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expert reaction to red weather warning issued for parts of south-west England and south Wales on Friday for Storm Eunice

The Met Office has issued a Red Weather Warning for Storm Eunice.


Prof Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“We have not yet seen the full extent of damage from Storm Eunice, but we know from previous storms, like Awen last November/December that the impact can be far-reaching, leading to many weeks of disruption.  Power lines, railways and telecommunications systems are particularly vulnerable to extreme winds.  Given the scale of damage and disruption from these storms, more needs to be done to enhance the resilience of critical national infrastructure: building infrastructure so that it can cope with climate change, and having very efficient systems for asset management, repair and recovery.”


A Met Office spokesperson (in response to questions about whether there is a climate change link), said:

Is there a link between these storms and climate change?

“Currently, there is no compelling evidence of trends in maximum wind gusts in the UK (storminess), the associated storm systems are likely to have brought more rain, being partly responsible for the observed increasing trend in rainfall.  In the second half of this century, winter wind speeds are projected to increase, accompanied by an increase in the frequency of winter storms.  The overall increases in wind speeds are small compared to the differences between individual years, however.  More information here:”


Dr Peter Inness, meteorologist in the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“The forecasts produced by the Met Office in the early hours of last Sunday showed a strong signal for a very vigorous storm in almost exactly the position that Eunice is currently in on Friday. At that stage there was still some uncertainty as to the exact track and strength of the storm, but it was already being flagged as one to watch.

“The first warnings were issued on Monday, four days before the impact of Eunice and nearly three days before the storm actually even started to form.”


Prof Suzanne Gray, a storm researcher at the University of Reading, said:

“Satellite imagery is showing a sting jet is looking more likely with Storm Eunice in the coming hours.  Analysis of the conditions needed for a sting jet to form is showing a red bullseye over the southern UK, indicating all the ingredients are there.

“A sting jet is a rare phenomenon in a storm, that we only see once in a few years in the UK.  It is caused in a rapidly deepening storm when there is a break between the warm and cold surface fronts that form the battle grounds between air masses.  A narrow ribbon of air can descend from the tip of the cloud hooking around the centre of the storm and descend to the surface, lashing the ground with very strong gusts as the storm passes through.

“Previous examples of sting jets include the Great Storm of 1987, which brought winds of around 115mph, and the St Jude’s Day Storm of October 2013.  It is far from certain whether we would see winds this strong if another sting jet happened today, however.

“I would advise people to take the forecasts seriously.  If there is a sting jet, there are likely to be localised swathes of very strong winds in the south west part of the storm.  Exactly where and when those will be is always very difficult to forecast, so the best bet is for everyone in this region to remain wary of the possibility and be very careful.”


Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, Department of Geography & Environmental Science and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“The update to a red warning for London and the South East is the most severe and rarest type of warning issued by the Met Office. It reflects the greater confidence that forecasters have closer to the event that it will be really, really windy and that people are putting their lives at risk unless they take action now. We have seen the results of that firmer advice with schools and venues closing for the day, in advance of the wind hitting. People in amber areas should realise though that they may see gusts and impacts of the storm that are just as bad as in red areas, so this doesn’t necessarily mean you will get off more lightly. Forecasters have got better and better at predicting extreme weather in recent years, but a good forecast is pointless if people ignore it, or don’t believe it. That’s when tragedies occur.”


Dr Michael Byrne, Lecturer in Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews, said:

“There is no evidence linking stronger storms to climate change. In fact, storm winds are expected to weaken as climate warms. Eunice bucks this trend, but there is no reason to expect more severe wind storms over future decades.”


Dr Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said:

“There is very little evidence that winds in these winter storms have gotten stronger with climate change. In fact some studies suggest they got weaker in recent years, but this might be because of other factors, e.g. roughness (more buildings). Nevertheless the damages of winter storms have gotten worse because of human-caused climate change for two reasons: 1) the rainfall associated with these winter storms has become more intense, and many studies link this clearly to climate change; 2) because of sea level rise storm surges are higher & thus more damaging than they would otherwise be.”


Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science, University of Reading, said:

“Once in a decade storms like Eunice are certain to batter the British Isles in the future but there is no compelling evidence that they will become more frequent or potent in terms of wind speeds. Yet with more intense rainfall and higher sea levels as human-caused climate change continues to heat the planet, flooding from coastal storm surges and prolonged deluges will worse still further when these rare, explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”


Comments sent out 17/02/2022:

Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, Department of Geography & Environmental Science and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“The Met Office red and amber warnings for high winds on Friday should not be taken lightly.  Red means you need to act now because there is an imminent danger to life.  Everyone who lives or works in those areas should be battening down the hatches, literally in some cases, to prevent people from being killed and injured and to protect your homes and businesses.

