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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Quoting StormW:


Can't afford the price!

BBL.


How much is it.......i think we can get the funds to send you.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
Quoting Skyepony:
Can someone compared the SST before & after Xanthia? Amazing prefrontal heat.


Can't find anything current. This seems to post weekly so if you save image and then look next week you might see a change. But it's a weekly composite so maybe not.
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Here was my forecast for the 2009 hurricane season that i posted on June 1st 2009. I think overall my forecast was pretty accuarate.

2009 Forecast from TampaSpin
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
Quoting jrweatherman:
As miserable as this winter has been and with snow and rain records being broken everywhere, the rainfall totals in Tampa (TIA) have not been impressive even with such a strong El Nino.

Month Precip Avg record
Dec 2.32 2.30 15.57 (1997)
Jan 3.42 2.27 8.02 (1948)
Feb 1.99 2.77 10.92 (1937)
total 7.73 7.34

Temps way below normal with near normal precipitation.


Bold statement without having 2009 or 2010 precip and average precip numbers to back it up.
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Chilly February Caps Coldest Winter in Three Decades over South Florida

I'll be glad when this pattern changes, my blood is much too thin for this "cold" weather.
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As miserable as this winter has been and with snow and rain records being broken everywhere, the rainfall totals in Tampa (TIA) have not been impressive even with such a strong El Nino.

Month Precip Avg record
Dec 2.32 2.30 15.57 (1997)
Jan 3.42 2.27 8.02 (1948)
Feb 1.99 2.77 10.92 (1937)
total 7.73 7.34

Temps way below normal with near normal precipitation.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
So far, no sign of an approaching storm--despite the fact this 24 hours from now we may have the lowest pressure of the century here. At the least we are forecast to be 20 mb lower. An interesting thing to note is that the low is forecast to track just to my south--if it is heading to my north tomorrow, it means the low is tracking further north and west than now expected. And that may mean more snow for the Carolinas and the northeast.


The Low is Kicking up now SSIG,and were getting gusts over 25 in NOLA now..

So be patient,..Shes got some Flavor and will be up your way in 24 or so.

Lake Charles Long Range Composite Loop


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Quoting StormW:


Can't afford the price!

BBL.


Well then we need to find Senior Chief a Sponsor..

I'll get back to yas ..

Cuz we gotta yakk some there Chief.
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Quoting doabarrelroll:


Define "near the coast?


Within at least 100 miles of the coast, but remember the dangers of a landfalling hurricane continue well inland much farther than that.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Note the Last year addition of the "Inland Hurricane Warning" by the NHC,..Ike,Katrina and others have shown us that well inland,..Hundred of miles even,one can get Hurricane Condition's and those inland need a action plan just as much as any coastal resident.

Calamity dosent follow the script of seasons.

Ever,..
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From Maine to Brownsville..everyone needs to have a Hurricane plan,a evacuation destination.

Take the Grace of TIME now to be ready come June 1.



www.getagameplan.org


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So based on these ECMWF numbers...

OW. If you live anywhere near the coast south of Cape Cod... get your hurricane kits ready now. Don't wait.
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5-day SST change shows continued warming off the west coast of Africa and throughout the MDR, with the exception of the western Caribbean. Also of note is the Nino region of the equatorial Pacific, which doesn't seem to be changing much either way on average over the last 5 days.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting Skyepony:
Nice picture by rozzopt. That must have been a rush to capture.

Can someone compared the SST before & after Xanthia? Amazing prefrontal heat.

Jeff~ Thanks for the update!


Skye I can't find daily satellite SST images for the eastern Atlantic, but the nearest buoy to Xynthia's path, located off the coast of Morocco, showed no change in SST at all after the passing of the storm. It's not near as close as I'd like but it did see the passage of the intense cold front. Link

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Hiya Senior Chief, you going to Orlando the Last week of March for the Conference?
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Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
312 am CST Monday Mar 1 2010


Short term...
area of low pressure appears to be materializing along the Lower
Texas coast in recent surface analysis. Satellite imagery shows upper
level system over The Trans-Pecos of West Texas and surface low
reflection near Hobbs nm. Meanwhile...moderating high pressure
over southeast U.S. Providing some drainage into local area with marine
layer air poised just off the coast.

