cache.

1.8 Open question Can we have a link on your links page?

If you receive a datafeed from the Met Office, we will place a link to you on our links page. For information on how to receive a datafeed, please email the Customer Centre.

1.9 Open question I keep returning to the login page when trying to launch a registered service.

You need to enable cookies to use the registered services. Our policy about cookies can be found on our privacy page.

To enable cookies in Firefox 3

  1. Go to Tools Options
  2. Click on Privacy tab
  3. Either click 'Accept cookies from sites' or click Exceptions button and add our site to the list

To enable cookies in Internet Explorer 7

  1. Go to Tools/internet options
  2. Click on the Privacy tab.
  3. Click on advanced
  4. Select 'Override automatic cookie handling'
  5. Click Accept (or prompt) First Party cookies

To enable cookies in Internet Explorer 6

  1. Go to Tools/internet options
  2. Click on the Privacy tab.
  3. Move the slider to a suitable setting

You will need to look at your browser's help to see how to do this on other browsers.

Note that firewalls such as ZoneAlarm may have settings that may have to be changed to allow cookies.

1.10 Open question I keep returning to the login page when trying to register for a service.

You need to enable cookies to use the registered services. Our policy about cookies can be found on our privacy page. See the answer to question 1.9 for instructions about enabling cookies.

1.11 Open question How do I clear my browser's cache?

See wikiHow about clearing cache in various browsers

The Met Office is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

1.12 Open question Is there a list of products and services?

See our Services page.

1.13 Open question When will it be possible to receive TAFs and METARs on a mobile, by both WAP and SMS?

As a result of aviation customer feedback we don't intend to provide TAFs and METARs on WAP at this time, but will keep this under review.

1.14 Open question Is there a guide which helps me to view and understand the observations and forecasts?

A weather information guide is available.

1.15 Open question Is there a guide which helps me to view and understand the weather warnings?

A weather warnings guide is available. Also see Advice on actions to take when severe weather is forecast.

1.16 Open question Is there a guide which helps me download a Windows Vista or Mozilla Firefox gadget?

A weather gadgets guide is available.

1.17 Open question Is there a guide to help me use RSS feeds?

A RSS feeds guide is available.

1.18 Open question Is there a guide to help me view and understand the marine forecasts and warnings?

A Marine forecast guide is available.

1.19 Open question Can I download Met Office pages to my mobile device?

The Met Office website has not been specifically designed to enable downloads to mobile devices. Various mobile devices use different browsers and have different levels of javascript support. This means that the appearance and functionality of our website experienced on your mobile device may not be the same as experienced on your home computer.

1.20 Open question How do I restore “My latest weather” and “My forecast” to the default on the homepage?

Click the link below to restore the defaults to London(Heathrow)and UK
Restore the homepage defaults  

1.21 Open question How does the “My bookmarks” feature work?

“My bookmarks” is a feature that allows you to create your own, customisable, quick links menu.
You can store up to 30 quick links by clicking on Add... featured at the top of each page.
To remove a link, simply visit the relevant page and click Remove...

1.22 Open question Why do I need Cookies to use the customising features on the home page?

Cookies are used to save your settings for features such as the “Customise my weather”, “My bookmarks” and page display options on our website. If you have specifically chosen to clear Cookies when you exit your browser, these settings will be lost.

2 Questions about the weather and forecasts

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2.1 Open question The weather forecast pictures don't match what's going on outside my window

Note the answer Q1.2. The text is updated at 0600, 1200 and 1800.

2.2 Open question What is the weather like at .....?

Get the latest forecast or observations from the Met Office. The past weather pages also give a brief overview of the climate of various regions round the world.

However, if you want detailed climate values for a specific place try World Climate. You can enter a location when prompted and this then provides long-term average values for daily maximum and overnight minimum temperatures, also rainfall, on a monthly basis. Remember that these are averages and that there can be significant variations from these figures.

2.3 Open question What do the weather symbols mean?

You can see the decode by clicking on the 'Key' link on the pages with the weather symbols.

2.4 Open question What is the wind-chill factor?

The wind chill or wind chill factor is the apparent temperature felt by warm blooded creatures — primarily humans — during cold and windy conditions. However, many factors contribute to the degree of discomfort experienced by human beings, including cold windy conditions, insulation, humidity, the quality and amount of clothing worn, body temperature, physical fitness, metabolic rate and psychological condition of the subject.

2.5 Open question What are jet streams?

Jet streams are ribbons of very strong winds which move weather systems around the globe. They are found 9–16 km above the surface of the Earth, just below the tropopause. The position of a jet stream varies within the natural fluctuations of the environment. They are caused by the temperature difference between tropical air masses and polar air masses (PDF, 863 kB). What happens in one part of the world depends on what is happening elsewhere — the atmosphere is a complete environment with numerous connections.

3 Questions about climate change

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3.1 Open question How do I find out about climate change?

4 Questions about units of measurement

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4.1 Open question Why do we use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit?

The Celsius scale is the World Meteorological Organization standard for temperature measurement and is used throughout the world by the meteorological community for global exchange of information.

4.2 Open question How do you convert Celsius to Fahrenheit?

From Celsius to Fahrenheit - F = C × 9/5 + 32

From Fahrenheit to Celsius - C = (F − 32) × 5/9

where C is the value in Celsius and F is the value in Fahrenheit.

4.3 Open question How do you convert from millibars to inches?

Multiply the millibar value by 0.02953 to get the value in inches.

4.4 Open question What are hectopascals?

The SI unit for pressure is a pascal. The worldwide meteorological community uses the hectopascal, i.e. a hundred pascals, which is the metric equivalent of a millibar. However, millibars (and inches) are still used in some public forecasts in the UK and USA.

4.5 Open question What is UTC?

UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated and it is equivalent to GMT. The Royal Observatory web site has more information on the history of timekeeping. It also has a description of local time.

5 Miscellaneous questions

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5.1 Open question What are hurricanes and how are they named?

Many questions about hurricanes are answered on our Tropical Cyclones page.

5.2 Open question How do I get a setting for my barometer?

Atmospheric pressure varies over time and space and also varies with height. Since the altitude of the barometer normally stays constant (the station height) a correction is made to the reading to make it equivalent to the mean sea-level reading. This is done so that readings from different locations can be compared, with differences due to height being removed. Aneroid barometers are normally adjusted to mean sea-level values — read the barometer's instructions to see how to adjust the instrument (normally by a screw on the back). Mercury barometers cannot be adjusted (don't tamper with them because a mercury spillage is a health hazard).

To get the value for your barometer, choose a high-pressure day, pressure values are not changing very much - you can watch the TV forecasts for such a day. Go to the Met Office's observation page and choose the station nearest to your location - on a quiet weather day the distance away from you will not be significant. Adjust the barometer to the station's pressure value. You can check your barometer on other days but will have to compensate for fast-changing pressures or distance if the pressure is low or changing fast. The observation includes information about how the pressure is changing.

5.3 Open question How do you define a white Christmas?

For many a white Christmas means a complete covering of snow, ideally falling between midnight and midday on the 25th.

However, the definition used most widely, notably by those placing and taking bets, is for a single snow flake (perhaps amongst a shower of rain and snow mixed) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25 December.