Weatherwatch: Europe has a history of fatal tornadoes

For most of us the word “tornado” conjures up images of vast “twisters”, like the one that ripped through the US state of Kansas and whisked away Dorothy and her dog Toto in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. But “Tornado Alley” is not the only place where tornadoes occur. They are also common across Europe, and although not as large as their American cousins, they are still dangerous and damaging.

During the last 200 years Europe has suffered three tornadoes with death tolls of over 50 people: Ivanovo in Russia in June 1984 (69 fatalities), Oria in Italy in September 1897 (55 fatalities) and Montville in France in August 1845 (at least 70 fatalities). Meanwhile, in June 1967, six tornadoes spun their way across France, Belgium and the Netherlands, resulting in 232 injuries, 15 deaths and serious damage or destruction of just under 1,000 houses. So what would happen if this outbreak occurred today?

New research published in the journal Weather, Climate and Society, reveals that we could expect as many as 170 fatalities, up to 2,500 injuries, and serious damage to 25,000 buildings. Although not common, scientists warn that an outbreak like this should be expected somewhere in Europe within the next 50 years.

Kate Ravilious will be one of the panel of Weatherwatch contributors taking part in Freak Weather in History at the British Library on Wednesday 2 May, at 7pm

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