Met Office website facelift is a godsend for hill walkers

For a while now I’ve been using the excellent Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) website before I head for the hills, but that may be about to change now that the Met Office website has had a revamp.

The new Met Office Mountain Forecast shows weather conditions for specific mountains
The new Met Office Mountain Forecast shows weather conditions for specific mountains

Standard regional weather forecasts in the UK aren’t always useful for hill walkers because they tend to reflect what’s going on at sea level which, let’s face it, is where almost all the audience for the forecast is going to be. Conditions even just a few hundred metres up hills can be very different. While it’s clear down below you may find yourself in cloud up above; winds that are insignificant in the valleys suddenly become howling gales high up.

This is where the MWIS website comes in useful, because it focuses on hill conditions. It will tell you what altitude the cloud line’s likely to be at, what the wind speeds are, and how cold it’s going to be up there. It even has a few live mountain webcams, so you can see how clear the summits are.

But even the MWIS forecasts are regional, and cover wide geographical areas such as the whole of Northwest Scotland. In the mountains particularly weather conditions can be very localised.

This is where the new Met Office site stands apart. It now not only enables you to find out what the weather’s going to be for regions, but for precise locations including, as I find out to my delight last week, the summits of mountains. The regional weather forecasts last week, including the one for the West Highlands on the MWIS website where I would be heading, were universally bad and didn’t look very promising for hill walking. Meanwhile over on the Met Office site I found a Munro call Beinn Dorain very close to the ones I intended climbing myself. It’s 1074m high and the Met Office forecast was telling me what conditions were likely to be on its summit. And while rain was falling elsewhere in the West Highlands, I could see in this area the weather would be fair. Most importantly to me I could see visibility was going to be good on the summits most of the time. I packed my rucksack and headed north, and sure enough the weather wasn’t too bad. You can read my report of three days’ backpacking in the Black Mount hills here.

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