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 atmoaggie:

Most of their latest stuff is NMEA standard, from what I was told a couple of weeks ago (though we were talking mid to high end marine chart plotters)

t-dude, if you had a certain level of garmin, you could get radar displayed on the chart plotter...if it is XM weather capable (from same data source as the WxWorx stuff...us)


his Garmin is Nuvi 255
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Rainman32:
Ahhh.. probably won't have much luck with other programs using a Garmin either cause of it's proprietary protocol, but there is something to fix that!

Give this a try: http://franson.com/gpsgate/ along with splitting your GPS out so that several programs can use it at once, it translates Garmin into normal NMEA GPS messages that any program can use and much more.




Most of their latest stuff is NMEA standard, from what I was told a couple of weeks ago (though we were talking mid to high end marine chart plotters)

t-dude, if you had a certain level of garmin, you could get radar displayed on the chart plotter...if it is XM weather capable (from same data source as the WxWorx stuff...us)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
807. xcool



Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting Rainman32:
nope. all on the receiving end with the software, doesn't do a thing to the GPS itself.


ok great
Quoting atmoaggie:

You could get Mobile Threat Net and run it on a laptop. This is what many of the stormchasers use, but it requires a subscription.

Or, in talking to Josh Wurman, I know they sometimes use the WxWorx on water product, as the subscription is a little cheaper, but you still get cloud top heights, shear markers, and radar with your GPS location plotted on it.

Cool thing is, it comes to you over XM satellites. S-band not affected by weather, so uninterrupted when no cell signal present.

Mobile threat net: http://www.baronservices.com/solutions/public_safety/mobile_threat_net.php
WxWorx on water: http://www.wxworx.com/

(Sounds a little like I am trying to sell it...I will admit this is my client's product and I provide some of the data embedded. But, I would stack it up against any mobile radar/GPS solution you might find.)


ok, I will definitely look into these,

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


I have that, but I dont have the gps for it, my Garmin wont work on there :(

You could get Mobile Threat Net and run it on a laptop. This is what many of the stormchasers use, but it requires a subscription.

Or, in talking to Josh Wurman, I know they sometimes use the WxWorx on water product, as the subscription is a little cheaper, but you still get cloud top heights, shear markers, and radar with your GPS location plotted on it.

Cool thing is, it comes to you over XM satellites. S-band not affected by weather, so uninterrupted. No cell signal present in lots of rural places.

Mobile threat net: http://www.baronservices.com/solutions/public_safety/mobile_threat_net.php
WxWorx on water: http://www.wxworx.com/

(Sounds a little like I am trying to sell it...I will admit this is my client's product and I provide some of the data embedded. But, I would stack it up against any mobile radar/GPS solution you might find.)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting Levi32:


That's exactly why I said that....

And El Nino's effects are unlikely to last through August. Models have us at central-neutral as early as June, and even if it takes longer than that, the overall trend in the atmosphere as we head towards a winter La Nina favors an active hurricane season. The European forecasts are calling for normal to above-normal Sahel rainfall along with low sea-level pressures in the SW Atlantic, which means concentrated heat in an area that threatens the United States. By all indications this year should be far more active than last year.

I would like to point out that although a lot of hypists enter this blog year after year and predict armageddon, there are also some experts in here, including our professional Meteorologist StormW, who have a sane heads on their shoulders and call it as they see it. Don't pay attention to the "consensus"....listen to the pros in here. They didn't predict an overly-active year last year.


yeah i know i was helpin you out :), haha thanks hope your around for this season man
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:


I will definitely try it, but I'm using my roommate's gps, so will it mess it up any?

thanks
nope. all on the receiving end with the software, doesn't do a thing to the GPS itself.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:



great... thios is all ready starting... every year people are calling the 2005... el nino's effects will last until at least august, shear has been dominant the last 2 years, and sal as well. there are so many more factors than SST's and TCHP, that make hurricanes go boom.


That's exactly why I said that....

And El Nino's effects are unlikely to last through August. Models have us at central-neutral as early as June, and even if it takes longer than that, the overall trend in the atmosphere as we head towards a winter La Nina favors an active hurricane season. The European forecasts are calling for normal to above-normal Sahel rainfall along with low sea-level pressures in the SW Atlantic, which means concentrated heat in an area that threatens the United States. By all indications this year should be far more active than last year.

I would like to point out that although a lot of hypists enter this blog year after year and predict armageddon, there are also some experts in here, including our professional Meteorologist StormW, who have a sane heads on their shoulders and call it as they see it. Don't pay attention to the "consensus"....listen to the pros in here. They didn't predict an overly-active year last year.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting Rainman32:
Ahhh.. probably won't have much luck with other programs using a Garmin either cause of it's proprietary protocol, but there is something to fix that!

Give this a try: http://franson.com/gpsgate/ along with splitting your GPS out so that several programs can use it at once, it translates Garmin into normal NMEA GPS messages that any program can use and much more.





I will definitely try it, but I'm using my roommate's gps, so will it mess it up any?

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


I have that, but I dont have the gps for it, my Garmin wont work on there :(
Ahhh.. probably won't have much luck with other programs using a Garmin either cause of it's proprietary protocol, but there is something to fix that!

Give this a try: http://franson.com/gpsgate/ along with splitting your GPS out so that several programs can use it at once, it translates Garmin into normal NMEA GPS messages that any program can use and much more.



