Winter Storm Xynthia kills 62 in Europe

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

Share this Blog
3
+

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)

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 309 - 259

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19Blog Index

Levi is my hero.

(And he is what? 20? This is coming from a guy with a little formal education in the subject and in his mid-30s. LOL!)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Skypony is this a hurricane?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
306. Skyepony (Mod)
Thanks for the warning Pat.. Obs Pcola

Exiting snow storm a tad warm core thanks to the gulf stream


Made the image of the day
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
The GOM Loop Current Main Eddy has a Tongue of warmer SST's on its Northern Edge for sure.


GOM 120 Hour Water Surface Temperature Forecast Model


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Quoting tc1120:
Levi, first off: I enjoy your insight about natural earth cycles. I have not read most of your posts in the past because I've only recently joined this blog, so I'd like to know where you stand.

All GW debate aside, this is solely a matter of pollution and how it's affecting our planet. Do you believe even with this 'cold PDO' era you spoke about, the oceans could actually be warmer in coming years because of the immense amount of pollution we are putting into the air and oceans?

You can't actually believe there is a possibility the oceans globally will decrease in temperature as we hit this 'cold PDO' with the way we are treating our planet? The ocean is at a tipping point, and is only going to hold so much more of the CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere.

If humans never existed, then I would totally agree that a 'cold PDO' would cool the oceans and consequentially cool the land, but you can't just ignore the fact that we are changing the composition of our oceans.




Hello Tc, and first of all welcome to WU :) It's not always heated GW debate in here, just when there's nothing else to discuss.

Now I want to make it clear that I'm not an expert in things like chemistry so I can't say with certainty what might happen to the oceans due to pollution. I have yet to see something suggesting that a polluted ocean would be unable to cool down...all I've seen concern about is dying fish and ecosystems. I obviously agree this is bad and as I've said before I strongly support all the efforts being made to take advantage of clean energy and reduce our negative impact on the environment.

Also, CO2 is not a poison, it's a trace gas needed for life, and an increase in its levels helps plant growth. The global warmists themselves preach that the earth used to be far warmer with likely no ice caps and up to 11 times more CO2 in the atmosphere than we have right now. Well we're here aren't we? Life didn't end during that kind of climate. In fact the earth thrived according to geological records. So who's to say how much CO2 is too much? Who's to say what Earth's "ideal" average temperature is supposed to be? All we've been able to observe is our short little period of history that we've had the technology necessary to observe correctly.

Furthermore, people forget our "emissions" are comprised of far more than just CO2. Again CO2 is not a poison, but many poisons are released by the burning of fossil fuels. And again I'm all for cleaning that up and not ruining our environment, but as far as CO2 goes, I'll leave it with a quote from Joe Bastardi. To believe in Global Warming, then what you have to believe is "that the sun plus the oceans plus the volcanic activity plus natural reversal has less effect than the yearly human contribution equal to the width of a hair on a one-kilometer bridge of a trace gas needed for life."

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skyepony:
Pretty good surge of lightning the last few hours in the line coming toward FL.


Most seems to be out over water now.
Was kinda strobe lightish little bit ago here.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
300. Skyepony (Mod)
Energy available to forming line of storms as it's about to draw what the gulf stream brought.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Area forecast discussion...updated
National Weather Service New Orleans la
719 PM CST Monday Mar 1 2010


Update...
forecast grids and products have been updated to include a High
Wind Warning until 9 PM for Washington...St. Tammany...Orleans...
Jefferson...St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes in Louisiana and
Pearl River...Hancock...Harrison...and Jackson counties in
Mississippi. This warning will be in effect until 9 PM this
evening. A short lived but impressive wind event is taking place
near the back edge of the main precipitation field this evening.
Wind gusts up to 58 miles per hour and sustained winds of 40 miles per hour or so have
been observed. 11

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
Quoting Skyepony:
Pretty good surge of lightning the last few hours in the line coming toward FL.



Lotsa wind is behind the line skyepony.

Were under a High Wind Warning till morning.

