Winter Storm Xynthia kills 62 in Europe

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:21 PM GMT on March 01, 2010

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Devastating Winter Storm Xynthia ripped a swath of destruction through Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, and Germany over the weekend, killing at least 62 people. It was Europe's 5th deadliest winter storm of the past 60 years. Hardest hit was France, where at least 51 died. The storm also caused six deaths in Germany, including a 2-year-old boy blown into a river and drowned. Three people were dead in Spain, and Belgium, Portugal, and England had one fatality each. At least ten people are still missing. Most of the deaths in France occurred when a powerful storm surge topped by battering waves up to 25 feet high, hitting at high tide, smashed though the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer. A mobile home park built close to the sea wall was particularly hard-hit. The sea wall was several hundred years old, built in the time of Napoleon, and locating a mobile home park so close to it showed poor coastal development practices, critics said. The storm cut power to more than 1 million homes in France, and up to 1 million customers in Portugal also lost power. A few wind peak wind gusts measured during the storm:

Portugal
Pampilhosa da Serra 147 km/h (91 mph)
Penhas Douradas 126.1 km/h (78 mph)
Porto (Airport LPPR) 113km/h (70 mph)

Spain
Lardeira: 196.1 km/h (122 mph)
Serra do Eixe: 157 km/h (98 mph)
Campus de Vigo: 146.9 km/h (92 mph)
Gandara: 145.8 km/h (91 mph)

France
Eiffel Tower, Paris: 175 km/h (106 mph)
Saint-Clement of the Whales: 159km/h (99 mph)
Charente-Maritime: 161km/h (100 mph)

A Personal Weather Station in Les Portes-en-Re recorded sustained winds of 143 km/h (89 mph) gusting to 180 km/h (112 mph) before losing power at the height of the storm. According to Meteo France, the maximum recorded gust from Xynthia for elevations lower than 1200m was 160 km/h along the coast and 120 km/h inland. In 1999, Winter Storm Lothar brought gusts of almost 200 km/h to coastal areas and up to 160 km/h in the interior at these lower elevations.


Figure 1. Six-hour animation of the surface winds as Winter Storm Xynthia crossed the Bay of Biscay and smashed into France.

Destructive European storms of the past 60 years:
2010: Winter Storm Xynthia of February 27, 2010 killed 51 people in France, Spain, and neighboring countries, and did $2 - $4 billion in damage. Lowest pressure: 967 mb.

Winter Storm Klaus hit northern Spain and southwest France January 23 - 25, 2009, and was Earth's most costly natural disaster of 2009, causing $5.1 billion in damage and killing 26. Minimum pressure: 967 mb.

Kyrill (January 18, 2007) killed at least 45, with Germany suffering the most fatalities (13). Minimum pressure: 964 mb.

Back-to-back winter storms Lothar and Martin December 26-28, 1999) killed 140 people, 88 of the victims in France. Minimum pressure: 961 mb (Lothar), 965 mb (Martin).

The Burns' Day Storm of 1990 killed 97, mostly in England. Minimum pressure: 949 mb.

The Great Storm of 1987 was Europe's "storm of the century". It killed 22 people in England and France. Minimum pressure: 953 mb.

The North Sea Flood of 1962 killed 318 people--315 of them in Hamburg, Germany.

The North Sea Flood of 1953 killed 2,000 people in the Netherlands and England.

Xynthia's warm air surge sets records
One reason Xynthia became so powerful is that it formed very far south, where it was able to tap into an airmass that was unusually warm and moist. Satellite measurements (Figure 2) showed a plume of high total precipitable water (the amount of precipitation one can produce by condensing all the water vapor from the surface to the top of the atmosphere), about 300% above average, flowing from southwest to northeast along Xynthia's cold front. Enhancing the amount of moisture was the presence of very warm sea surface temperatures 1°C above average along this plume. As this extra moisture flowed into the storm, the moisture condensed into rain, releasing the "latent heat" stored up in the water vapor (the extra energy that was originally used to evaporate the water into water vapor). This latent heat further intensified Xynthia. The storm's central pressure fell to 966 mb at the storm's peak intensity, reached at 18 GMT Saturday after it passed over Spain's northwest corner.

As warm, tropical air surged northeastwards in advance of Xynthia's cold front, it set several all-time high temperature records for the month of February. Melilla, Spain hit 34°C (93°F) at 3pm local time on the 27th, beating previous highest February temperature of 30.6°C, set in 1979. The temperature surged upwards a remarkable 9.1°C (16°F) in one hour as Xynthia's warm front passed through. Record February warmth was also observed in the Canary Islands as Xynthia's warm front passed though.


