Since I’m in a bit of a stormy mood at the moment, and have recently been working on some software to measure the storminess across the British Isles in a new kind of way, I thought that I would take a look back at the stormy winter of 1989/90 (remember the Burn’s day storm of the 25th of January, well actually the Burn’s night storm?) and see how it compared with last winter (2015/16), which according to the Met Office (if you believe them that is) was one of the stormiest on record with as many as eleven named storms!
Well the first ranked table of winter gale days answers the question immediately and quite definitely. The winter of 1989-90 was head and shoulders the stormiest in the objective Lamb Weather Type [LWT] series that started in 1871, with a total of 58 gale days and a mean gale index [GI] of 32.4. Last winter did manage a very creditable joint eighth place ranking with 38 gale day, but was no match for 1989/90 or the stormy winters of 1989-90 (#2) and 2013-14 (#3). I think the Met Office would have had their work cut out for them big time if the naming of storms had been in existence back then.
Here is a complete set of charts showing the number of gale days, the mean gale index and the anomaly from the Winters of 1871/72 to 2015/16, the winters in this case are of the astronomical kind 21st December to 20 March.
Those charts were from the old application that used the daily LWT from the Climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, the next few charts are from my more recent application and give a more detailed look at the gale index for any particular period and use 6 hourly charts. The first is for 1989-90 and a you can see that January and February were a particular stormy affair. There were ten distinct storm periods during 1989-90 the stormiest winter on record.
I have looked at the Met Office “named” storms from 2015-16 in a previous articles and found some of them fall short of what I would describe a true storm, a gale maybe but not a storm. The chart below can only identify five storms that occurred during the 2015-16 season, and not the eleven “named” ones.
Finally for a bit of fun (really), I thought I would try to visualise all the gales and storms since 1948 in one chart. Can’t be done? Have a look at this monster piece of climatological DNA. It’s still a bit rough round the edges as a chart goes, but it does manage to show every gale index greater than 30. The reason I can’t go back before 1948 at the moment is that the reanalysis data changes from using a 2.5 x 2.5° grid to a slightly finer 2° x 2° grid before 1948. Why the National Centers for Environmental Prediction [NCEP] wouldn’t produce a finer grid in more recent years rather than the other way round beats me.