The ULL kicker is tightly wound.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127570
291,

The document says the current sets of data, assembled in the UK and the US using different methodologies, agree that the world is warming. But the Met Office says there is room for improvement in the collection of data.

"To meet future needs to better understand the risks of dangerous climate change and to adapt to the effects of global warming, further development of these datasets is required, in particular to better assess the risks posed by changes in extremes of climate," the report states.

The other two, which are both based in the US, are the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which is part of Nasa; and the National Climatic Data Centre, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The call for a reassessment of 150 years of data, which is expected to take three years, will be seen by many as an attempt to get beyond the hacked emails scandal that happened recently at the University of East Anglia.

However, the paper emphasises that it does expect any substantial changes in such an an exercise.

"It is important to emphasise that we do not anticipate any substantial changes in the resulting global and continental-scale multi-decadal trends. This effort will ensure that the datasets are completely robust and that all methods are transparent," the document says.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/25/climate-change-data-science
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
ya know this is all becoming just to much
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
294. Skyepony (Mod)
Pretty good surge of lightning the last few hours in the line coming toward FL.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Skepticall:
I also don't see on the wikipedia site you gave me that it takes 2.2 years for the lag time to really effect global temperatures.


Here it is, under solar cycles:

"The sensitivity of climate to cyclical variations in solar forcing will be higher for longer cycles due to the thermal inertia of the ocean, which acts to damp high frequencies. Scafetta and West (2005) found that the climate was 1.5 times as sensitive to 22 year cyclical forcing relative to 11 year cyclical forcing, and that the thermal inertial induced a lag of approximately 2.2 years in cyclic climate response in the temperature data.[32]"

Quoting Patrap:
Dat's one big ol Circ still hanging round skyepony






Wow, that's like a storm exploding within the storm center of another storm. It may be doing a Fujiwhara with the hurricane-like storm east of New York and south of Halifax.

Quoting Levi32:


Again, period of cold PDO/AMO versus recent period of warm PDO/AMO. Which period do you think is gonna be warmer? It's a no-brainer.


Again, I said that the combined effects of both would likely result in a net global temperature change of about 0.15C either way. That's not a lot compared to the warming caused by greenhouse gases, so which effect do you think is gonna be stronger, a short-term cycle or a longer-term trend?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting drg0dOwnCountry:

Because of cool bias, they underestimate current observation.



Good news: “Met Office wants re-examination of 150 years of climate data”
Now let's hope they'll fix the problems that have caused them to lowball recent warming.


Read the Met doc for yourself... Out >>

Met office Document
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
284 exactly we can meassure the fossil fuel emissions. They are diffrent from the natural cycle emissions.

And because of this we need to tax fossil fuel.
If you look into the news this will be the next climate bill.
Sweden started taxing Co2 in 1991 and since they are now 4th most competive economy on the world.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Levi, first off: I enjoy your insight about natural earth cycles. I have not read most of your posts in the past because I've only recently joined this blog, so I'd like to know where you stand.

All GW debate aside, this is solely a matter of pollution and how it's affecting our planet. Do you believe even with this 'cold PDO' era you spoke about, the oceans could actually be warmer in coming years because of the immense amount of pollution we are putting into the air and oceans?

You can't actually believe there is a possibility the oceans globally will decrease in temperature as we hit this 'cold PDO' with the way we are treating our planet? The ocean is at a tipping point, and is only going to hold so much more of the CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere.

If humans never existed, then I would totally agree that a 'cold PDO' would cool the oceans and consequentially cool the land, but you can't just ignore the fact that we are changing the composition of our oceans.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:


earthquake 5 or greater s cen asia
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Ossqss:
Met office has proposed an independent re-analysis of the entire global temp set for the last 150 years.

Because of cool bias, they underestimate current observation.



Good news: “Met Office wants re-examination of 150 years of climate data”
Now let's hope they'll fix the problems that have caused them to lowball recent warming.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
251, the process of correction is in full swing. EPA will have to prove their endangerment finding in court and the Met office has proposed an independent re-analysis of the entire global temp set for the last 150 years.

