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Ciara causes havoc in the UK

Written by Science

Storm Ciara had swept across the UK, with winds up to 80mph bringing down trees and power. The storm had caused several disruptions, from the damage of property to train cancellations.

Storms are a meteorological event and are used to describe large atmospheric disturbances. It ranges from ordinary rain showers and snowstorms to thunderstorms and wind. Storms are created when a centre of low pressure develops with the system of high pressure surrounding it. Water vapour can be seen as the ‘fuel’ for storms, as it releases ‘latent heat of condensation’ when it condenses to form clouds and rains, which in turn warms the surrounding air. Storms can draw in air from all directions.

Storms used to be tagged with numbers, latitude and longitude, and some were named after where they came ashore (like the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1800). Now the Word Meteorological Organisation (WMO) gives short simple names, such as Storm Ciara. Since early 1950s, the WMO and the National Hurricane Centre give proper names to every storm. The WMO website states that “names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms’. The names of tropical storms come in alphabetical order, alternating between male and female names. While the US had been naming its storms since 1950s, the UK has only adopted the same practice since 2014.

Storm Ciara can be seen as one of the worst storms, after the amber warning for wind across England and Wales was given. This meant that there may be expected damage to buildings, travel disruptions and power cuts. Storm Ciara saw wind gusts up to 93mph, recorded in Aberdaron. British Airways had also cancelled flights from Heathrow, while Network Rail imposed a blanket speed restriction of 50mph. There were also dozens of homes being evacuated and people were taken to a nearby leisure centre.

Storm Ciara has claimed more than five lives, as well as leading to the deaths of six Persian fallow deer and ten Barbary sheep at West Midland Safari Park in Bewdley, Worcestershire. A gated entrance separating the deer and sheep from a compound of African wild dogs was damaged by the storm, allowing the dogs to kill sixteen animals before being returned to their compound. A press release from the Safari Park stated that “at no point was there a risk to public safety and there was no danger of any animals escaping the Park’s perimeter fencing”, but “given their personal attachment to our animals, our staff are extremely saddened by the incident.”

The UK’s national weather service, The Met Office, had announced a ‘risk to life’ warning as Storm Ciara approached. Meteorologist John Hammond stated that Storm Ciara is ‘ a violent start to a very wild spell, with potential further… storms through the week’. Through the hundreds of transport cancellations and impacts on both humans and animals, it could be seen as one of the biggest storm in seven years.

Climate change is one of the main factors that has begun causing events such as Storm Ciara. Scientific modelling also suggests stronger winds and heavier rainfall for the UK. The warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, resulting in heavier rain and flooding. The 2017 Met Office research shows that if global temperature increases by more than 1.5 degrees due to pollution and emission, damage caused by storms are expected to lead to 50% more damage.

Last modified: 25th February 2020

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