September 2015 saw the launch of a collaboration between the Met Office and Met Éireann to name wind storms forecast to impact the UK and the Republic or Ireland.
In the UK, a storm is named when it has potential to cause disruption or damage, and the Met Office may be forced to issue an amber or red warning for regions in the country. Red, amber, yellow or green weather warnings are based on guidance from the National Severe Weather Warning Service, which is a combination of both the impact the weather may have and the likelihood of those impacts happening. These impacts could mean the impacts from wind but also from rain and snow. Once the storm meets the criteria for being named, either Met Éireann or The Met Office will actually publicly name the storm, adhering to an agreed of named alphabetical list.
There were 11 named storms in the 2015-16 season beginning with Abigail in November 2015, running through to Katie by March 2016. The following year, there were just 5 named storms, with 10 in 2017-18. Storm Hector became the latest named storm in mid-June 2018!
Of these 32 storms to date, only 3 have recorded wind gusts over 50mph in Coventry, with storm Doris being the most severe on the 23rd February 2017 with a maximum gust of 55mph; there were widespread train cancellations during the passing of Doris, with trees down in some parts of our region disrupting transport by road and rail. Doris remains the only official ‘gale day’ in Coventry in any of the named storms.
Storm Angus in November 2016 had the lowest recorded wind speed in any of our names storms at just 28mph, though it was wet with 25.2mm of rain falling locally. The wettest named storm was Katie in March 2016, during which 27.6mm of rain fell over 3 days, with local flooding.
How about this for a storm naming controversy? On the 16th January 2018, the Irish Met Office named a tightening of the isobars on a synoptic chart Storm Fionn, with no actual depression in sight! Although causing consternation in southern coastal fringes of Eire, there was no significant impact over the UK, or even in norther parts of Ireland. 24 hours later, a rapidly approaching depression went through explosive cyclogenesis as it neared the British Isles, but without being named, dubbed in social media as “the storm with no name”! Needless to say it caused devastation in the Midlands and SE England with power lines down, rooves ripped off houses, trees down and schools closed, plus all manner of minor local damage to fences and properties. The storm that wasn't Storm Fionn, but should have been, and was equally not Storm Georgina, but was Storm David in France and then called Storm Frederike in Germany. What a mess!
Overall, it must be concluded that named storms have had a minimal impact locally, with the average maximum wind gust amongst the 32 named storms just 40mph, barely gale force according to the Beaufort Scale. Average rainfall during the passage of these storms in Coventry is just 7.8mm.
Whilst it is recognised that regionalised weather warnings are essential for public safety in the UK, it does seem as if the naming of storms UK-wide in recent years has plunged the country into a state of panic, with outdoor events cancelled, often days ahead, just from the threat of storm damage, rather than taking local conditions into consideration. Of course, Health & Safety concerns are of paramount importance as mid-Atlantic depressions reach our shores in autumn and winter, but some of the sensational headlines in the media, even in advance of storms being named, are irresponsible in the extreme. One is left to wonder sometimes, is the Daily Express, or the Met Office that name these storms?
Inevitably, at some time in the future, a named storm will be worthy of the name in our region, but this whole process of naming storms surely needs to be reviewed?
UK named storms
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