There is a very clear path of activities and they are all related. This path will lead us to a common fact based truth. Just my take :)



Head of 'Climategate' research unit admits he hid data - because it was 'standard practice'


http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/science_technology/s_t_cru_inquiry.cfm

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4702.htm

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


It's 2038 not 2032. Yes I have a link....

"ICPP Predictions:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) has projected that in the next century, global warming will continue to rise to catastrophically higher and higher levels (Figure 4). The basis for this prediction is that the IPCC believes that rising atmospheric CO2 is the cause of global warming and that CO2 levels will continue to rise in the future, so global temperatures will also continue to rise. Computer models, programmed to calculate rise in global temperatures as a function of CO2, predict that by 2100, atmospheric CO2 will to rise to 540-970 ppm and global temperature will increase 0.6 �C (1.1� F) by 2010, 1.2� C (2.1� F) by 2038, and up to 10.7�C (19� F) by 2100."

Link


LOL! 19F rise by 2100? That is preposterous! Whats sad is that our tax payer money is going straight to the fools who run this BS.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Responding to post #4, atmo:

The strongest wind gust in France was 241 km/h (150 mph) and in Spain the strongest wind gusts were 228 km/h (142 mph). This was no glitch, and one heck of a powerful storm. Link


I expect the wind obs are fine. It seemed that the sustained winds in Dr. M's post were way too weak to support such high gusts. In hurricanes, the gust to sustained ratio is 1.2 to 1.6, usually. Not 2.5
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
So how far south should the snow get tomorrow?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
#253
Curious to see how the 1.03°F holds up after the current El Niño ends.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Going to reply to some early comments...

Responding to post #1, Levi:

The Canary Current isn't just weak this year. The SSTs in the entire North Atlantic around 20C are almost completely flat, meaning they stretch across the entire ocean and are parallel to latitude lines. In fact, some areas in the Northeast Atlantic actually have warm water reaching farther north than in the West Atlantic. Normally, the gyre circulation means that temperatures are warmer in the west than in the east. The current pattern suggests that the gyre is weakening or stalled. The dead fish off Brazil suggest the same is occuring in the South Atlantic. The Gulf Stream-West Greenland diversion is in the Central Atlantic, further underlining the possibility that the gyre has been disrupted. The diversion is abormal, unprecedented in satellite history, and persistant. In 2004, also a Modoki El Nino, the Gulf Stream stopped for 10 days and it looks like this winter that several "stalling" events have also taken place but for shorter periods than that.



YIKES!! SSTs are 1C above normal in Pine Island Bay, and even at less than +1C it was warmer than in 1996, the year when Pine Island Bay passed its tipping point for eventual collapse (leading to a half-metre rise in sea levels and possibly the collapse of the entire WAIS). The Galapagos Islands have a +2C anomaly, meaning that El Nino is still going strong.



Global SST differences between 2010 and 1996. The Pine Island Bay region is 3C warmer this year than that year.

Responding to post #4, atmo:

The strongest wind gust in France was 241 km/h (150 mph) and in Spain the strongest wind gusts were 228 km/h (142 mph). This was no glitch, and one heck of a powerful storm. Link

Responding to post #17, Levi:

Hey, you stole my argument! LOL. The South Atlantic is also very warm this year off Brazil, and I'm thinking that this SST pattern is the result of an unprecedented slowing in the gyre. The flatness pattern also existed in 2005 (and to a lesser degree in other seasons), but did not show up in the 20C line until the end of March. This year, the pattern showed up in late January, a few weeks after a sudden temporary near-collapse of the Gulf Stream.

Responding to post #23, TampaS:

Also, a 70% chance of warmer than average temperatures presumably extending up to New York by early season. DOUBLE OUCH.

Responding to post #26, TampaS:

The warm waters of the ENSO pool expanding, dispersing, but it has to go somewhere. I think the warm anomalies will go into the West Pacific, in a line that stretches from Tokyo to Borneo to Saipan to the West Central equatorial Pacific to Hawaii to slightly west of California to off the coast of Mexico to just north of the Galapagos to Panama by early summer.

