St Jude’s Storm Approaches

Brace yourselves, Britain: a storm is on its way!

You may have heard about it already. You may be thinking this is a bit much for one week, what with the storm that hit London on the night of the new Thor movie premiere last Tuesday, and what with the torrential rain bands that have swept across these past few days, but we haven’t seen the end of it yet.

If you haven’t check the Met Office and the BBC, who are currently producing the best reports on the event, you should do. There’s some great maps and graphs which show the expected route and rainfall concentrations, and wind speed. The storm is in the process of passing over as I write this, but is due to hit with fullest force on Monday.


The South of England is said to be the most severely affected, with greatest wind speeds of more than 70 miles per hour. The actual eye of the storm is most likely to pass over Wales and the Midlands, and the whole of the UK is probably going to experience bad weather in general, but currently the strongest estimation of the storm’s course is that the South will suffer.

In an amazing display of coincidence, the storm is falling on St Jude’s Day. Now, St Jude is the patron saint of depression and lost things, so naturally the storm is names after this saint. It’s so poetically British. I love it. I just hope the storm doesn’t quite live up to its namesake!

I am wondering if this constitutes a sting jet, as purely by coincidence I have been reading a lot about sting jets, especially in relation to the ’87 storm, recently. A similar pattern was seen there, and again the South was the first and worst area to be hit.

The ’87 storm was said to be caused by one of these sting jets – a sting in the tail of the cyclone, which at the time was very unexpected and caught even the meteorologists off-guard.

As seen by the ’87 event, storms like this at the end of October are quite common. A large part of it has to do with the way the jet stream is deflected as the seasons change. The changing ocean temperatures as the Northern hemisphere gets colder affects convection, and can cause eddies to form at the polar front (which Britain is in the path of). The boundary between warm and cold air at the polar front is usually wavy (these are called Rossby waves) but eddies can ’pinch off’ and deflect the Jet Stream, which also travels along the Polar Front boundary. This makes anomalous cyclonic weather during October, and that’s the basic mechanics of it.

The Met Office also have a video out which shows the whole thing in more detail (with pretty visuals).
This is one of those storms that I can feel in my arthritic bones. It should be pretty spectacular at the very least, and relatively dangerous at the most.

Just remember the basics – don’t play in flood water, check if you’re in a flood zone (the Environment Agency has all the details) and if you are, don’t leave valuables within floodwater reach! I know for a fact that some train services (like South West Trains) are operating on reduced schedules so don’t forget to check your local services for and changes. Some travel services are actually advising people not to travel at all tomorrow, but that’s a bit optimistic for those of us with obligations like work.

The rain should start soon, tonight, and the full force of the storm should be felt tomorrow morning, especially the early hours. Stay safe!

Everybody do the Tangaroan!

It’s new, it’s exciting, and while it kind of sounds like a dance move, the Tangaroan style is in fact the newly classified third type of eruption style. We’ve got eruptive and effusive and now this.


It was classified by a team of researchers from the National Oceanography Centre (Southampton, UK) and Victoria University (Wellington, New Zealand) who studied Macauley volcano in the south west Pacific.


The news appeared in this month’s edition of Nature Geoscience. The paper is called ‘Highly vesicular pumice generated by buoyant detachment of magma in subaqueous volcanism‘.

So what’s the deal?

Well, the Tangaroan style is specifically an underwater eruptive style. If it had happened subaerially it would be intermediate – somewhere between effusive and eruptive. And the main defining feature of this style is its foaminess. See, lots of vesicles form in the magma, and as it bubbles up it turns into a kind of foam, which detaches as packets of pumice and rises. Because of the effects of decreasing water pressure, the bubbles continue expanding so you end up with various sized bubbles by the end of it.

Pumice (which is usually a sign of explosive activity in subaerial volcanoes) is quite common in underwater volcanoes, and this new research means that underwater volcanoes currently marked as having explosive eruptions in the past may be reassessed under this new category. Exciting stuff!

Quite interesting:

The style is called Tangaroan after the Maori god of the sea, but it also acts as a homage to the ship used to collect samples, which shares the name. Fun fact: Tangaroa is also part of the Cook Islands’ mythos and has yellow hair, so when Europeans first visited, they were considered the children of Tangaroa.

Some modern maritime hijinks with ‘The Sea Detective’.

I am tired today because I was up late – very late – last night finishing off reading The Sea Detective by Mark Douglas-Home. What a fantastic book!

I saw the blurb on Amazon a few weeks ago, and it was upon discovering that the book is about ‘a part-time PhD oceanography student with a macabre interest in floating corpses’ that I really got hooked. Science and intrigue? Geologist writer is happy.

The book totally lived up to what I expected from the blurb, and beyond. It’s quite complex as there are about three parallel stories running throughout the book, but it was all wonderfully paced (although I sort of feel the ending wrapped up rather too quickly… but perhaps it’s my own frustrations with word counts coming out there!) and it kept my mind engaged. The characterisation was brilliant, especially the uncomfortably-realistic conversations between Cal and his estranged wife! And mega-props for creating my favourite character ever – Detective Jamieson, the ultimate anti-Sue. Her internal monologues while talking to her boss (a misogynistic policeman who could easily be a supporting character in Irvine Welsh’s Filth) are very entertaining and I found myself cheering adamantly for her the entire way.

The fact that the main character, Cal, is an oceanography student makes the whole book quite relatable, and I enjoyed the mentions of things I have been studying the past semesters – especially the Dryas Octopetela. And finally, the whole premise of solving crimes by using ocean current simulations has intrigued me beyond the scope of the book – I’ve actually half a mind to go check out if there’s any research being done into stuff like this, as I’ve never thought about it in a human context before!

I think this is a book that most of my sciencey friends would enjoy (especially those starting the Oceanography module with me next Feb!). And it’s just a good book in general for anyone wanting a fast-paced thriller, with the added benefit that they will find out a few wee sciencey nuggets along the way.

Finally, the book hit a bit of a personal note with the family history thing, and weirdly I found myself wanting to go back to both Edinburgh and the Outer Hebrides. It’s not often people write so eloquently about places I know, so, dear author, I congratulate you.