What is a sting jet? Meaning of weather term, will Storm Eunice have one, what happened in Great Storm of 1987

Storm Eunice has swept through the UK at an alarming speed, but could be the worst yet to come?

Strong winds in excess of 90mph have led to a red weather warning from the Met Office for some parts of the country.

The powerful gusts have been joined by persistent rain and even snow in some northern regions, as well as Scotland.

It has caused chaos on some roads, railways and airports as services have been delayed or even cancelled due to the weather.

Now the Met Office is warning that a rare weather phenomenon known as a sting jet could form as Storm Eunice takes hold.

Here’s all you need to know about what sting jets are, when they occur and if the UK has experienced one before...

What is a sting jet storm?

A sting jet is a small area of very intense winds, which can be as strong as 100mph or more, that can be formed during storms.

Sting jets, which get their name from their resemblance to the sting in a scorpion’s tail, can be spotted by forecasters tracking storms.

Strong winds take place for a short period of time, perhaps around four hours, and across an area as small as 30 miles.

The Met Office said the phenomenon can cause “significant damage and risk to life”.

When tracking the storm using satellite pictures, sting jets are found at the end of the so-called cold conveyor marked by a hook-shaped cloud with a point at the end.

Explaining how these jets form, the forecaster said weather fronts separate areas of warm and cold air and their interaction creates and develops wet and windy weather.

There are more focused streams of warm and cold air close to the weather fronts, known as conveyor belts – with the warm conveyor rising and the cold conveyor falling.

Weather warnings today as Storm Eunice hits UK (Graphic: Kim Mogg)Weather warnings today as Storm Eunice hits UK (Graphic: Kim Mogg)
Weather warnings today as Storm Eunice hits UK (Graphic: Kim Mogg)

How strong are Storm Eunice winds?

The weather forecast has predicted winds of up to 90mph as Storm Eunice grips the UK.

Red weather warnings were in place for the south west region and across the south coast, including London and Ipswich for the morning of Friday 18 February.

The most famous sting jet storm the UK experienced was the so-called Great Storm in October 1987 which reached speeds of up to 115mph.

The weather phenomenon claimed 18 lives and an estimated 15 million trees were brought down by gusts, the Met Office said.

What happened during the Great Storm of 1987?

During the Great Storm of 1987, the worst of the damage occurred in south-east England, with gusts of 70 knots or more recorded continually for three or four hours straight, the Met Office said.

Thousands of homes were left without power for more than 24 hours, and transport disruption was caused due to trees falling onto roads and railway lines.

The Met Office also recalled how a number of small boats were wrecked or blown away, with one ship at Dover being blown over and a Channel ferry being blown ashore near Folkestone.

The forecaster said that even the oldest at the time in the worst affected areas “couldn’t recall winds so strong, or destruction on so great a scale”.

Will the UK get more storms this winter?

Storm Eunice arrived hot on the heels of Storm Dudley and only months from Storm Arwen, which was the last time the Met Office issued a red weather warning.

Dr Peter Inness, meteorologist at the University of Reading, said a “strong jet stream” can “act like a production line for storms, generating a new storm every day or two”.

He added: “Eunice looks like it may be able to produce a ‘sting jet’, a narrow, focused region of extremely strong winds embedded within the larger area of strong winds and lasting just a few hours.

“Such events are quite rare but the 1987 ‘Great Storm’ almost certainly produced a sting jet, and some of the more damaging wind storms since have also shown this pattern.”

He said two red warnings for wind in a single winter is very unusual for the UK, as it is more typical to get one every two or three years.

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