Research into the violent Atlantic storm

8 December 2011 - Today's violent storm in Scotland is a reminder of the enormous impact that weather can have on our lives, and of the paramount need for accurate forecasts of high winds.

To help improve future forecasts, scientists from the UK academic community and the Met Office are using the  Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) research aircraft to probe this storm, using specialist instruments to measure the winds, temperature and humidity, and cloud particles.

The aircraft is also able to drop small instrument packages through the storm to measure profiles of wind, temperature and humidity. The data from these instruments was relayed back to Exeter by satellite link and used in producing the next forecast. Today it flew from Exeter north to Stornoway before sampling the south-west region of the storm, west of Scotland. Then after refuelling in Tees-side it measured the storm again over Eastern Scotland.

The flights are being conducted as part of DIAMET, a joint project between the National Centre for Atmospheric SciencesNatural Environment Research Council and the Met Office as part of our programme of continually improving our ability to forecast high-impact weather.

Larger-scale storm systems that may be forecast well, typically contain localised regions of particularly severe weather, that are much harder to forecast accurately. These smaller regions, where much of the storm damage is often concentrated, are much more difficult to forecast than the storm itself, especially more than a day ahead. Our study of today's storm will be a major opportunity to improve such forecasts.

A selection of some of the highest winds recorded around the UK on Thursday are:

Selection of highest wind gust speeds 8 December 2011
LocationMaximum gust speed (mph)
Cairngorm Summit165 mph
Aonach Mor145 mph
Tiree90 mph
Dunstaffnage86 mph
Aberdaron81 mph
Church Fenton73 mph
Glasgow, Bishopton71 mph
Edinburgh, Gogarbank69 mph
St Bees Head74 mph
Mumbles Head62 mph
Weather lab in the sky
Jonathon Taylor explains the work of FAAM and the different kinds of instruments used.

FAAM research flight into Scottish storm FAAM research flight into Scottish storm (PDF, 84 kB)

Last updated: 11 February 2016

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