Figure 2. Satellite measurements show a region of high total precipitable water (the amount of precipitation one can produce by condensing all the water vapor from the surface to the top of the atmosphere) up to 300% above average, flowing from southwest to northeast along Xynthia's cold front. Enhancing the amount of moisture was the presence of very warm sea surface temperatures along this plume, about 1°C above average. If this pool of very warm water is still around in July, it could lead to an earlier than average start to the Atlantic hurricane season. Image credit: Sheldon Kusselson, NOAA/NESDIS, and National Hurricane Center.

Next storm
For the the U.S., the next winter storm of note is a moderately strong low pressure system currently over Texas that is expected to move quickly eastwards today and Tuesday. The storm should bring an inch or so of snow to Atlanta and northeast Alabama, and 2 - 4" to the nearby mountains of South and North Carolina, including Charlotte. After that, the models show a long break from winter storm activity for the Eastern U.S. Beginning Sunday, it looks like it will be the Midwest's turn, when a powerful winter storm will drop out of the Rockies, then move across the northern tier of Midwestern states early next week.

Next post
I'll have a new post Tuesday or Wednesday.

Jeff Masters

Xynthia - High seas in Carcavelos (Portugal) (rozzopt)
High seas an waves from storm Synthia, with storm-surge taking over the entire beach, and "attacking" bars usually 30meters away from the sea.
Xynthia - High seas in Carcavelos (Portugal)

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458. IKE
1:44 PM GMT on March 02, 2010
No Medicare= America rioting. It'll never happen. Fix Medicare Congress! Go to work for a change and do something!


Quoting leftovers:
thank medicare its breaking the bank. us cant pay the bills anymore


It's Global Warming's fault the USA is bankrupt!
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
454. AwakeInMaryland
1:33 PM GMT on March 02, 2010
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
412 to 413:

Racism?!


No, dear, we're all good blog friends, and I do apologize if the kidding around didn't translate. I was making a joke on myself, and Dan (and Grothar) know me well enough to join in.

Just little de-stressing after the weekend. My son and his wife live in Hawaii, and my grandkids currently live in California w/ their mother.

It was an incredibly tense Saturday and very worrisome. My family is a a big American hodgepodge, Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Protestant.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
452. WxLogic
1:17 PM GMT on March 02, 2010
A side note in regards this developing Gale center. It sure moved in a hurry. Received only .34" of rain and a couple rumbles of thunder early this AM. Now is just a matter of seeing how strong the WND will get later this AM into tonight as the low intensifies offshore.
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4977
451. hcubed
1:16 PM GMT on March 02, 2010
Quoting Levi32:


Great job by NASA picking a period from a cold PDO and AMO to compare to last decade which was in the end of a warm PDO and the middle of a warm AMO. Yeah that's really balanced and objective.... Warm oceans minus Cold oceans = Warm temperature anomalies! Good job!


I agree - GISS's choice to measure a 10-year period against a averaging period that started 59 years ago is strange (especially since their use of the averaging period 51-80 goes against the WMO standard of 61-90).

Of course, if they DID update to WMO's standard reference period, the TREND wouldn't change - but the "zero" or "normal" would rise, and their "extreme anomalies" would show up as lower.

Instead of being .6-.8 above "normal", we'd only be .4-.6 above "normal".

And that's one of the problems with listening to those people who hold and process the data - they get to say what "normal" is...
Member Since: May 18, 2007 Posts: 289 Comments: 1639
Good Morning,

The ECMWF site underwent thorugh some updates in both of their packages... I find them quite a welcome and good sign that hopefully we might get some additional parameters added (always good to hope)... hehe.

Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 4 Comments: 4977
412 to 413:

Racism?!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skepticall:


Still find it odd that we can see what the sun did 8 minutes ago yet it takes 2.2 years to get the suns heat. That doesn't make sense.


Any external effects have a lag time between the forcing and a change in the Earth's climate. The same is true for cosmic rays if they have any effect at all. Here's a graph comparing solar activity, temperature and CO2 concentrations: Link

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446. IKE
The massive earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday may have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, scientists at NASA say.


Was it the earthquake or Global Warming that caused it?
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Wow that was quick, the rain and wind only lasted maybe 1 1/2 hrs. I had about .50in zephyrhills fl.
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Good morning WU-bloggers worldwide. Amazingly enough, I have rain, and Ike doesn't!


I was hoping for a serious severe squall event

Don't worry, Jedkins. It's only March 2. We'll get ours, I think I can promise that.
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Yeah, we had about an hour of steady windy rain, then a fast moving area of heavy rain and a few lightning strikes with gusts to around 40 or 50 just blew through, rain rate reached 2.85 in an hour which impressive considering how cool and stable the air is!

