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 altesticstorm10:
unless you were talking about 2007?


You said 2007 in your first post about this so yes I was talking about it and I thought you were too? I was wondering where all the 2005 storms came from lol...
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8339
Quoting altesticstorm10:

yes but by that time was about during the time of weak little Ophelia off the East Coast and that right there was over half our season...

The second half of September, for what it was worth, was pretty weak minus Rita...I mean we didn't have Cape Verde storms or anything...

Stan formed in late Sep. too, yeah, but was a weak storm which took advantage of the boiling hot BOC to become a Cat 1 and even then was only remembered for the mudslides.


You treat 2007 like it was a bust year. It was sooo far from a bust. 15 named storms including two Cat 5s that made landfall in the Caribbean....that is an above-average year no matter what way you slice it. The track concentrations that year were all to the west which is analogous to the other package years, emphasizing the danger I fear this year for landfalls in the western Atlantic.

People treat 2007 like an ugly duckling because only 6 of the 15 storms were hurricanes, but it was a horrid year for the Caribbean and the overall pattern was a trouble-maker for countries bordering the western Atlantic. If the dry air hadn't been such a force that year it could have been far worse.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting xcool:
Biloxi rigth by my house lol


And way to Close to Mine so do me a Flavor send them to the Fishies.... LOL

Taco :0)
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Quoting beell:
Levi, you may have already seen this one.

CPC Africa Intertropical Front


Towards the top of the page a somewhat limited excel spreadsheet to download:

For a spreadsheet of all dekadal ITF analyses thru 2005, click HERE
Quoting tornadodude:


Thanks guys, that's nice for Africa, but the ITCZ behaves much differently over the eastern Atlantic because of different summer heating cycles, so it's not usable over the water.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


This paper, A Satellite-Derived Climatology of the ITCZ has some positions, but it is getting long in the tooth (1993).


Thanks, that at least gives me some idea. It may be old, but I trust papers written back then a whole lot more than a lot of papers written now lol.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8339
747. beell
Levi, you may have already seen this one.

CPC Africa Intertropical Front


Towards the top of the page a somewhat limited excel spreadsheet to download:

For a spreadsheet of all dekadal ITF analyses thru 2005, click HERE
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Levi32:
I wish I could find a site showing the average monthly positions of the ITCZ. It's one of those little things I've never been able to find.


This paper, A Satellite-Derived Climatology of the ITCZ has some positions, but it is getting long in the tooth (1993).
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Quoting altesticstorm10:
710. Great point. That's why 2007 is not a good analog year. True, the SSTs were warm and it was coming off an El Nino winter, but the NAO was positive and the Bermuda High was strong - so the trade winds were stronger, and the shear strengthened and dry air was allowed to creep in through the meat of the season (July-September).

Give me 1995 and 2005 as my analog years, though 1995 was a weak-mod La Nina and 2005 had too much dust. Thanks!


The NAO was solidly negative for the first half of the season and then turned positive in September. Yes, it's not a perfect analog, and it's not my top analog, but it was close enough to be in the package. Not every single year in the package will be a perfect analog. Part of the technique is finding the closest fits and looking at the common denominators between all the years to help you gain some insight into what current conditions can lead to.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
and now back to the regular program thank you


perfect timing for more of "As The Globe Warms!"
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Do you really think our GW arguments are over-the-top sometimes? It's because the government wants to use it to TAX US! Don't believe me?

Dateline: 3/2/2010 - Washington, DC

The idea of imposing a broad cap-and-trade system to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions is dead and will be replaced with a new approach, an influential Republican senator said Tuesday.


They're going to find a way, anyway, they can use GW as a way to raise taxes on energy, gasoline, and those that produce goods. And they're going to try to ram it through.

Whatever side you may be on, alot of us really aren't sure if GW is a real concern or not, or if it's being overblown, or if it's just outright data manipulation that's leading to wrong conclusions...whatever...

Now that the government has got a clutch on it, they're going to use it to screw you out of your money, via utilities, via your mobility, and via your shopping cart.

THAT'S why we must not let them do this. Everyone here is for clean water and clean air. But taxing you...MORE...is that the way you want to contribute to the cause?

Not me.
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this is so cool...
Link
Took the motorcycle out in the Florida wind today. It was really beautiful out there.
Not too bad at all.
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and now back to the regular program thank you
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This blog has been entertaining today, we have gone from redrafting the constitution, to engine repairs, to blob watching off Cape Verde on March 2nd :P Lol

evening all (:
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8339
Quoting Skepticall:


You couldn't tell the sun and temperature have a similarity? Wow


OK, my point is that while the sun and global temperautres have strongly correlated for at least the past 10,000 years, that correlation weakened in the mid-1970s and then human emissions of greenhouse gases took over. Look at the graph I presented again, and see that the global temperatures follow solar activity closely at first, then it rises at the rate of CO2 concentration increases while solar activity remains stable. Yes, natural factors do contribute, but the warming we've seen in the past 35 years has been mostly anthropogenic and computer models fail to produce the current temperature levels without the human GHG emissions being factored in.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Africa sending us a few little 'puffs' telling us she's ready for the season in a few months. Once that windshear dies down, combined with those SSTs we could see another early season Bertha like system.




