2023 has been something of a washout so far – literally. Rain has battered the UK for the last few days, causing the Met Office to issue weather warnings.
The heavy rainfall has meant flood alerts are in place across the country – a much different picture to memories of 2022, officially the hottest year on record in the UK.
The UK is famous for its capricious weather, but what’s causing this bout of heavy rainfall?
What could be causing the high levels of rain?
While the UK is no stranger to rain, the latest downpour can be blamed on America. Sort of.
The Met Office explains that cold air outbreaks across North America and the Pacific, both recent and upcoming, are impacting North Atlantic jet streams.
The jet stream is a core of strong winds around five to seven miles above the Earth’s surface, blowing from west to east.
The jet stream, though high above the Earth’s surface, affects things nearer the surface, such as areas of high and low pressure, and therefore helps shape the weather we see. Colder air in the jet stream will mean heavier moisture carried in the winds, leading to rain.
Because of the North Atlantic jet streams observed lately, the Met Office’s official blog predicts a continued wet and windy outlook for the UK through the first part of January, with weather systems likely to impact the UK from the west.
In that same blog, the Met Office also explain that another factor could be behind this period of heavy rainfall – the ongoing La Nina event.
This sees episodes of cooler than average sea surface temperatures in the Pacific.
As a result, this can lead to a drier and cooler first half of winter, before a transition to more unsettled conditions in January and February, with wind and rain hitting the UK from the west.
Met Office Deputy Chief Meteorologist Rebekah Sherwin said: ‘The temperature drop in North America before the end of 2022 was the underlying cause of our wet and windy weather in the run-up to New Year.’
‘The conditions across the Atlantic served to strengthen the jet stream and help send low pressure systems and weather fronts towards the UK, resulting in the recent unsettled conditions.’
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