independent

Friday 18 April 2014

We can blame the jet stream for our wild weather

Met Eireann weather forcaster Joan Blackburn pictured at her desk at the Met Eireann offices in  Glasnevin. Picture: Frank Mc Grath
Met Eireann weather forcaster Joan Blackburn pictured at her desk at the Met Eireann offices in Glasnevin. Picture: Frank Mc Grath

Why has it been so wet and so windy for so long?

The answer lies in the polar jet stream – an area of strong winds between 10 and 15km above our heads that flow continuously from west to east.

The jet stream is driven by the meeting of the cold air of the arctic and the warm air of the tropics.

For the last two months or so the jet stream has been stubbornly stuck right over or just to the south of Ireland.

And so Ireland, especially the south and south west, was battered by its eighth storm in a little over 10 weeks yesterday.

In any given year, the jet stream flows generally between the latitudes of 40 degrees north and 70 degrees north.

Dublin, for example, is at about 53 degrees north and so the jet stream always has an impact on our weather – and that of our neighbours across the Irish Sea.

This year, because of its position, the jet stream has been in the perfect place to guide storms in our direction as they come across the Atlantic.

Joan Blackburn of Met Eireann explained: "If we are in the line of the jet stream, we are going to get these disturbances, and that is what has been happening for the last 10 weeks or so.

"Once that pattern has been set up it is likely to stay that way for quite a while. If the jet stream was further south of us, we would escape the storms and instead have the colder conditions here influenced by the arctic.

"If we had power over these things, what Ireland would really want in autumn and winter is for the jet stream to be very far north of us towards Iceland. That would mean the storms would come across well out to the north west of us. We would get a milder winter – without the strong winds," she said.

Yesterday, staff at the Met Eireann headquarters were monitoring the arrival of Storm Darwin as it arrived shortly after dawn.

ANGRY

An angry storm system tightening into a spiral could be viewed from satellite images rapidly making landfall after gathering strength in the Atlantic.

And further out in the ocean, the next spell of very windy and wet weather was already gathering strength.

It should arrive tomorrow, but at this early stage Met Eireann don't believe it will be as destructive as yesterday's storm.

Irish Independent

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