As Gulf low matures this
morning moisture should increase steadily for increased cloud
cover. Large expanse of showers and isentropic lift rainfall
extending from near kcrp into Texas Panhandle and spreading towards
la. Rainfall likely to onset shortly after noon today and becoming
widespread steady throughout the evening and overnight before
tapering off Tuesday.


Models are in good agreement with
track...timing and intensity of system moving along la coast
tonight...continuing east into Florida Tuesday. Despite cold rain
expectations...it does appear the column will be just warm enough
to forgo any type of wintry precipitation in the forecast area.
Forecast changed very little from previous packages in the short
term.


As far as convective outlook for today...Storm Prediction Center has placed the area
near the coast and south of the tidal lakes in a 5% risk for hail
and high winds in the event better surface based air can advance
northward enough before the low moves east of the MS river Delta.
Risk seems better over the coastal waters south of surface warm
front but this boundary may advance into the coastal marshes
briefly. Currently...the lightning network is not detecting any
strikes with the area of convection over Texas.


Long term...
GFS shows a lengthy stretch of fair weather with a continuation of
cooler than normal temperatures and slow warming trend through
next weekend. The European model (ecmwf) shows similar but differs at the end with
more troughing to portend a wetter solution for early next
week...whereas the GFS shows persistent ridging aloft and high
pressure at the surface. At this time...just a temperature
forecast from Wednesday through Sunday.


&&
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Lake Charles Long Range Composite Loop


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hi guys we got struck by A 4.6 MAG QUAKE CHECK MY BLOG FOR DETAILS
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12138
Quoting StormW:


I'm waiting to see what happens with the QBO.


I need to read up on that. That's a blind-spot in my understanding.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting StormW:
And the projected rain from west Africa (Sahel) across the Atlantic



StormW we do have time to build a shelter in Tampa. But, we must put our actions into place very early! LIKE NOW!.....LOL
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
33. Skyepony (Mod)
Nice picture by rozzopt. That must have been a rush to capture.

Can someone compared the SST before & after Xanthia? Amazing prefrontal heat.

Jeff~ Thanks for the update!
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Quoting StormW:
And the projected rain from west Africa (Sahel) across the Atlantic



That too, the Euro seems to think Sahel rainfall will be normal or a little above normal, which is favorable for an active Cape Verde season with long-track storms.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting TampaSpin:
This is just great also.....geesh. Look at the 4 months out forecasted Sea Level Pressures.....the Atlantic Tropics is well below the Mean Average....OH NO! I can already tell you all.....this year will be above average by a large margin for named storms....NOT MUCH DOUBT!


EUROSIP (their multi-model system) shows the same general thing. It's scary but hey it's still early and things can change. If they don't change though, people should be ready for an above-average season with possibly many landfalls for multiple countries.



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting Levi32:
The new runs (blue lines) of the CFS ENSO forecast looks like it now takes us to central-neutral in September. The Euro takes us down to central-neutral by June. I'm leaning closer to the Euro. The CFS is always playing catchup and reacting to new developments.

BTW, New Euro ENSO SST forecasts come out today. The one below is from February 1st.





Levi we better hope the latter arrival occurs are we will be in big time trouble this year...
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
This is just great also.....geesh. Look at the 4 months out forecasted Sea Level Pressures.....the Atlantic Tropics is well below the Mean Average....OH NO! I can already tell you all.....this year will be above average by a large margin for named storms....NOT MUCH DOUBT!

Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
The new runs (blue lines) of the CFS ENSO forecast looks like it now takes us to central-neutral in September. The Euro takes us down to central-neutral by June. I'm leaning closer to the Euro. The CFS is always playing catchup and reacting to new developments.

BTW, New Euro ENSO SST forecasts come out today. The one below is from February 1st.



Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting Levi32:


It certainly doesn't. The European, both the operational model and the multi-model forecast system, have been predicting pretty much a perfect hurricane season, at least the first half of it, for the Atlantic. Not kidding.

