UK could be hit by more powerful storms like Eunice, as study shows the jet stream has got faster

The jet stream brings storms to our shores

New research from the University of Southampton shows that the winter jet stream, which affects storms that hit the UK, has increased its average speed by 10 miles per hour.

That represents an 8% rise, to an average speed of 132 miles per hour.

The study, which relates to the 140 year period from 1871 to 2011, also found that the jet stream over the North Atlantic and Eurasia has moved northwards by up to 330 kilometres - and therefore closer to the UK.

Jet streams are relatively narrow bands of strong wind in the upper levels of the atmosphere. They blow from East to West around ten thousand metres above the Earth's surface, causing changes in pressure at that level.

The jet stream brings storms like Eunice to the UK Credit: PA images

This affects things nearer the surface, such as areas of high and low pressure, and therefore plays a part in shaping the weather we see.

Jet streams have a significant influence on storm activity and temperature patterns across the northern hemisphere.

They can impact the weather through strong winds and flooding events.

Most recently the jet stream brought Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin to the UK.

This is the longest regional study of the northern hemisphere jet stream and the trends observed are potential indicators of climate change.

The study was led by Dr. Samantha Hallam, from the Maynooth University in Ireland whilst she was undertaking a PhD at the University of Southampton.

Dr Hallam told ITV Meridian: "A stronger jet stream does make storms more powerful. So our research does show that that the average winter jet speed over the North Atlantic has increased by 8%.

"Potentially that does mean that the storms are becoming more powerful.

"Also the jet stream orientation roughly determines the track of our storm. And so our study finds that the average winter jet position over the North Atlantic has moved northwards from 44° to 47° which is a closer latitude to that of the UK and Ireland."

"Significant increases in winter jet latitude and speed are observed over the North Atlantic and Eurasia. 

"These changes are consistent with the decreasing temperature and increasing pressure gradients observed between the equator and the Arctic over the period, and likely associated with the warming Arctic winters.”

The results are important for making climate predictions and in developing plans to combat climate change.