Extreme weather events can significantly disrupt normal routines, damage property and in some instances even threaten life.
Understanding the causes, effects, and responses to extreme weather events in the UK is important for effective preparedness and minimising their negative consequences.
The UK climate is shaped by several factors, such as the effects of continentality, the North Atlantic Drift and varying air masses.
In the UK, extreme weather events are usually caused by depressions and anticyclones.
Depressions form when warm and cold air masses intersect over the Atlantic Ocean, leading to wet and windy weather. Whereas, anticyclones, which are high-pressure systems, can bring in very cold or hot and dry weather, leading to stable weather conditions.
Extreme weather manifests in various forms, each having its unique impact.
|Heavy rain||Flooding causes property damage, disrupts transportation and leads to significant recovery costs.|
|Windstorms or gales||Can damage properties, uproot trees and cause general disruptions, especially in coastal and upland areas.|
|Heat waves||Prolonged periods of extremely hot weather can cause health issues, pollution buildup, transportation disruptions and economic stress.|
|Thunderstorms||Heavy rain, lightning and strong winds can damage property, trigger fires and carry the risk of fatalities.|
|Hailstorms||Hailstorms accompanying thunderstorms can damage property, vehicles, and crops and pose a danger to life.|
|Drought||Water supplies can run low, negatively affecting agriculture and wildlife and can lead to restrictions on water usage.|
|Snow and ice||Can cause slips and falls, transportation disruptions, damage to crops and wildlife and risks to human and animal life.|
In response to extreme weather events, various strategies have been implemented. These include:
In 2018, the UK experienced a significant weather event known as “The Beast from the East”. This triggered a sudden warming of the stratosphere. Also, it weakened the UK’s jet stream (also known as the polar jet), which forms at the boundary of two very different air masses. As a result, cold air from western Russia engulfed Europe.
This event led to various social impacts, including school closures, fatalities, stranded motorists, gas and power supply issues, and disruption to non-urgent medical services.
Economically, it led to significant losses to the economy, businesses and services closing, disrupted transportation, and caused damage to crops and livestock.
There were also environmental impacts, including heavy snowfall, freezing temperatures, snow drifts and strong winds that caused damage to the natural environment.
In response to these challenges:
This case study shows the importance of preparedness and efficient response strategies in managing the impact of extreme weather events in the UK.