“Let us be clear what this means.  Winds of 70mph will uproot trees, which can block roads and crush cars or buildings.  They can pick up roof tiles and hurl them around.  If you’re hit by one of those you will be seriously hurt or killed.  Wind that strong will sweep people and vehicles off streets, and topple electricity lines.  Don’t take any chances.  Stay inside.”


Dr Ambrogio Volonté, a storm scientist at the University of Reading, said:

“The conditions that have led to two named storms in three days over the UK are very strong jet stream winds several miles above the Atlantic, which help the genesis of winter storms.  Eunice, in particular, started its growth in a particularly favourable region for storm development, on the right side of the entrance of the strongest part of this jet stream – an area meteorologists call the ‘jet streak’.  Storm Dudley developed in another equally favourable region, at the left exit of the jet streak.

“Red warnings for winds are not unheard of but they are fairly rare.  Before Eunice we had storm Arwen in November 2021.  Before that, there was a red warning for wind in January 2016.  There is definitely a serious risk of strong and damaging winds.  People should not take chances with this storm, and should follow the latest advice issued by the Met Office warnings.

“The Met Office warnings for Eunice mention max gusts up to 90mph near coastal areas in south-west England and south Wales.  In the 1987 storm maximum recorded gusts were in the region of 110-120mph, so the intensity of Eunice is forecast to be lower, although the extensive red and amber warnings are entirely justified.

“The structure and shape of Eunice is similar to the 1987 storm.  In particular, Eunice is a “Shapiro-Keyser cyclone” (as opposed to the more common “Norwegian cyclone”).  In this type of storms, the cold front does not catch the warm front, but instead detaches from it, opening a fracture between the two fronts.  It is in that region that damaging winds can descend towards the ground (the “sting jet”).  It was the sting jet that caused the catastrophic damage associated with the ‘87 storm.

“Observing sting jets and evaluating their impacts is rather difficult, as they are localised and short-lived features, that descend towards the grounds but might not reach it, or might only reach the surface when the storm is still over the sea.  Whether we get a sting jet or not with storm Eunice, which as of today, Thursday, is a possibility but not a certainty, we will still get very severe winds which could cause some serious damage to property and put people’s lives in danger.

“These storms are both rapidly developing cyclones, also known as ‘bomb’ cyclones.  Due to the conditions in which they develop, they feature a remarkably steep drop in pressure, more than 24 millibar in just 24 hours.”


Dr Peter Inness, meteorologist at the University of Reading, said:

“Winter storms affecting the UK form in periods when there is a strong jet stream blowing across the Atlantic Ocean, with winds 7-10 km above the ground often well in excess of 150 miles per hour.  Currently the jet stream winds are close to 200 miles per hour at a height of 9 km above the ground in the eastern Atlantic.

“A strong jet stream like this can act like a production line for storms, generating a new storm every day or two.  There have been many occasions in the recent past when two or more damaging storms have passed across the UK and other parts of Europe in the space of a few days.

“Eunice looks like it may be able to produce a ‘sting jet’, a narrow, focused region of extremely strong winds embedded within the larger area of strong winds and lasting just a few hours.  Such events are quite rare but the 1987 ‘Great Storm’ almost certainly produced a sting jet, and some of the more damaging wind storms since have also shown this pattern.  Scientists at the University of Reading have led the world on research into this phenomenon.

“Red warnings for wind in the UK are unusual.  A red warning was issued down the East Coast of Scotland and Northern England for Storm Arwen back in November, but two red warnings for wind in a single winter is very unusual.  Typically we might get one every 2 or 3 years.”


Prof Len Shaffrey, climate scientist at the University of Reading, said:

“North Atlantic storms often cluster together, so it’s not unusual to get strong storms one after the other.  We’ve seen lots of example of this in the past, for instance, in the winter of 2013/14 and the two extreme storms that hit northern France in December 1999.

“Climate model projections suggest that there will be a modest increase in north western European storminess over the coming decades due to climate change.  However, climate model projections of storminess are uncertain and we haven’t seen an increase in north western European storminess or extreme winds in weather records.”



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