The UK is experiencing its third storm in a week – so is climate change to blame?
Storm Franklin is currently underway
The UK is being hit by yet another storm today – Storm Franklin – which marks the third storm named in a week.
Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice, which preceded this one, caused absolute havoc all across the country. Train lines were cancelled, the O2 centre was blown to shambles and hundreds of thousands of people watched planes being thrown left, right and centre – which was so eloquently documented by Big Jet TV.
Some scientists have suggested that the impact of these storms – and future storms – have been exacerbated by the climate crisis. But what is actually happening to cause a THIRD storm in a week? Is it because of climate change? Here’s what we know:
Climate change is absolutely a factor
It will come as a shock to no one that climate change is getting worse – and research published last year by the UK Met Office shows how extreme weather caused by the climate crisis is increasing. 2020 was the first year on record to figure in the top ten for heat, rain and hours of sunshine.
Consequently, Dr Friederike Otto, of Imperial College London said that, “the damages of winter storms have gotten worse because of human-caused climate change.”
In other words, yes – climate change is absolutely having an effect on the weather we are currently experiencing.
Not only this, but these storms look likely to become even more frequent and intense after 2050 as climate change increases winter wind speeds.
“In the second half of this century, winter wind speeds are projected to increase, accompanied by an increase in the frequency of winter storms,” a Met Office spokesman said.
The conditions that have led to three named storms in a week over the UK are very strong jet stream winds several miles above the Atlantic, which help the genesis of winter storms.
A jet stream is essentially a small, narrow airstream that can form inside a storm and produce intense winds over an area smaller than 100 km. They can last anywhere between one and 12 hours. They are difficult to forecast and relatively rare, but make storms more dangerous.
A stronger jet stream makes storms more powerful and some aspects of climate change strengthen the jet stream, leading to more UK wind storms.
Ultimately however, it’s not that simple.
“Quite often the question posed is whether an event is because of climate change or not. But it’s just not a yes or no question,” said Dr Friederike Otto, a lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London.
“Climate change can be one of the causes, and it can make events worse. But it is never the only cause.”
Featured image credit before edits: Unsplash