Storm Eunice was not as bad as it could have been – but we might not be so lucky next time | UK News

The Needles is one of the south coast’s most-exposed locations – and provisionally at least, Storm Eunice made it the windiest place in England on Friday with a new record gust of 122mph.

Eunice has now passed over the UK, and we’ll be assessing the impact of this fast and furious storm for days to come.

She might not have been as damaging as other severe winter storms, but she certainly lived up to the warnings issued by the Met Office several days before her arrival.

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Storm Eunice shreds O2 roof

Severe tidal flooding did not materialise

“Even three days ago, before the storm even started to form, we knew there was going to be a strong storm approaching the UK,” said Professor Suzanne Gray, a meteorologist at the University of Reading.

The possibility of severe tidal flooding along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary didn’t materialise, but the severity of the winds caused significant damage and loss of life across the South of England and London where red warnings were issued by the Met Office.

“If it hadn’t been forecast, or if people hadn’t taken the warning seriously, I think there’s an expectation that the danger to people would have been a lot worse,” Prof Gray said.

It was feared there could be a very dangerous storm surge up the funnel-shaped Bristol Channel on Friday morning. If high spring tides at about 8am had coincided with the highest winds and low pressure of Eunice, things could have been very different.

Fortunately for people on both sides of the Severn Estuary, Eunice arrived a little later and a storm surge of just 50cm or so ran up the channel, easily contained by sea defences.

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Lorry blown over by Storm Eunice on motorway

The speed of Eunice’s arrival was unusual

Meteorologists say one thing that was unusual about Eunice was the speed at which she arrived. She followed the typical track of a British winter storm – a low pressure area building out in the Atlantic. But she was swept towards us by an unusually fast, 200mph, jet stream.

That speed meant the worst of the rain and snow she brought passed quickly. But it made little difference to the destructive power of the wind. Many trees and buildings were already weakened by Storm Dudley, which passed by 48 hours before.

The influence of the jet stream, a large-scale and gradually-shifting conveyor belt of air around nine miles high in the atmosphere, helped make Eunice easier to forecast, meteorologists said. So strong was its influence in pushing the storm towards us, it allowed them to predict with more accuracy where the highest winds would be.

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Environment Secretary George Eustice: ‘Stroke of luck’ Storm Eunice has not caused flooding

Given the relationship between severe weather and climate change it is tempting to assume that the severity of storms like Eunice, or its arrival, just after Storm Dudley are due to global warming.

But according to weather data, there is no detectable relationship between the intensity of winds or the frequency of severe storms as the UK climate has warmed.

In fact some studies suggest they got weaker in recent years,” said Dr Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London.

Nevertheless the damages of winter storms have got worse,” she added, in large part due to increased levels of rainfall due to atmospheric warming increasing inland flooding events, and sea-level rise making coastal flooding incrementally worse.

Storm Eunice spared us both of those things. But it does not mean we will be so lucky next time.

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