Only 55 here when that blew through, definitely a lot of rain though, picked up nearly an inch with that red thunderstorm core, even though it last only 5 to 8 minutes!

Thats nothing new for our wet season, but a pretty big deal considering how dry and cold this airmass has been lately.




I was hoping for a serious severe squall event, but we are missing the one ingredient that we normally always have in central Florida, a warm deep tropical airmass.
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Morning, Nothing severe in w c fl as of yet. some of these storms are moving at 70kt. Lots of rain and wind. 52right now. stay safe!
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Quoting Birthmark:


I wonder if you have any evidence to back these assertions? I mean, I know Al Gore wrote a book, but there are any number of hot topic issues he could have written on and made as much. But how much are the most published climate scientists getting paid and by whom?

And does that mean that CO2 isn't a GHG after all? Are the physicists on the take, too? And who's paying the stratosphere to cool down? :)


The fact of the matter they stripped NASA of manned space flight and any chance of humanity getting off this planet in the next 4 decades for global warming research tells me that this is all just a political gain. I'd much rather talk about the 2010 season, as people's lives will be at risk in a few months.. rather than something that we're not even 100% will happen in 20-30 years.
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Quoting Levi32:
342. AstroHurricane001 6:52 PM AKST on March 01, 2010

Astro...

Climategate....Al Gore...these people have a lot to gain from promoting GW. Think of people like Joe Bastardi, Joe D'leo, Don Easterbrook...how much do you think they stand to gain from opposing GW? Next to nothing....follow the money...they're not getting any of it...the AGW people are. In that light, who are people with common sense going to trust more? The political activists and scientists with an agenda? Or the people honestly devoting their lives to science and reporting their findings for the betterment of the world.

Anyway I think we've all had our fill of this stuff tonight.


I wonder if you have any evidence to back these assertions? I mean, I know Al Gore wrote a book, but there are any number of hot topic issues he could have written on and made as much. But how much are the most published climate scientists getting paid and by whom?

And does that mean that CO2 isn't a GHG after all? Are the physicists on the take, too? And who's paying the stratosphere to cool down? :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:


oh my, thats bad.

well I need some sleep, just got back from home, had to drive three hours in a friends truck. Will get a quote on my transmission later today.

goodnight
Peace.:)
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Quoting hydrus:
Some of them are hideous. There is one with a huge tree right through the roof down the center of our house.


oh my, thats bad.

well I need some sleep, just got back from home, had to drive three hours in a friends truck. Will get a quote on my transmission later today.

goodnight
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


yeah, I have always been fascinated with storms, something about the extremes in weather seems to excite me. And I cant wait to see those pictures
Some of them are hideous. There is one with a huge tree right through the roof down the center of our house.
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Quoting hydrus:
I do understand what you mean. I have been fascinated by storms and all the sciences since childhood. Being raised on the water, we were forced by necessity to pay very close attention to the weather. I have seen storms that were so violent, I cannot possibly give a good explanation what it was like. When I get this computer working properly, I am going to post some pictures and some old satellite photos I have had in storage for years. some people on this blog will appreciate them.


yeah, I have always been fascinated with storms, something about the extremes in weather seems to excite me. And I cant wait to see those pictures
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


wow, Im sorry.

I love storms, but obviously would never wish harm on someone from them.
I do understand what you mean. I have been fascinated by storms and all the sciences since childhood. Being raised on the water, we were forced by necessity to pay very close attention to the weather. I have seen storms that were so violent, I cannot possibly give a good explanation what it was like. When I get this computer working properly, I am going to post some pictures and some old satellite photos I have had in storage for years. some people on this blog will appreciate them.
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Quoting hydrus:
My family and I have had it with storms T-dude. After the loss of two houses, personal belongings, pets and our livelihoods. we will take as much tranquil weather we can get. If any storms come our way you have my permission to take them as far from here as possible.


wow, Im sorry.

I love storms, but obviously would never wish harm on someone from them.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


yeah, there is still an inch or so of snow here at Purdue, I am definitely ready for spring, but also ready for storms
My family and I have had it with storms T-dude. After the loss of two houses, personal belongings, pets and our livelihoods. we will take as much tranquil weather we can get. If any storms come our way you have my permission to take them as far from here as possible.
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I guess just think of a spotlight, you can see the light from a long way off, but can only feel the heat as you get closer to it
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Skepticall:


Still find it odd that we can see what the sun did 8 minutes ago yet it takes 2.2 years to get the suns heat. That doesn't make sense.
You can see a campfire before you feel the heat from it. it makes a little sense.
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Quoting hydrus:
Alright. We are forecast to get snow tonight and tomorrow. Family is ready for spring, without the severe weather.


yeah, there is still an inch or so of snow here at Purdue, I am definitely ready for spring, but also ready for storms
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:


how you doing?
Alright. We are forecast to get snow tonight and tomorrow. Family is ready for spring, without the severe weather.
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Quoting hydrus:
Good Mornin T-Dude.


how you doing?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:
good morning all
Good Mornin T-Dude.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
good morning all
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Patrap:
Im very hetero,Dau 19,Son 17.
Dau born Valentines Day.

