A major storm that swept across Britain, France and the Netherlands resulted in the deaths of at least five people today, as the regions were lashed with hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall, knocking down trees, causing power outages, and flooding some low-lying areas.
The storm was named 'St. Jude', after the patron saint of desperate cases and lost causes. However, this was not so much due of the damage the storm was expected to cause, but simply because October 28th happens to be the Feast of St. Jude. According to The Guardian, forecasters issued an amber alert ahead of the storm, and were apparently warning that the storm was possibly going to be the worst since the Great Storm of 1987. As it passed through, it packed wind gusts of up to 160 km/h off Britain's southern coast, and buffeting the mainland with gusts as strong as 130 km/h — rivaling the wind speeds of a category 1 hurricane.
With claims of the storm actually being a hurricane apparently circulating in the media and the public, meteorologists with the U.K. Met Office were quick to respond, putting out a blog post discussing the cause of the storm and why it wasn't a hurricane.
Basically, hurricanes form over warm tropical ocean water and this warm water is what sustains their strength. As soon as they pass over cold water or land, they lose their energy source, weaken and eventually dissipate. However, St. Jude was what's known as a 'mid-latitude storm', similar to those seen over the United States and Canada. What was unusual about this particular storm, according to what U.K. Met Office spokesperson Helen Chivers told Reuters, is that it developed so close to the U.K. coast, whereas most storms that hit the U.K. develop and reach their full strength much further out in the Atlantic.
The position of the jet stream is very likely what caused St. Jude to form so far east and be so particularly strong as it crossed over the U.K. Exactly how this ribbon of fast-moving air in the upper atmosphere affects weather is complicated, but very basically, it can control where weather flows, and it generally acts as a 'boundary' between cold air and warm air at the surface. With the storm building right on this boundary, that would provide it with the maximum difference in temperatures between the cold and the warm air, which is what acts as a fuel source for these mid-latitude storms.
The Met Office released this video showing satellite imagery of the storm as it swept through:
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According to BBC News, the powerful winds from St. Jude resulted in plenty of downed trees, which have caused railway service disruptions and four people have died in the storm. A gas explosion due to a fallen tree in southwest London collapsed three houses and damaged two others, resulting in several injuries and the death of one man. Another man was killed in northwest London when a tree fell on his car, and a 17-year-old girl was found dead in Edenbridge, due to a tree falling on the caravan she was sleeping in. The coast guard has called off the search for a 14-year-old boy who was swept away by the current while swimming near Newhaven, East Sussex on Sunday.
According to CBC News, across the English Channel, the storm caused more disruptions and damage. Thousands were without power in northwestern France, and delays were reported in both train service and airline flights in the Netherlands. One woman was reported killed when a tree fell on her in Amsterdam.
As the storm continues to track to the northeast, Sweden's Meteorological Institute has issued weather warnings across southern regions of the country. This includes a Class 3 warning for southwest regions, which indicate "extreme weather is expected which may pose great danger to the public and very large disruption of important social functions."
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