Jesse Ferrell

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U.K., Azores Hurricane History

September 21, 2006; 9:03 PM ET

Blog reader Elizabeth wrote:

I don't think I have ever heard of a hurricane hitting Great Britain or Europe. Where can I find information on past hurricanes in that region?

To answer this question, I accessed NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracker system, which is a heck of a tool for analyzing historical tropical storm information. Using various lat/lons in the U.K. to query their database, I came up with this map of the area (click to enlarge):


The map tracks every tropical "system" (tropical depression, subtropical* depression, tropical storm, subtropical* storm, extratropical* storm and hurricane) that has approached Europe between 1851 and 2005.

What you see from this map is that only two systems that were still tropical in nature have ever made landfall in Europe. The first was Hurricane Debby in 1961 (a red line crossing northwestern Ireland, hard to see on the map) which made landfall as a hurricane. The last was Tropical Depression Vince, which came ashore in Spain last year. The rest were former tropical storms or hurricanes (the black tracks are "extratropical"*). I'll give an honorable mention to Tropical Storm Chloe in 1967, which was a tropical storm almost until it hit France.

Although the official record [PDF] says Vince was a depression, the article I quoted (last year in a blog entry about Vince) claims it was a Tropical Storm.(The official report also added humorously: "The rain in Spain was mainly less than 2 inches".)

There is also some argument about Debbie. Wikipedia disagrees with NOAA's map above (even though their track map agrees with NOAA), saying "[Debbie] became extratropical just southwest of Ireland. The remnants of the hurricane caused heavy damage across the United Kingdom, causing 11 deaths in Ireland." The official record of the National Hurricane Center says:

"shortly after [passing the Azores] it took on the characteristics of a middle-latitude cyclone* but still remained strong. It skirted the west coast of Ireland. At least 11 deaths and many injuries in Ireland were attributed to the storm. It also did extensive damage in Scotland and Wales. The remnants of "Debbie" continued along the Norwegian coast and crossed northern Scandinavia into Arctic European Russia, where it dissipated on the 19th."

Now that I've covered Europe's hurricane history, I turn back to the Azores. On Monday, I posted a list of tropical systems that had previously affected the Azores. Today, I used the NOAA tool to show a number of maps, which I have posted to that blog entry. Click on the map below to explore.

*"Subtropical" generally refers to a system which forms during tropical season without tropical characteristics. "Extratropical" generally refers to former tropical storms which no longer have tropical characteristics (as was the case with Debbie, apparently (see above)). In other words, you're not going to see any winter storms in this list.

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.