So,that will cover dat,,,I du believe.

LoL



My mistake; I beg thee pardon. Musta' been "Chris," LOL!

Now I best be off de blog as my banning hour approaches... good night all!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Im very happily hetero,Dau 19,Son 17.
Dau born Valentines Day.

So,that will cover dat,,,I du believe.

LoL

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417. LOL, Patrap!

I do believe that on the old "Saturday Night Live," a character like that was referred to with a metrosexual name like, uh, "Pat."
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Here we see one of those Busy but rarely photographed Co2 Fairies or "Methane Pixie" that scrubs the atmosphere clean of those Nasty Human Produced and consumed Fossil Fuels and other Atmospheric toxins spewing into the Stratosphere while we sleep.

Note the Fine Antenna they communicate back and forth with.

C02 Fairy or Methane Pixie,Male



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Quoting PcolaDan:


I think that's the one I got last year. :)No accounting for taste I guess.

It has quieted down here right now, although supposedly there is more wind behind the rain. Btw, did I mention, you don't sound Jewish. ;)


Vat, dah-link, are you hungry? Should I get you a little knosh? Don't sit on the couch, you're all wet...

Grothar -- ha, the blog won't even let me quote you, but I know "copy and paste"!

Yes, it was you. We were kidding about what to do if the storm hit us and the joke about the slippers came up and you had the nerve to post them. I guess we learned our lesson. I got banned right after that for posting a picture of the Three Stooges. That was all Awakes fault. She wanted to see how I tied little Grother's tie for the wedding. Remember, Edie?

I do remember! We were all getting banned right and left, and not for anything mean or nasty! Amy's hippo pooping on one of the hurricanes, too!

BTW guys, the blog re-set on me, and none of our posts are showing -- which means they're rated below average, LOL LOL... yeah, think it's time for me to hit the hay!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting Grothar:


Yes, it was you. We were kidding about what to do if the storm hit us and the joke about the slippers came up and you had the nerve to post them. I guess we learned our lesson. I got banned right after that for posting a picture of the Three Stooges. That was all Awakes fault. She wanted to see how I tied little Grother's tie for the wedding. Remember, Edie?


You know she is going to plead innocent of any culpability. ;) Maybe next time I'll post flip flops, more appropriate.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


I think that's the one I got last year. :)No accounting for taste I guess.



It has quieted down here right now, although supposedly there is more wind behind the rain. Btw, did I mention, you don't sound Jewish. ;)


Yes, it was you. We were kidding about what to do if the storm hit us and the joke about the slippers came up and you had the nerve to post them. I guess we learned our lesson. I got banned right after that for posting a picture of the Three Stooges. That was all Awakes fault. She wanted to see how I tied little Grother's tie for the wedding. Remember, Edie?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26529
Quoting Grothar:


Didn't one of us get banned last year for posting an image of those during one of the storms, or was that the year before?


I think that's the one I got last year. :)No accounting for taste I guess.

Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Oh, just great, now I can worry about you and Dan, too --

"How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"

"Never mind... I'll just sit here alone in the dark..."


It has quieted down here right now, although supposedly there is more wind behind the rain. Btw, did I mention, you don't sound Jewish. ;)
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Quoting Grothar:



IT......DOES! Looks like we are in for some serious storms in Florida tomorrow.


Oh, just great, now I can worry about you and Dan, too --

"How many Jewish mothers does it take to screw in a light-bulb?"

"Never mind... I'll just sit here alone in the dark..."
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting PcolaDan:


Oh MAN, did I say that out loud? Mardi Gras is over then? Back to the boots I guess!


Didn't one of us get banned last year for posting an image of those during one of the storms, or was that the year before?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26529
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:


Greetings, Grothar!

I had to take a day's Meteorological Spring break after the Hawaii and left-coast tsunami scare! Somehow it slipped by me in my errant youth that the "Mom" job description means worrying forever...and ever...



IT......DOES! Looks like we are in for some serious storms in Florida tomorrow.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26529
Quoting Grothar:


Dan, if you are wearing red ruby slippers right now, it may be the last time we talk!!

Please say it isn't so Dan! LOL


Oh MAN, did I say that out loud? Mardi Gras is over then? Back to the boots I guess!
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.