UK weather: Storm Henry to continue the UK's unsettled weather - but is it worse than usual, or are we just noticing it more because of the names?

 
Richard Chapman
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What's in a name? Not much when you're battling floods (Source: Getty)

It maybe a new month but the stormy UK weather hasn’t changed its tune

Scotland will take the brunt of Storm Henry as it sweeps in from the Atlantic through today and into Tuesday, with an amber warning having been issued for the whole of the country. The low pressure system is rapidly deepening and widespread gusts of 70-80mph are expected with up to 90mph on exposed western coasts.

This winter has now seen eight named storms in the UK. Notable ones include Abigail, which brought severe gales to Scotland in mid-November, Storm Desmond which brought so much destruction to Cumbria, breaking the UK’s rainfall record at the same time and Storm Eva which ruined Christmas for many.

So, why are these storms being named? The Met Office and Met Eireann, the Irish Met Service are running a pilot scheme this winter to name storms that are expected to hit the UK and Ireland. The expectation from the Met Office is that the naming of these storms will provide more awareness of severe weather and in turn greater public safety.

Such periods of stormy weather are not unusual in the UK and you don’t have to go back far in the weather records to find evidence of that. According to the Met Office, the winter of 2014 was “an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major storms affecting the UK.” They added that this was the stormiest period of weather in the UK for at least 20 years.

Read more: Flood-o-nomics: Why flooding will remain a problem

None of these storms were officially named and yet the impact to those affected was equally life threatening.

The public and media have certainly engaged with the idea, meeting the objective of generating more awareness, but there has also been a more flippant side.

Storm Barney, for example, saw pictures of big purple dinosaurs flying across weather maps, at a time when the storm brought both severe disruption and damage to property.

Just over a week ago a storm called Jonas, which brought more than two feet of snow to parts of the US, crossed the Atlantic hitting the UK with more heavy rain and gale-force winds. But, this storm wasn’t named by the Met Office, to avoid confusion about storms being named twice. If the remnants of a storm or hurricane move across the Atlantic, the Met Office have said that it will retain its original name, but “Ex-“ or “remnants” will be added.

Of course, the name of the storm doesn’t really matter, if you’re having to deal with the resulting damage for days or months after it has left our shores. What is important to know is when it is coming, where it is going to hit and how bad conditions might be.

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