How The Jetstream Affects Our Weather
In recent years it has been argued that weather across the world is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Many debates have arisen about whether we are actually encountering global warming, or if weather patterns in most parts of the world are becoming more unpredictable. Britain’s is a case in point, its seasons are even harder to predict. There are a number of reasons for this, any much of which has to do with our geographical position in the world. Britain can get snow in March and beautiful sunshine just a couple of months later, so why is it that our seasons have become so much more unpredictable?
Much of Britain’s unpredictable weather can be put down to the two different winds that often meet directly over Britain. On the one hand, warm, tropical air from the U.S. and Atlantic Ocean blows over Britain from the South West. The warmer current of air is known as the Jet Stream, and operates at a height of 10 to 15km, and at speeds of up to 450km/h. When the Jet Stream is in the correct position, it can give planes flying from the United States to Europe a great tailwind, hence reducing their journey times.
Cold Polar air from the north blows southwards over Britain, often causing cold weather and snow. However, the danger is when these two powerful wind currents meet, blowing into each other. When this happens directly over Britain, it can have devastating effects on the weather, creating high winds, storms, and sometimes snow and blizzards.
In the last five years we have seen increasing unpredictable weather, such as the recent flooding in Somerset, and, from 2009 onwards, much harsher winters than we had seen for many years before that. As our weather is very much dictated by the position and movement of the Jet Stream, it is very important for meteorologists to be able to accurately predict the movements of the Jet Stream. However, the position of the jet stream has become more unpredictable, making long-term weather patterns much harder to predict. Whether this has been caused by global warming or other issues is a very contentious topic; but one thing is for sure, British weather has changed for good.
What does this mean for drivers?
As a driver, changing weather conditions can be very worrying, especially if you are on a long journey or in more rural areas. The best thing that you can do in this situation is to make sure you are adequately prepared for your journey. You can do this by checking the weather before your journey, making sure you have clear directions, a satellite navigation system or a map, and emergency kit if you break down, as well as checking your car and tyre pressures. You can find out more about being adequately prepared for the winter by reading our Safety Advice section.