29 Oct 2013

UK storm: how we missed the worst

Yesterday’s storm, according to the Met Office, was the worst storm we’ve experienced since October 2002.

It swept across the UK in a line from the Bristol channel, through the Midlands to the Wash, before moving out across the southern North sea.

The strongest, most damaging winds were on the southern and western side of the storm, with a top wind gust of 99mph recorded at Needles on the Isle of Wight.


Inland areas of southern and eastern England had damaging wind gusts of 60-80mph, causing the deaths of four people, ripping down trees and causing major travel disruption

An accurate forecast

Thankfully, the signs that a potentially nasty storm was going to hit southern parts of the UK was first picked up by the weather computer models last week – something that I wrote about in my blog.

While there was some fine tuning to the expected path of the storm in preceeding days, there was a consistent indication that it was going to be southern and eastern parts of England that would be worst affected.

The accurate forecast is a testament to the huge advances in technology and weather forecasting since the Great Storm of October 1987, which was poorly forecast and caused chaos.

Today, a four-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was 30 years ago, demonstrating how better supercomputers and improvements in satellite information, among other things, has had a positive impact.

How we just missed the worst

The reason that yesterday’s storm was so vicious, is that it was undergoing its developmental phase as it moved over us.

This development process normally takes place well to the west of the UK over the Atlantic ocean, so by the time storms reach us, they’ve usually lost a bit of puff.

We were lucky that the storm reached its maximum strength as it moved over the North sea prior to slamming into Denmark.stjude_peakgusts_meteogroup_wp

The storm that hit us on Monday morning, hit Denmark in the afternoon, giving gusts of wind as high as 120mph.

This was 21mph more than the highest gust recorded in the UK yesterday and 6mph more than the highest gust of 115mph recorded at Shoreham-by-Sea in October 1987.

What does the next week hold?

With a fast-moving jet stream sitting over or just to the south of the UK for the next week, the unsettled weather is going to continue.

This means that areas of low pressure will continue to move in off the Atlantic, bringing more wet and windy weather.

However, contrary to a report in a tabloid newspaper today, there are no signs of damaging winds as strong as yesterday’s storm at the moment.

Don’t forget, you can get the latest forecast on the Channel 4 Weather website. I’ll also be posting regular updates on Twitter – @liamdutton

Tweets by @liamdutton

One reader comment

  1. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    The Daily Express – assuming that is who you mean though I think the Daily Star may have said the same – ALWAYS goes for the worst case or most sensational scenario. On rare occasions they guess right.
    ‘Average winter ahead’ would not add to sales.

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