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Sunday 21 February 2010

After The Mudslide

Earlier this month, I considered the recent behaviour of weather patterns, which has seen cold spells on both sides of the Atlantic. In that post was reference to the Atlantic Jet Stream, and that it was tracking much further south than usual. If any evidence of active weather systems also tracking further south were needed, it was provided by the sudden and violent storms that hit the island of Madeira at the end of last week, these destabilising the island’s soils and triggering mudslides.

The Portuguese army – Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal – have become involved as the death toll passes forty. The weather patterns in the area, which lies off the west coast of north Africa, are normally not unlike those in the Canary Islands further to the south: the breeze, and the rainfall, comes from the north east. The depression that brought the severe weather would normally have tracked far to the north, and brought rain – though much less of it – to the UK, together with relatively mild temperatures.

Whether the shift in the path of the Jet Stream is going to recur, or even become established further south, is not known. The storms in Madeira, however, are yet another example of severe weather events turning up either where they would not normally occur, or more frequently than in the past.

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