This is a graphic from my blog showing the Euro February forecasts of SST, MSLP, and Precip for the period June-July-August:



Well done! Those are great graphics of Neutral to LaNina Conditions that appear to be coming fast....REALLY fast. The time line just might move up some also.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
Quoting TampaSpin:
4 months out....look how the Pacific is projected to cool......WOW!

The second pic is the 4 month projected anomaly! That does not bold well for the upcoming Hurricane season. OUCH!






It certainly doesn't. The European, both the operational model and the multi-model forecast system, have been predicting pretty much a perfect hurricane season, at least the first half of it, for the Atlantic. Not kidding.

This is a graphic from my blog showing the Euro February forecasts of SST, MSLP, and Precip for the period June-July-August:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
4 months out....look how the Pacific is projected to cool......WOW!

The second pic is the 4 month projected anomaly! That does not bold well for the upcoming Hurricane season. OUCH!




Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
Quoting TampaSpin:



Sorry i caught myself....as i posted it....i already fixed it.


I'm flattered by the comparison though lol :D
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Quoting Levi32:


Jeff? lol :P



Sorry i caught myself....as i posted it....i already fixed it.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
No matter which side of the Atlantic you are on this year,there have been some monster storms.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Jeff that is a great observation about the Canary Current. The pooling of Warm water off the African Coast will be a stinker starting an early Cape Verde season IMO.


Jeff? lol :P
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Quoting Levi32:
Thanks Dr. Masters. That sure is a nasty and sad storm for Europe. Prayers go out to the people there.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good morning all.

The Canary Current (the current that brings cold water southward along the west African coast) looks to be struggling lately due to the weak subtropical high this year. This is another thing aiding warm SSTs in the eastern Atlantic.



Levi that is a great observation about the Canary Current. The pooling of Warm water off the African Coast will be a stinker starting an early Cape Verde season IMO.
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 178 Comments: 20443
The 20C SST line at this time of year usually extends all the way down the African coast south of 15N, but right now it's all the way up at the Canary Islands near 30N.

This year's SSTs for this time of year are also warmer between the Antilles and west Africa than pretty much every year since 1982 when AVHRR SST measurements began. The only year which even comes close is the El Nino winter of 1997-1998. 2005 beats this year by a little bit between 30W and 60W, but the rest of the MDR is warmer than 2005. Link

Average since 1982:



This year:

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
Thursday AM Temp. then things warm up.


Looks like the warm up will be for about 5 days then another Dip in jet stream begins in day 9-10. May be another cold time coming one last time.

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Quoting Levi32:
Thanks Dr. Masters. That sure is a nasty and sad storm for Europe. Prayers go out to the people there.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good morning all.

The Canary Current (the current that brings cold water southward along the west African coast) looks to be struggling lately due to the weak subtropical high this year. This is another thing aiding warm SSTs in the eastern Atlantic.


could be early storm season.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
A massive warm up is will occur this weekend and next week causing major flooding to areas up north with heavy snow pack.


The warm up looks to start this coming Sunday with highs in the low 70's for central Florida.
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2010 National Hurricane Conference



March 29 - April 2|Orlando Hilton|Orlando, FL

The nation's forum for education and professional training in hurricane preparedness!

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Quoting Patrap:
My view as well atmo..looks like we gonna get some wind and rain here

Yep. A lot of this is prolly just going to be a moderate to hard rain, but you guys on the southshore could get a little more of the wind.



Lightning staying at the coast:



Gusts of almost 30 mph reported: http://forecast.weather.gov/obslocal.php?warnzone=LAZ027&local_place=Fort Polk South LA&zoneid=CST&offset=21600

(AND SOMEONE PLEASE GET A PIC OF THAT LIGHT SNOW IN JASPER, TX ALONG WITH THE THERMOMETER READING 47 F !!!) lol
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Regional Radar Loop
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Quoting atmoaggie:

Yep. I am expecting the possibility that the sustained winds in the animation are a bit low...possibly add 20 mph.


Probably even more than that. WU's wind maps have always been heavily averaged and well-below the maximum observed.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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