Weather Watch: Britain is in the middle of the polar jet battleground

Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover
Latest weather news with MetDesk in Wendover

Stormy conditions have battered the British Isles over the last week or so, particularly over northern areas where wind gusts have exceeded 110mph in places.

When these storms are mentioned on TV, you may hear references to something called the jet stream.

But what is the jet stream and why does it exist?

The jet stream is a narrow ribbon of very fast flowing air high up in the atmosphere that meanders its way around the globe, much like a river, reaching speeds in excess of 250mph.

In fact, there are four main jet streams, two in each hemisphere.

The jet stream that affects us is known as the Polar Jet, flowing from west to east, and its positioning can have a major impact on our weather.

This jet stream is also the reason why transatlantic flights tend to have shorter journey times coming back towards the UK than going out to the US.

The Polar Jet is a consequence of the large temperature difference between the frigid Arctic and warmer conditions to the south, with the jet itself being a broad dividing line between the two air masses.

The UK often finds itself in the middle of this battleground, which is partly the reason for our weather being so changeable!

When the Polar Jet shifts south, we tend to find ourselves in colder air, and when it shifts north we often end up in warmer air.

However, when we find ourselves underneath the jet stream, like we’ve seen in recent times, the UK often gets battered by Atlantic storms.

This is because the jet stream effectively acts as a “steering” mechanism for these storms.

The speed of the jet stream can also worsen the storms that arrive at our shores, with an accelerating jet stream typically causing areas of low pressure to deepen.

So where will we find ourselves in terms of the jet stream over the coming days?

Well it looks like it will be positioned very close to the UK, meaning that the Aylesbury Vale area will see a continuation of the unsettled conditions, but also becoming increasingly cold.