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:


A greater TCHP than 2005 doesn't guarantee a year as bad as 2005 or storms as strong as 2005, but yes it is a disturbing sign that should hopefully grab people's attention that this could be a dangerous year, and they should be ready.



great... thios is all ready starting... every year people are calling the 2005... el nino's effects will last until at least august, shear has been dominant the last 2 years, and sal as well. there are so many more factors than SST's and TCHP, that make hurricanes go boom.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
798. xcool
taco2me61 lol
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
Quoting Rainman32:
Try GRLevel3 (Level2 also), it's pretty much the standard for that.. and a great program every weather geek should have!

http://www.grlevelx.com/




I have that, but I dont have the gps for it, my Garmin wont work on there :(
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:
hey, does anyone know of any programs that use radar and gps together so you know where you are in relation to a storm?
Try GRLevel3 (Level2 also), it's pretty much the standard for that.. and a great program every weather geek should have!

http://www.grlevelx.com/


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
tornadodude, you have wu-mail, and YES we have it.

Link
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Quoting usmcweathr:


There is a web based application called Radar Lab HD. There is a version where it works with a GPS. It is available from weathertap


thanks!
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting tornadodude:
hey, does anyone know of any programs that use radar and gps together so you know where you are in relation to a storm?


There is a web based application called Radar Lab HD. There is a version where it works with a GPS. It is available from weathertap
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting tornadodude:
hey, does anyone know of any programs that use radar and gps together so you know where you are in relation to a storm?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
All Hurricane-prone areas should be prepared every year. As the old saying goes...it only takes one, no what matter what predictions are made.


This is so "True"

Taco :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
All Hurricane-prone areas should be prepared every year. As the old saying goes...it only takes one, no what matter what predictions are made.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The only problem I have is the nut cases in Washington will say this is all from GW.
Thats if we have a Bad Hurricane season....
As for my self I think it is still a Cycle we are in....

Taco :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
788. JRRP
but... 2008 was more active than 2007 and look at this
2008

2007
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Man...just took the pup out for a walk..winds must be 25-30 mph.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting altesticstorm10:
773. The record-level TCHP was one of the main reasons storms go SO STRONG, SO FAST in 2005. The SST's are already approaching 2005 levels in many ways and we're in early March. If 2010 > 2005 in that aspect (TCHP)...then words cannot describe how strong this year's hurricanes will get. Yikes! THIS IS MADNESS!



A greater TCHP than 2005 doesn't guarantee a year as bad as 2005 or storms as strong as 2005, but yes it is a disturbing sign that should hopefully grab people's attention that this could be a dangerous year, and they should be ready.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Interesting multi-decadal trends of roughly 50 years each in the Sahel Rainfall Index: It looks like it was mostly positive from 1915 through the 1960s with predominantly negative values from 1970 to present. We appear to be heading back up towards a positive index (moist Sahel).

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
hey, does anyone know of any programs that use radar and gps together so you know where you are in relation to a storm?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
780. JRRP
Quoting altesticstorm10:
JRRP, that's comparing the TCHP to what year, last year? Or 2008? Because there's definately a noticeable difference.

2010
2005
Quoting StormW:


The top graphic is from MAR 01, 2010...The one below it is from MAR 01, 2005

exactly
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
All the way to the Equator huh!!!!! Well
if thats what it takes go ahead and send
me some.... Oh and i'm glade you are feeling
better now.... "Stay Out of The Cold"....

Taco :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
Quoting StormW:


Starting to do better. Been real sick with a sore throat, upper respiratory and sinus infection. I'd send you some warmth, but I'll have to go to the Equator to get it. Starting to get cold here again.


Sorry to hear you've been ill. I wish you a speedy recovery.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
Quoting altesticstorm10:
I don't get it, 2007 was a La Nina, had a strong Bermuda High, and had a negative NAO? What the...

Well Bertha's and Emily's didn't form in 2007 because the trade winds were too much caused by the strong high. Anyone remember this?


This may have been the most overhyped invest of all-time.


Yes a strong subtropical high can be more of a hindrance to tropical developments than a danger to us. The Sahel had below-normal rainfall and SSTs cooled during the height of the season over the eastern Atlantic, which made things tough on tropical waves. Despite this, 2007 was still an above average year and a devastating one for the Caribbean.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
768. JRRP

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hi Ya Storm how are you tonight????

I have to tell ya it is "Way to Cold" here in the Mobile Area.... Wind Chill at 29....

Could you send me some warmth so I can get my garden started????

Taco :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
Big picture.. It just looks cold :)

http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?wv_east_enhanced+12
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Quoting altesticstorm10:

Look more closely. Ingrid didn't form in the Gulf. Karen didn't exist in the CATL. Noel didn't form near Africa. Lorenzo and Melissa mysteriously traded places. That map sucks.


Wow...Humberto's label is in the eastern Atlantic....I see what you're talking about. I've never seen those maps get messed up before. Weird. The tracks are correct though despite the names.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700
763. flsky
Daytona Beach Shores (current conditions)
56.7 °F
Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 43%
Dew Point: 34 °F
Wind: 16.0 mph from the WNW
Wind Gust: 25.0 mph
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting altesticstorm10:
Oh Levi, that map is suspect, every track you posted following the G storm had the wrong name and wrong label. Still, 2007 only had 2 major hurricane seasons which was below average.

When you mentioned the "negative NAO until it turned positive in September" were you talking about 2005 or 2007?


2007. That's what you initially confronted me about lol. How is the map suspect? It's the official track map of 2007.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26700

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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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