Year of selection 2011
Institution University of Reading
Country United Kingdom
Remember the damaging winds of the infamous great October storm of 1987, which scoured the coasts of Europe, uprooting trees, damaging property and taking lives? It killed more than fifty people in France alone and left one million homes without power in western France. It was the first storm in which a sting jet was formally identified. Strong winds commonly occur in the warm sector of cyclones.
Some but not all cyclones have a second localized region of strong short-lived but damaging gusts. This region is located close to the tail of the characteristic hook of the cloud head as it wraps around the cyclone and is known as the “sting at the end of the tail” or “sting jet.”
Dr. Suzanne Gray and Prof. Peter Clark, leading meteorologists established at University of Reading and University of Surrey respectively, have recently developed an innovative diagnostic for the detection of sting jet precursor conditions in low-resolution datasets. Despite large socioeconomic impacts, much remains to be known about sting jets: few sting jet storms have been analyzed, and the latest generation of high-resolution climate models is able to represent the larger-scale features of storms but not sting jets per se.
Dr. Gray and Prof. Clark intend to investigate whether the characteristics or even the existence of sting jets are sensitive to small changes in environmental conditions. They will determine the variability and predictability of sting jet storms using the Met Office weather forecast model and data from state-of-the-art climate simulations. Next, they will document their frequency and preferred tracks in the current climate and possible future climates. Finally, they will determine the likely distribution of sting jet strength in these climates.
Global warming may increase the havoc wreaked by intense windstorms and the sting jets within them and thus their societal costs. Enhanced knowledge of sting jet storms in current and future climates will serve a wide range of stakeholders from the building construction industry to those responsible for the management of forests.
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