The UK sees on average around 35 tornadoes each year. Though generally tornadoes in the UK are weak in comparison to those seen in the USA, the United Kingdom has more tornadoes per area than any other country in the world.
Recent weeks have seen tornadoes across parts of England which have caused some damage to property. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, a suspected tornado caused some damage to property in a suburban street in Coventry, ripping tiles from roofs that subsequently damaged cars below, while fence panels were blown away and even a concrete post was snapped in half at one property. Insurers seemed unsympathetic with one resident in paying out for the damage, saying winds in the area were 30mph, but tornadoes are highly localised, so a weather station nearby would unlikely capture the concentrated damaging winds of a tornado. A tornado hit the village of Humberston near Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire on the 27th September, 20 houses were damaged, with roofs and windows badly damaged and vehicles flipped over – leaving residents in shock.
On the 27th of July there were sightings of a tornado in Northamptonshire. There were sightings of waterspouts off the coasts of the British Isles too in July, one seen off the coast of Gwynedd in north Wales, another off the coast of Worthing in West Sussex. On July 9th there were sightings of a funnel cloud in Darlington and Newton Aycliffe in NE England, also on the same day a tornado in Cambridgeshire, one video even showed it crossing a lake, so it was technically a waterspout when it crossed the water. There were sightings of a funnel cloud over Lincolnshire on the 8th too, though it wasn’t clear if it made contact with the ground making it a tornado. There were numerous sightnings of a tornado and subsequent damage in Essex on 25th of June too.
Although rare, there have been a few strong tornadoes that have caused significant damage in the UK. In July 2005 a strong tornado hit the southern suburbs of Birmingham, with estimated wind speeds around the funnel of around 130mph. It injured 19 people, causing £40million of damage, tearing up more than 1,000 trees. While in December 2006, a tornado in Kensal Green, North-West London, wrecked property to the tune of £10million. In October 2013, a tornado caused damage to about 100 homes on Hayling Island in Hampshire. This particular tornado appeared to start off as waterspout over the adjacent English Channel before coming ashore moving beach huts, flipping a caravan over in a Holiday Park and damaging buildings and vehicles on land.
One of the longest tracks recorded of a tornado in the UK was one that carved a path 70 miles (110km) long through Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire on May 21, 1950. The small town in Linsdale, Beds, saw fifty houses lose their roofs, a bakery destroyed, farm outbuildings lifted and dumped 100m away from their foundations.
The largest recorded tornado outbreak in the UK occurred on November 23, 1981. 105 tornadoes developed along a cold front that swept through England and Wales, with numerous counties across England and Wales hit by at least one tornado, while Norfolk was hit by at least 13. Most of the tornadoes were short-lived and weak and fortunately no deaths occurred.
Tornadoes in the UK are most common in summer and autumn, with the most tornado days in the summer, but with tornado outbreaks most common in autumn.
Tornadoes in the UK most commonly develop in linear (long/narrow) storms or strong convective cells that form along cold fronts or convergence zones, whereas in the USA tornadoes more typically develop in more isolated supercell storms. In the USA, like in the U.K., tornadoes that develop in cold front driven linear storms are generally weak (EF0-EF1) – strong tornadoes (EF2-EF5) in the U.S.A are normally found with supercell thunderstorms, which are a lot more common – because instability is often a lot more higher in the USA due to the geographical nature of the large landmass and the much larger contrasts in airmasses that converge over parts of the states.
Tornado likely to have occured in the gap between squall line segments moving east over Lincs on 27th September:
The recent tornadoes that struck Coventry and Lincolnshire were both associated with squall line convection. Often the tornado forming in the gap between broken line segments in the several 100 mile long squall line that crossed east across England on both occasions.