Monday, December 12, 2011

Another Strong European Storm Developing

We talked about a month ago about a powerhouse storm that walloped the Aleutian Islands and Western Alaska with intense winds and precipitation.  Storms typically can fire to rather epic levels in the Pacific during the cold season -- but they can also do that in the Atlantic thanks to the interaction between the moderating influences of the Gulf Stream and disturbances that ride along the temperature boundary between the warmer waters that lap against Western Europe and the cold climates of Greenland and the icy parts of the North Atlantic.  A family of low pressure systems to the west of England will combine into a powerhouse low pressure system over the next 24 hours, bringing strong winds and heavy showers to the northern and western portions of the British Isles.

Winds are projected by the UK Meteorological Office to reach at least 60 mph in gusts, sustained to at least 40 in parts of Northwest England and Scotland on Tuesday as the frontal boundary crosses the United Kingdom later tonight.  The UK is projecting (above) that the low could reach a pressure of 947 mb to the west of Ireland by late tonight, which would be the equivalent pressure to what is seen in a Category 3 hurricane in the tropics.  The "good" news is that winds won't get anywhere near that of a Category 3 hurricane but given the strength of this storm and its expanse the wind field will persist for a good day or so.

Storms of this type are common in the North Atlantic during the cold season and some storms historically have been stronger than this.  Two examples are the Great Storm of October 1987 and the Burns' Day Storm of January 1990.  What makes this incoming storm a bigger pain is that it is the second storm to wreak havoc with parts of the UK in just over a week.   A powerhouse storm last week brought wind gusts as high as 160 mph to elevated portions of Scotland.  This storm should not pack quite the same punch but it will still add insult to injury.

You can track it on satellite via the UK Meteorological Office's weather page.