From polar surges to arctic blasts – what extreme weather warning names really mean

EXTREME weather conditions are sometimes described in peculiar terms to try and help us understand what is happening.

But what do they all mean? Here's what we know.

What do these extreme weather warnings really mean?

These are not all official terms, but rather words used to describe certain weather phenomena.

Polar Vortex

A polar vortex is a circulation of winds in the stratosphere, which is about 30miles above the surface of the earth.

The winds can influence the jet stream and in the winter it can bring westerly winds and a mild, damp climate.

If the polar vortex breaks down it is called a "Sudden Stratospheric Warning" which has been linked to cold spells in the past.

Ice Storm

An ice storm is a type of winter storm that is described as rain just below freezing temperatures.

It results in 6.4mm of ice on exposed surfaces.

These aren't typically violent storms.

Polar Surges

A polar surge is a weather front of freezing air that blasts through a large area and can bring record lows.

If the frigid, cold air meets any storm system it could result in a high amount of snow.

Arctic Blasts

An arctic blast brings extremely cold weather to an area that doesn't typical endure conditions you would find in the arctic.

It is sometimes referred to as a cold snap.

Heat plume

A heat plume is a large area of hot air that spreads far from where it started.

In 2019, a plume of hot air from the Sahara covered parts of Europe and smashed previous heatwave records.

Heat burst

A heat burst is when gusty winds combine with a rapid increase in temperatures and a decrease in dew point.

They typically occur during night-time in spring and summer seasons, and tend to happen on the tail end of a thunderstorm.

Heat bursts can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours – not be confused with a heat wave where temperatures are high for an excessive period of time.

Temperatures have been recorded during heat bursts when the mercury soared by more than 10 degrees in just minutes.

Snow bomb

A snow bomb is a simple way to describe a process called rapid cyclogenesis, where a low pressure develops quickly and deepens.

The central pressure inside that area of low pressure can fall a very fast rate and is then called explosive cyclogenesis.

When this happens violent winds can develop around the weather system and has been linked to disruptive snow storms in the past.

What do the Met Office issue weather warnings for?

The Met Office warns the public about severe or hazardous weather which has the potential to endanger lives or cause widespread disruption through the National Severe Weather Warning Service.

Warnings are issued for rain, snow, wind, fog and ice and are colour coded depending on both the likelihood of them happening and the impact of conditions.

  • Yellow means "be aware". Severe weather is possible over the next few days and could affect you.
  • Amber means "be prepared". There is an increased likelihood of bad or extreme weather, potentially disrupting plans and causing travel delays, road and rail closures, interruption to power and the potential risk to life and property.
  • Red means "take action". Extreme weather is expected. Take action to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather.

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