(UK Met Office)
(UK Met Office)

A massive north Atlantic storm has explosively intensified just to the east of Greenland and threatens to hammer northern parts of the United Kingdom with hurricane-force winds Wednesday.

The UK Met Office has issued an amber severe weather warning for its northwest coast, which includes extreme northern Ireland and northwest Scotland.  It cautions:

Westerly winds will gust 70 to 80 mph at times and will be combined with exceptionally high waves. The public should be prepared for dangerous conditions, especially along causeways and coastal roads exposed to the west.

The storm’s central pressure this morning was estimated to be 943 millibars (mb), comparable to Superstorm Sandy when it approached the New Jersey shore and equivalent to many category 3 hurricanes. The lower the storm’s pressure, the more intense.

Surface pressure map (NWS Ocean Prediction Center)

This storm’s pressure plummeted more than 24 mb in the past 24 hours, meeting the criteria of a meteorological “bomb”.

On approach to Iceland late Monday, the storm produced wind gusts to at least 78 mph.

The storm has a sprawling area of very strong winds, thanks to an astonishingly large difference in pressure (near 100 mb) – or gradient – between it and an area of high pressure in Newfoundland. It is the pressure gradient that drives wind – from high pressure to low pressure.

GFS model simulation of surface pressure at 7 a.m. today in North Atlantic (WeatherBell.com)

Here’s a look at the wind field, as estimated from satellite imagery; gale force winds are in yellow (39-54 mph), storm force in brown (55-73 mph), and hurricane force winds in red (74 mph+):


These winds are stimulating incredible wave action, with models forecasting wave heights up to 50 to 60 feet on Wednesday:

Powering the storm at high altitudes is a raging jet stream, zipping along at about 200 mph:

After the storm lashes northwest Britain Wednesday, it will weaken substantially as it heads towards northern Scandanavia, which will be dealt a gentler blow:

GFS simulation of storm Tuesday through Thursday (WeatherBell.com)

While is certainly an impressive and intense storm, cyclones such as this are quite common in the North Atlantic and occur most years.

Here are some more images of this storm:

(Tim Ballisty, @irisheagle on Twitter)
(Tim Ballisty, @irisheagle on Twitter)