What’s behind the stormy weather so far this winter?

3 01 2012

So far this winter the UK has seen some very strong winds associated with a series of Atlantic storms. This has included some near-record strength gusts of wind in places, with Scotland particularly badly affected.

On 8 December a gust of 165mph was recorded at Cairngorm Summit (1245m above sea level) during the first of the winter storms – that gust was just 8mph off the strongest ever recorded in the UK (set at the same spot in 1986). Even at low level there were strong winds, with 105mph at Tulloch Bridge in Highland.

Another powerful storm affected Scotland on 28 December, and today we saw another – this time notching up winds of around 100mph in parts of Scotland. The 102mph gust at Blackford Hill in Edinburgh is the third highest recorded at that station, and the strongest since 1998.

So has this winter been particularly stormy? We actually expect stormy weather in the UK at this time of year. In normal circumstances, low pressure systems develop over the Atlantic and track from west to east – eventually moving over the UK bringing strong winds and often heavy rain with them. This year we’ve seen nothing to disrupt that westerly flow, leading to the succession of low pressures systems we’ve seen so far.

While the general weather pattern is what we expect to see at this time of year, the strength of the storms and winds has been unusual. This is down to the jet stream – the high altitude winds which blow from west to east across the Atlantic and brings us our traditional changeable weather.

Over the past few weeks the jet stream has occasionally been particularly strong and some of the low pressure systems have interacted with that as they have tracked over the Atlantic, boosting their strength. This has led some of the lows to develop into powerful storms which have brought very strong winds to the UK.

The weather is set to remain changeable for the rest of this week, and beyond that it’s not possible to say whether we will see any more particularly strong storms this winter. However, we’ll continue to keep everyone up to date with the latest outlook in our forecasts and warnings.


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2 responses

4 01 2012
Chris Vernon (@clv101)

Indeed, but the interesting question is why the jet stream has “been particularly strong”?

5 01 2012
Leon Hermanson (@LeonHerm)

Chris, it may be due to the La Nina conditions in the East Pacific at the moment. It is a little speculative at the moment (and I can’t find a paper for this at the moment), but I found this neat graphic online:
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/resources/graphics/2008-09-25-el-nino-la-nina-affect-us-weather_N.htm

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