Storm, freeze, heat and flood

Throughout history, the UK has seen extreme weather that has had damaging impacts to people's lives and livelihoods, as well as businesses and infrastructure.

Derby Day Thunderstorm (1911-05-31/1911-05-31) by Met OfficeMet Office

Epsom Derby Day Thunderstorm - 31 May 1911

Severe thunderstorms affected the London area causing flash floods and severe disruption to public transport. One particular thunderstorm interrupted the Derby horse racing event on Epsom Downs. 17 people were killed along with 4 horses.

Longest Tornado (1950-05-21/1950-05-21) by Met OfficeMet Office

Longest Tornado Track - 21 May 1950

Three tornadoes were observed and one left a trail of damage stretching 65-miles from Wendover (Buckinghamshire) to Ely (Cambridgeshire).

A= Main tornado,
B = Wilstead - Goldington tornado
C = Caldecote tornado

East Coast Floods (1953-01-31/1953-02-01) by Met OfficeMet Office

East Coast Floods 31 January / 1 February 1953

160,000 acres of eastern England were flooded by sea water. 

The Stranraer to Larne ferry boat ‘Princess Victoria’ foundered with the loss of 133 lives.

307 people died across southeast England.

1800 people died in Holland as a direct result of the storm surge.

Martinstown Highest Rainfall (1955-07-18/1955-07-18) by Met OfficeMet Office

Martinstown Record Rainfall - 18 July 1955

Severe thunderstorms occurred across southern England and South Wales bringing some remarkable falls of rain in a very short period of time.

Martinstown in Dorset recorded 279.4 mm (11.00 inches) of rainfall, which is the highest daily value ever recorded across the UK.

June Snowfall (1975-06-02/1975-06-02) by Met OfficeMet Office

June Snowfall - 2 June 1975

The first time since 1888 that snow and sleet had been reported as widely so far south in the summer. Several county cricket matches were abandoned due to snow, most notably between Essex and Kent at Castle Park, Colchester and between Derbyshire and Lancashire at Buxton.

Fastnet Storm (1979/1979) by Met OfficeMet Office

Fastnet Storm - 14 August 1979

On the 14th August there were severe gales in the area between Land’s End and south-west Ireland, 23 yachts taking part in the Fastnet Race were abandoned or sunk with the loss of 15 lives.

4 other yachtsmen also lost their lives in the same area.

Braemar Lowest Temperature (1982-01-10/1982-01-10) by Met OfficeMet Office

Lowest Temperature ever recorded in the UK

The 10 January 1982 minimum temperature of -27.2 °C at Braemar, Aberdeenshire, equalled the lowest officially recorded temperature in Britain which was also set at Braemar on 11 February 1895. This temperature was equalled again at Altnaharra, Highland, on 30 December 1995.

1987 Storm Chart vt 0400 GMT on 16 October 1987 (1987-10-16/1987-10-16) by Met OfficeMet Office

October 1987 Storm - "The Great Storm"

Across England and France, 22 people died as a result of this storm.

The last storm of similar magnitude in England was in 1703.

Highest Hourly Mean Wind Speed: 75 knots (86.5 mph) at Royal Sovereign Lighthouse.

Highest gust: 100 knots (115 mph) at Shoreham-by-Sea.

Weather Chart for The Great Storm (1987-10-16) by Met OfficeMet Office

"The Great Storm of 1987"

A powerful storm ravaged many parts of the UK in the middle of October 1987.

It caused devastation across large parts of England, especially along the south coast, with 18 people killed. About 15 million trees were blown down, causing major transport and power disruption.

Fallen tree caused by The Great Storm of 1987Met Office

Advances in forecasting

Forecasters are now much better prepared for storms and warn people of the potential impact severity. 

After The Great Storm of 1987, the Met Office set up the National Severe Weather Warning Service to deliver warnings to the government, emergency responders and the public.

30 years on from The Great Storm of 1987

In 2017 Michael Fish and Alex Deakin reflected on the legacy of The Great Storm and look at how forecasting has improved over the last 30 years.

Boscastle Radar Accumulation (2004-08-16/2004-08-16) by Met OfficeMet Office

Boscastle Flood - 16 August 2004

Bands of heavy, thundery downpours aligned themselves with the wind helping to maintain heavy rain across some areas for several hours. The severity of the flooding around Boscastle was exacerbated by the local topography.

Otterham recorded 200.4 mm of rainfall in 24hrs.

Radar Accumulation Ottery Storm (2008-10-29/2008-10-30) by Met OfficeMet Office

Ottery St Mary Hailstorm - 29/30 October 2008

Many properties in Ottery St Mary and Feniton were flooded and the main A30 road was closed. Hail accumulations in Ottery St Mary reached above car wheels and the ice pushed many vehicles down hills resulting in collisions and further damage. 

List of storm names for 2023 by Met OfficeMet Office

Name Our Storms

In 2015, the Met Office launched  a single authoritative system to name storms aiding communication of approaching severe weather to keep people safe. 

Storms are named based on impact and likelihood of weather, and warnings issued via the National Severe Weather Warnings service.

Snow covered car in the UKMet Office

Storm Emma 2018

A very rare red warning for snow was issued in 2018, when Storm Emma and the 'Beast from the East' combined to cause major impacts. An accurate forecast enabled decision makers to close schools, limit travel and issue critical service and military support to those affected.

Red Warnings Storm Eunice (2022-02-18/2022-02-18) by Met OfficeMet Office

Storm Eunice - 18 February 2022

This was the first time a red warning had been issued for wind covering south-east England, including London.   

It marked a New England gust speed record of 106 knots/122 mph at Needles, Isle of Wight.

Named Storm Dudley and Eunice Engagement StatisticsMet Office

Does storm naming work?

The Met Office gathers information following a Named Storm to understand how effective communications have been and to learn for future. 

For Storm Dudley and Storm Eunice, these are the engagement statistics showing the significant impact Named Storms have on raising awareness.

Cambridge Highest Temperature (2019-07-19/2019-07-19) by Met OfficeMet Office

Highest Temperature ever recorded in the UK

A daily maximum temperature of 40.3 °C was recorded at Coningsby on 19 July 2022, Lincolnshire, a new UK record. 

Rail services were severely disrupted as tracks buckled and overhead cables sagged.

A UK temperature above 40°C was not possible in a pre-industrial climate.

UK Temperature Records by Met OfficeMet Office

What are the highest recorded temperatures across the UK?

Map showing snow across the UKMet Office

Climate change is making extreme events more likely

Extreme weather events can lead to large economic costs, population displacement, and loss of life. Through extensive expert research and analysis, it's clear that with human-induced climate change, more of these events are likely to take place in the coming years.

Global impacts mapMet Office

Climate extremes from the Poles to the Tropics

An analysis by the Met Office - which builds on work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other sources - has looked at six types of extreme event and climate change impact and tried to assess overlapping trends across different regions of the world.

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