Case Study: Snowstorm Feb 2009

This case study was commonly described as ‘Arctic conditions’ – Occluded Front.
 
It is extreme weather event because the weather experienced was severe and it was an unusual weather condition and it is believed to happen every two to three decades. This hazard brought freezing blizzards particularly in the South East.
 

 

Profile 

 

Dates; 1-13th Feb
Type of snow; Wet snow
Maximum depth; 55cm (or 22 inches),  It was the heaviest snowfall for 18 years.

 

Causes

 

Physical
  • Warm air mass from France and cold air mass from Arctic clashed. This rare reversal in winds brought heavy snowfall. Basically an anticyclone clashed with a depressions. High pressure from France clashed with low pressure from the Arctic.
  • An occluded front formed
  • Some scientists suggest this could be cyclical; 1 in 20 years.
Human
  • Some say that if it was cyclical then we are experiencing less and less of this type of weather, from 1 every 5 years it seems to be 1 every 20 years. This might be the invisible hand of climate change
Impacts
Economic;
  • 20% of all employees (6.4 million) failed to show up at work
  • It cost £1.2 billion
  • Online commerce received a boost especially carrot sales
Social
  • Mobile phone circuits disrupted
  • Sat Navs systems (GPS) could not receive satellite signal
  • Roads were closed and infrastructure failed
  • Emergency services such as ambulances found it hard to reach victims
  • The build up of ice and snow on the Severn Bridge meant that dangerous chunks of ice and snow were falling hence the gateway to Wales had to shut down for two days.
  • 4 climber lost their life in Snowdonia
  • Gatwick Airport temporarily closed
Environmental
  • Cornwall experience a vortex of wind similar to a tornado
  • Many plants and animals could not cope and died
Management 
  • One day suspension of congestion charge
  • Roads were gritted but not fast enough.
  • People questioned why the UK didn’t cope as well as Russia and Canada. They respond with snow tractors, electrical works and even snow chains on their shoes. New York have  all of these and super grit machines to mange. They have snow teams that work around the clock and usually declare a snow day!
  • Why can’t we adapt to snow just as well!
Past experiences
Mid 16th century; A mini ice age was experienced, even though it caused famine people celebrated on the Thames 200 years of a cold snap.
 
Jan 1947; 6ft deep snow caused famine
 
March 1963; Heavy snow caused 3 death with a further 2 who suffocated, milk delivery was put to a halt and as a result we experience severe flooding particularly in Blackall.
 
Feb 1991; soft and powdery snow found its way into electrical systems causing short circuits. It is famously remember as ‘the wrong type of snow’. It made the whole of the transport system stop.
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