Atmosphere And Weather

Big British winds

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"Big British winds"
Caption: tornado
Location: Wikimedia Commons
Image by: NOAA Photo
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The United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland are not place associated with heavy tornado activity, but the United Kingdom has the distinction of being the geographic location that reports more tornado activity on a yearly basis than any other European country with the exception of the Netherlands. According to its size, it has the dubious honor of being number one in the world for tornado activity, with the phrase “according to its size” being the operative words.

Fortunately, the tornadoes fall at the weaker end of the Fujita Scale, and usually register at F1 or F2, which is a good thing as the United Kingdom is a very old county, and any tornado activity could destroy priceless and irreplaceable landmarks that stand as testament to British history.

The tornado being cited as United Kingdom’s worst was the Birmingham, England Tornado of 2005. Although there were no fatalities and only 19 injuries, the damage was extensive with downed trees, roof damage, building and car destruction. The tornado was of short duration, less than four minutes on the ground, cut a swath through the center of the city as a F2, but has been to date the costliest tornado with an estimated damage of  40 million Sterling Pounds or almost 63 million United States Dollars.

Birmingham was also the site of a similar tornado in 1931 that killed one woman, but the strongest recorded tornado was the 1810 tornado in Plymouth, England that reached speeds of 213 mph  which would register as a F5. Strangely enough, despite the high occurrence of tornado activity, the death toll is very small in relationship when compared to the tornadoes of Midwestern United  States.

According to the “Journal of Royal Meteorological Society” of the United Kingdom, geographers report that there are 20 to 30 tornado sightings reported in the United Kingdom each year; however, five times that number strike with a large number going unreported. A study conducted by the University of Leeds, England reported that the United Kingdom is a tornado hotspot with over 100 tornadoes each year. This is more per acre than all of Europe and the United States. This report differs from ”Nova Broadcasting Online that reports that the Midwestern section of the United  States is the world’s leader in tornado activity and most certainly death toll resulting from tornadoes.

Regardless of where they fall the factors leading to tornado activity are the consistent on any continent; extreme vertical instability and a rapid temperature shift. This phenomena occurs when cold air collides with warm air and overtakes it,  and the two begin a swirling motion which intensifies until it becomes a tornado. The factors dealing with tornado formation has been an ongoing study in many countries including the United Kingdom and the United States with the exact mechanics still not clearly defined.

In the United Kingdom, just as in the United States, there is one course of action with a tornado; get out of its path. When dealing with tornadoes, the tornado is king.


More about this author: Misty Manistee