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A rare and alarming weather event unfolds as Storm Babet wreaks havoc across Ireland and the UK coastline. The situation has reached a critical point, prompting authorities to issue a red weather warning, indicating the most extreme and life-threatening conditions. As a result of this severe weather, parts of Scotland are under evacuation orders, with a tragic loss of life reported as a woman was swept away in a river.
The impact of Storm Babet is nothing short of catastrophic. Waves as high as 20 feet have been observed battering the coastlines, while the Scottish Environment Agency has issued a grim warning that rivers could rise by up to five meters. An unusual weather pattern marks this extraordinary event; strong winds from the east to southeast make their presence felt, contrary to the prevailing south-westerly winds typically experienced in northwest Europe.
The Met Office, responsible for weather forecasts in the UK, has issued a red weather warning for parts of eastern Scotland, signaling the dire situation. Jason Kelly, the Chief Meteorologist at the Met Office, emphasizes the gravity of the impending rainfall, stating, “Eastern parts of Scotland will see exceptional amounts of rainfall over the next few days, and the significant accumulations are likely to cause considerable impacts from Storm Babet.”
The effects of this weather event are far-reaching. Numerous amber and yellow rainfall warnings are in effect across the region until Saturday. Still, within the red warning area, 100-150mm of rainfall is expected to fall broadly, with some areas potentially experiencing an astonishing 200-220mm of rain. This deluge is poised to result in considerable impacts, including flooding that poses a danger to life, extensive damage to homes and businesses, and severe disruptions to travel conditions.
The latest red weather warning, from 6 p.m. on Thursday until noon on Friday, covers explicitly Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee, and Perth and Kinross. These areas are expected to bear the brunt of the severe weather.
Scotland is renowned for its rainfall, but this weather event is extraordinary even by Scottish standards. Some regions may witness 200-250mm of rain, which is exceptionally heavy, especially for this part of the world. In perspective, the record for the most rainfall in a single day in Scotland is 238mm, recorded in 1974 at the Sloy power station near Loch Lomond.
Red warnings from the Met Office are a rare occurrence, reserved for the most extreme weather situations. Typically, only one or two red warnings are issued in a year. Notably, this marks the first red warning of 2023.
Over the past decade, the Met Office issued several red warnings, primarily in December and January. Notable red warnings include those for Storm Dennis in 2020 and Storm Arwen in 2021, both having significant impacts.
While it is too early to attribute this storm to climate change definitively, it is worth noting that extreme rainfall events are becoming more common and intense due to climate breakdown. These weather patterns impact regions worldwide, including Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia, leading to increased severe flooding. Additionally, human factors such as the presence of flood defenses and land use also play a role in the severity of flooding events.
As Storm Babet continues to unfold, authorities and communities are working diligently to mitigate its impacts and ensure the safety of those in its path. The ongoing response and recovery efforts are a stark reminder of the increasing challenges posed by extreme weather events in the face of a changing climate.