Britain turns into a tornado hotspot with 100 twisters a year

A A A

Tornadoes are five times more likely to hit Britain than the United States, research has revealed. A geographer who describes himself as a "fair-weather scientist" has discovered that Britain is in fact a tornado hotspot - receiving more of them per unit area than the US or Europe.

Tornadoes are five times more likely to hit Britain than the United States, research has revealed. A geographer who describes himself as a "fair-weather scientist" has discovered that Britain is in fact a tornado hotspot - receiving more of them per unit area than the US or Europe.

At least 100 tornadoes strike Britain each year, more than three times as many as had been thought, according to calculations carried out by Dr Joseph Holden, working with Amy Wright at the geography department of the University of Leeds. The research was published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. Most tornadoes are not reported because they remain unseen - but calculations by the scientists showed that the correct weather conditions to create a tornado occur frequently in the UK. A tornado is defined as a fast-moving rotating column of air, usually with a funnel-shaped cloud that extends to the ground. In the UK, the definition requires the funnel cloud to reach the land.

Between 20 and 30 tornadoes are sighted in the United Kingdom each year. But by modelling the pattern of winds and rain needed to create one, Dr Holden said that there were many more which occurred but went unnoticed, because they are mild compared with the "twisters" in the US. Instead they may take place without any witnesses.

"In the US they can be half a mile wide and have winds of up to 300mph at the outside," said Dr Holden. "But in the UK the largest would probably be a few tens of metres wide, with winds of up to 120mph. In the US they use Doppler radar systems to detect them, which we don't have at all in the UK."

Yet British tornadoes sometimes cause significant damage: in January 1998 one hit the town of Selsey in West Sussex and caused £10m of damage; the same town was hit in October 2000, when two people were injured and more than £500,000 of damage caused.

The risk could also be rising because of global warming, which climatologists believe will make Britain stormier. Dr Holden said that while the risk might increase, the size of British tornadoes would probably stay the same: the UK generally has smaller tornadoes than the US because "we don't have the vast wide tracts of open land needed to build up the really big ones".

Although trained as a hydrologist, Dr Holden was inspired to research the subject after seeing a tornado while he was walking in the north Pennines. "You look at these things and are awed by the sheer ferocity of nature," he said. He and Ms Wright studied details of past tornadoes and the exact weather conditions at the time, and then created a model that could predict if a tornado would occur given a set of recorded weather conditions.

When tested against reports of tornadoes, the model was correct 86 per cent of the time.

Running the model using weather-station data for the period 1995 to 1999 suggested that the UK had sustained 630 tornadoes, rather than the 122 reported. Dr Holden said: "We can now get information on where tornadoes are likely to be really occurring."

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on