What Are Thunderstorms and Spanish Plumes?
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Spanish PlumeThere is a particular weather situation where lightning may be especially prevalent, so avoiding being outdoors in these conditions is advisable. It is called a Spanish Plume. There are three main ingredients which are typically involved in a Spanish plume event:
- Very warm air pushing north from the Spanish plateau on a southerly airflow. This can happen at almost any time of year, but during the summer months the extra warmth and moisture leads to increased energy available for storm development.
- Cooler air at height advancing from the west, often associated with cold fronts.
- Strong summer sunshine heating air at and near the surface across France and the UK.
Case study: Spanish plume event in the UK 17 – 21 July 2014In July 2014, the UK experienced a series of Spanish plume events, as successive plumes of very warm, humid air moved north form Iberia and France, and were repeatedly overrun by cooler air at higher levels in the atmosphere. The result was several outbreaks of widespread thundery activity, each of them across different areas but often including intense thunderstorms. Between 17 – 21 July 2014, the UK experienced 62,277 lightning strikes. The UK also saw the high temperatures and heavy downpours characteristic of a Spanish Plume event, with a maximum temperature of 28.5 °C on the 19th July at St James’ Park in London and the recording of an unusual 45.8 mm rainfall in just one hour at Norwich Airport on 20th July. If you are caught outside in a thundery situation, here are some guidelines to follow: Don’t…
- Carry on working in your garden, or go outside at all if possible.
- Use plug-in electrical equipment like hair driers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors during the storm.
- Use the telephone during the storm. Lightning may strike telephone lines outside.
- Take laundry off the clothes line.
- Work on telephone or power lines, pipelines, or structural steel fabrication.
- Use metal objects like tent poles, ice axes and golf clubs.
- Handle flammable materials in open containers.
- Stay on hilltops, in open spaces, near wire fences, metal clotheslines, exposed sheds, and any electrically conductive elevated objects.
- Stay indoors if you can.
- Stay away from open doors and windows, radiators, metal pipes, and plug-in electrical appliances.
- Get out of the water and off small boats.
- Stay in your car if you are travelling. Cars offer excellent lightning protection.
- Seek shelter in buildings. If no buildings are available, your best protection is a cave, ditch, or under head-high clumps of trees in open forest glades.
- When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
- When you feel the electrical charge — if your hair stands on end or your skin tingles — lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to the ground
Learn About Weather
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