Weather: UK’s bizarre storms and strong winds explained – should you prepare for more?

Storm Eunice: Reporter gets soaking during live broadcast

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Last week the UK was battered by three named storms which created widespread disruption for residents, as winds in excess of 90mph and heavy snow showers tore through the country. In a rare show of high level concern, the Met Office imposed two red weather warnings for Storm Eunice because of the danger to life it posed.

Kicking off the trio of named weather systems, Storm Dudley arrived on British shores on Wednesday February 16, with its impacts felt until the following day.

Then on Friday February 18, the worst of the three storms, Eunice, made its presence felt with gale force winds wreaking havoc throughout the UK.

After a brief spell of respite over the weekend Storm Franklin picked up the baton from Eunice, creating travel disruption for thousands of Britons between Sunday (February 20) and Monday (February 21).

So, what exactly led to the three storms all taking place within such a short timeframe?

Professor Liz Bentley is the chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society – a role she has held since 2013.

She told that the reason we saw this pattern emerge was a result of a “very active” jet stream.

She said: “The reason for the development of three named storms is the jet stream, which is a band of strong winds that sits at the top of the atmosphere, way above our heads, at above 30,000ft.

“The jet stream has been very active and positioned so that storms develop rapidly, and are driven across the Atlantic Ocean towards the UK.

“The jet stream often becomes more active when there is an increased temperature difference between the cold air to the north and the milder air to the south.

“This happened across the Atlantic in North America where a plunge of cold air, often referred to as a polar vortex, penetrated south across Canada and into the US.

“This led to an increase in the temperature difference along the Eastern Seaboard of the US, which strengthened the jet stream.”

A spokesperson for the Met Office added that this was the first time, in the UK, three named storms had been recorded during the same week.

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The forecaster said that it allocated storm names based on a combination of both the impact the weather may have and the likelihood of those impacts occurring.

A storm would be named when it has the potential to cause an amber or red warning.

With the addition of Storm Gladys, the UK has now recorded seven named storms so far for the 2021/22 weather season.

Professor Bentley explained that storms developing within a short period of one another aren’t necessarily rare occurrences.

She used the example of last month when Storms Malik – named by the Danish Meteorological Institute – and Corrie affected the UK over the course of three days.

What can we expect for the remainder of this weather season?

Despite the recent accumulation of storms, Professor Bentley said that “there is nothing to suggest that this year – 2021/22 – will be a particularly bad stormy season”.

However, she did mention that Storms Arwen and Eunice could be remembered for some time to come, owing to the “damage and disruption” they caused.

Since the Met Office started naming storms in 2015, the most it has ever recorded in a single season stands at 11 – 2015/16 season.

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