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.

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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!

Shelf Stacking and Twitterstorm Surges

Every so often things prove that us geologists are like the very processes we study – stack the weight of too many things atop the proverbial continental shelf and you might just generate a landslide and corresponding surge of the ocean lashing back against the shore.

In this case, we geologists are the water in that ocean, and Tory politican Iain Duncan-Smith is the man on the shore, adding the final load to the shelf in the form of some ill-advised and acerbic comments on one geology graduate’s real shelf-stacking activities.

Of Cait Reilly’s workfare experience in Poundland, he said;

“Who is more important – the geologist, or the person who stacked the shelves?”

It’s obvious he’s just saying this in an attempt to garner as much support as he can for his controversial welfare overhaul plans. And regardless of how much he knows about geology, he’s betting on those who receive his rhetoric not knowing very much at all.

So he said his piece, and the geological community saw the opportunity to reach a mainstream audience, and proceeded to hit IDS with a barrage of information about what it is that geologists do. We raised the tide with this one, inundating a shore filled with a lot more than just one paltry politician: all the non-geologists that through no fault of their own never usually give geology a second thought, all the people IDS is trying to play off with divisive word games.

I think this is a very positive thing indeed, because if we don’t define ourselves, who will? And what I really liked was the fact that we formed lively and animated responses, demonstrating that geoscience is anything but dull, and geologists are more than able to shout and have fun and show emotion like the rest of those on social networks. We’re a passionate and spirited bunch, and what better an advert for such a great science?