Responding to post #27, Levi:

Hmm, so it looks like we could or were supposed to get one extra outburst from El Nino by March, and that we might not get into a La Nina even by October. If that runs through, then we might stay neutral through the season, adding to short-term global warming acceleration.

Responding to posts #28 and 30, TampaS/Levi:

The southern Bay of Bengal will be above normal for precip and low pressures as well. Not good.

Responding to post #31, StormW:

If you follow the main storm track indicated by the precip data, it's from south of Cape Verde, into the Caribbean, grazing Haiti, passing south of Cuba, into the Yucatan Channel, through the Gulf, and pointed directly at the Mississippi Delta. This forecast is centered on JULY. I'm just...speechless on this one.

Responding post #38, wkcayman:

Too many earthquakes! I'm probably going to have to include some earthquake prediction in my blog, although mainly for entertainment purposes. :)

Responding to post #44, Levi:

ALERT! Notice the warming zones off the coast of Southern Chile, in the southeastern Atlantic, and south of Pakistan that exceed +2.5C in FIVE days. This is exactly what I had been trying to get at since this first occured about two months ago: sea surface temperatures at what I called the El Nino-Humboldt cut-off zone, in southern central Chile, at almost exactly the location of both the 1960 earthquake and the earthquake two days ago had been warming by as much as 3C in FIVE days at the coast! Once again, the entire Southeast Pacific warm anomaly bulge is warming rapidly, and threatens once again to cut off the Humboldt even as the current itself is cooling, setting up for a La Nina pattern. If the current is ever actually cut off, and there are still about two months left where the potential for that exists, then the permanent El Nino scenario might be no exaggeration. I actually hypothesized the potential for the ENSO warm pool to simply slide southeastward toward Chile, cutting off the current, since early December. However, tropical cyclones complicated things, and created the South Pacific warm anomaly bulge in mid-December. By late January, I observed the possibility for an earthquake in Chile around February or March, based simply on the rapidly fluctuating SSTs in a spot that has a history of violent earthquakes, and when earthquakes from Peru started trending south, but it was never a serious prediciton. Also, since this new warm pool is closer to Pine Island Bay, maybe that's why the SSTs in that region have been warming so rapidly (I predicted a Pine Island Bay encroachment scenario around early January). Two more things here by that map: I see a chain of warm anomalies in the Gulf Stream pointing to the West Greenland (J.I.) diversion, and off Australia, the waters west of the continent are warming (cold current), and east of it they are cooling (warm current). Finally, from what website did you get the data for the SST change maps from?

Responding to post #45, jeffs:

Ugh, not good. The entire east coast is at risk, yes, but not everyone has a hurricane shelter they can retreat to. New York City is the one that's the most at risk in the entire US for hurricanes, one because of its large population contributing to gridlock during any evacuation that would take 72 hours to get out of, two because that no major storm has hit the area in so long that no extensive evacuation procedures are likely in place, and three because of its topography and low lying location the storm surge could funnel up the Hudson River (farther north than Albany) and the subway system is the most dangerous place to be. If you're in New York in the event of a hurricane, DO NOT take shelter in the subway system. The entire subway grid would be flooded during a one-metre storm surge, and there is no way to get out if you're stuck there. High skyscrapers are also a problem, as strong winds are stronger farther up, and smashed glass is a possibility (happened during Ike). Other top at-risk cities in the US: Houston-Galveston, New Orleans, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Miami-Dade, Charleston, Norfolk-Newport News, Annapolis-Washington, Atlantic City-Norfolk, Boston.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting doabarrelroll:

What happens to those taxes?



LOL...you really don't need me to answer that i don't think!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
So all this weather we have been having is due to GW????????
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'm done for a while.......MY show 24 just came on ....BBL!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Viewing: 309 - 259

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19Blog Index

Top of Page

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.

Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy
80 °F
Mostly Cloudy