There is a hurricane on the way coming from the remnants of two other hurricanes that are driving in from the Atlantic. Where are these storms coming from? Hurricanes are becoming a normality in the British Isles. Is this a sign we need to start weather proofing our infrastructure effectively?
The science behind these bug storms is explained by the trade winds across the North Atlantic. They start from the west coast of Africa where the North-East Trade Winds travel towards the Eastern part of the North American continent. As they travel across the ocean rising moist air creates massive cloud formations known as cumulonimbus. As the cumulonimbus clouds gather in size and momentum they create a massive storm current that is converges around the equator.
The cloud formation is then carried northward into the Caribbean by a rotating cell of air called a Hedley cell. This then transports the storm to the area around the islands of the Caribbean and the Southern United States. The air pressure determines the strength and speed of the storm. In the case of Hurricane Maria it was a very powerful one that caused havoc across the Island nations of Dominica, Puerta Rico, Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida. Maria was a Category 5 hurricane and is the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Co-incidentally Maria had been preceded by another hurricane called Irma was also a Category 5.
At this moment Maria is now on it’s way across the Atlantic being carried by the westerlies, which transports air across the northern hemisphere towards Europe. Maria is on path that will make it converge with a smaller hurricane called Lee that meteorologists are calling Storm Brian. The distinction between hurricanes and storms is based on it’s geographic location, size and speed. When Maria struck land in America the hurricane reduced in size, slowed down and hence it downgraded to a storm.
Over the last ten years there have been random extreme weather patterns in Britain. In December 2015 Storm Desmond battered the country bringing severe gales and heavy rainfall to parts of the country. Another storm soon followed and it also brought misery for residents in York where the rivers Ouse and Foss burst their banks. A floodgate that was supposed to stop the flooding had been opened to prevent flood damage to the control centre of the gate. In February 2014 a storm caused a railway line in Dawlish to lose it’s foundations to the sea. Elsewhere that particular storm caused flooding in Somerset where an undredged river caused the water levels to rise and burst it’s banks.
These incidents are something that we need to learn from and we must be cautious about what to expect in the future. Britain has now become a vulnerable nation at the mercy of mother nature and it is better to prepare than to control the damage. But we have learnt our lessons in how to deal with storm damage at all?
Although the railway line at Dawlish has been repaired it’s defences are in dire need of improving to deflect the energy of the waves away. Countless times trains have been delayed and lines shut because of bad weather, some of it moderately breezy. In one year over 3000 planes in Britain’s airports were affected because of bad weather, while in Norway only just a handful of planes were grounded at all. We should learn from some of these nations on how to handle situations in bad weather.
Let’s consider an upgrade in the way we manage the train lines. On a number of occasions my journeys have been frequently disrupted by bad weather. One time my school day was ruined by a tree that had fallen on the line. There was also another time when a trip that I was supposed to have taken a trip across London on the Overground to see London in the snow for a photo trip. Most of the lines had been shut because of the snow, which was little more than a few inches thick in places. Norway and Canada have lines built for such weather. Norway’s trains have got space saving trains, frequent inspections on the lines, sheltered platforms, most of their lines are electrified and they are well prepared for the rugged terrain and any event that comes to them.
If you want your country to stand up to any weather economically or socially you mustn’t just invest in the offices and services, you also have to focus on improving the sustainability of the infrastructure that carries the workers around the country. What we ought to be doing is figuring out how to weather the storms of the future so that we can carry on trading as we used to do. Back in the 1950s it was business as usual come rain, sleet or shine. No excuses, no restrictions. We need to give more power and creative freedom to the engineers of our country, not just the desk clerks and the stationary people.