Are There Tornadoes In Europe? Floods, Blizzards, Hurricanes?

 

How do weather patterns in the U.S. compare to Europe? Similar or completely different? i.e. tornadoes, floods, blizzards, hurricanes?

Thanks,

Ryan Wykoff

From The Home Office in Des Moines, Iowa

 

Thanks for the question Ryan, and it's a good one. As far as general weather patterns, it really depends on geographic location, topography of the land, and the dominant winds. In the US the Westerlies are the dominant wind, and thus most storm systems move from the West to the East...the general direction of the Westerlies. Also, just like the US, European weather & climate differs greatly depending upon if it is an island, it there are mountains, if it is far away from the equator or close to it. For example, low level cold and dry air riding on the heels of Northwest winds from Scandinavia can spread over Northern and Eastern Europe. But the Alps act as a barrier to that cool air, keeping it away from the usually mild Mediterranean.

Those Pesky Alps!

Honestly, without the Alps mountain range, Europe could have just as interesting weather as the US One of the key characteristics to the US topography in supporting severe weather is that the Central US has no Alps or any mountains to impede the meeting of cold/dry air and warm/moist air. In fact, the plains are relatively flat. Typically, the clash of differing airmasses is a general setup for classic Midwestern thunderstorms.

Let's get to the specifics.

Tornadoes:


In Europe tornadoes do occur, but not nearly as regularly as they occur in the US

In Austria, about 2.6 tornadoes are recorded each year (1). It wouldn't be valid to compare the US to Austria, the land size is much larger.

However, in Oklahoma about 52 tornadoes occur on average each year (2). Or consider this...in the US in the month of December during 2001, 20 tornadoes were reported (3). In December!

Obviously, tornadoes are much more common in the US Here's a comparison






Region or Country (source)
Tornadoes Per Year
Austria (1)
2.6
British Isles (4)
10
Iowa (2)
31
US (2)
~1000


Although European countries don't see many tornadoes each year, it only takes one violent tornado to make Europeans fear twisters like we do. According to TORRO (Tornado and Storm Research Organization, a British Based tornado research organization serving Europe), one twister in Bourborg, France left one man's house as merely one standing wall when it was all over. Upon seeing the devastation, the man had a heart attack.

Blizzards:

Blizzards are actually pretty common in Eastern Europe and sometimes Central Europe. Again, those general guidelines which drive weather patterns (topography, location, Winds) will determine what parts of Europe are prone to blizzards. However, weird weather happens. In December of 2001, heavy snow paralyzed the Northern portion of Greece. Oupa!!!

Floods:

Yep, they've got floods in Europe too. In fact, in 1953 the Netherlands flooded when dikes broke and 1,800 people died.
Floods in Europe also can spawn mud slides, which can quickly destroy homes and claim whole villages.




Hurricanes:


Hurricanes in Europe? Not so much.

A lot of Atlantic hurricanes form out near Africa and the Sahara Desert. Due to the dominant winds called "Trade Winds", (the same Trade Winds which early travelers would ride from Europe to the Caribbean and the "New World") these storms flow across the Atlantic and perhaps at some point near the Caribbean or Eastern US, will start a track Northward.

Often if a hurricane reaches near the British Isles, it is in a region of such cooler waters, that it will lose it's strength. However, perhaps not classified as a "Hurricane" (winds greater than or equal to 74 mph), it can still be a devastating storm and can produce a lot of rain, wind, and perhaps spawn severe storms.

 



Tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and blizzards do occur all over the world. However, what makes the US so unique is that all those weather events are common across our country. Sometimes produced from the same storm system!
Here's a great web site to check out climate normals for different countries around the world:
http://www.worldclimate.com

Thanks for your question Ryan.

If you have a weather question, email me...HeySteve@WeatherSavvy.com


 

(1) http://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a9600149/tornado/toulouse_abstract.pdf

(2) http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/severeweather/small/avgt5095.gif

(3) http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/torn/monthlytornstats.html

(4) http://www.naturalhazards.org/investigate/tornadoes/

(5) http://www.torro.org.uk/svreu98.htm