Except that this year CV storms like Bertha or Bill may track farther west or refrain from going west and go directly to hitting Europe or North Africa. Notice how the Bermuda High is reduced to the far southeastern Atlantic as it has been since about late December when the major storms kept hitting the US and their cold fronts sliced across the high region and stalled the gyre.
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
603: Both graphs only go up to 1980. You know better than that.

By the way, here's yet another reason why we'll see an active hurricane season this year: unseasonal heavy rains in East Africa, the source of most tropical waves. Link
Member Since: August 30, 2008 Posts: 8 Comments: 2835
I wish I could find a site showing the average monthly positions of the ITCZ. It's one of those little things I've never been able to find.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Africa sending us a few little 'puffs' telling us she's ready for the season in a few months. Once that windshear dies down, combined with those SSTs we could see another early season Bertha like system.




shear already down over the CV area but way too early to even be looking there yet except just to see got to simmer some more

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Africa sending us a few little 'puffs' telling us she's ready for the season in a few months. Once that windshear dies down, combined with those SSTs we could see another early season Bertha like system.


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Quoting CycloneOz:


Yep...LOL...thanks for pointing me in the right direction there. That's what happens when you drag your feet.

I'll leave a comment, too...since I'm behind the curve. Sorry, Levi...you do GREAT work and I should be standing in line for your updates.

See what an off season will do to ya? :)


No need to be sorry lol...I'm really early in posting an outlook. Half of the hurricane season regulars aren't even on this site this time of year. Thanks though.

Quoting CycloneOz:


I don't mind if I get hurt. Even though I'm in my 50s, I'm still like a kid when I get an extreme sports injury. I was as happy as an 8 year old when I had my hand crushed in an ATV rollover. My daughter was driving.

I just don't want to get killed.


Ouch....well just don't get careless lol. Hurricanes are beyond dangerous. We look forward to your videos.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting CycloneOz:


I don't mind if I get hurt. Even though I'm in my 50s, I'm still like a kid when I get an extreme sports injury. I was as happy as an 8 year old when I had my hand crushed in an ATV rollover. My daughter was driving.

I just don't want to get killed.
remember the hurricane can strip the land of everything including all life so that nothing remains but the dirt and the water
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Quoting Levi32:


Sounds awesome =) I hope you're really careful out there this season.


I don't mind if I get hurt. Even though I'm in my 50s, I'm still like a kid when I get an extreme sports injury. I was as happy as an 8 year old when I had my hand crushed in an ATV rollover. My daughter was driving.

I just don't want to get killed.
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Quoting Levi32:


Lol, well I talked about it in my outlook on my blog, and as far as I know the pros in here are of the same opinion.


Yep...LOL...thanks for pointing me in the right direction there. That's what happens when you drag your feet.

I'll leave a comment, too...since I'm behind the curve. Sorry, Levi...you do GREAT work and I should be standing in line for your updates.

See what an off season will do to ya? :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:
My TASCAM DR-07 has arrived.

Professionally captured audio during eye-wall excursions now assured.

Your eye-wall experiences via YouTube for this year will now come to you courtesy of two GoPro HD Hero video cameras with 170 degree wide angle lens and TASCAM professional audio capture in tandem with an Azden shotgun microphone.

If I get to go, you folks may see some interesting things after post production.


Sounds awesome =) I hope you're really careful out there this season.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
My TASCAM DR-07 has arrived.

Professionally captured audio during eye-wall excursions now assured.

Your eye-wall experiences via YouTube for this year will now come to you courtesy of two GoPro HD Hero video cameras with 170 degree wide angle lens and TASCAM professional audio capture in tandem with an Azden shotgun microphone.

If I get to go, you folks may see some interesting things after post production.
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looks like weak shear over cape verde region already and angle of storms over africa appears abnormal as well thats what my eyes see anyway
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Quoting CycloneOz:
You know what. I can't recall if we've talked about the outlook this year for tropical waves coming off Africa.

Has that been covered yet? What's the bottom line?

They sure burned off last year, didn't they? One after another...like French aristocrats headed to the guillotine!


Lol, well I talked about it in my outlook on my blog, and as far as I know the pros in here are of the same opinion.

Since the strongly negative NAO has weakened trade winds this winter, very warm SSTs have been allowed to develop west of Africa, as we all know. With light trade winds expected to continue into the season, and Sahel rainfall forecast to be normal to above normal, I expect a healthy and active Cape Verde season. There should be less dry air to deal with, more heat focused over the deep tropics, and lighter trade winds, all a big plus for tropical waves being able to develop in the MDR. This is the complete opposite of last year.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647


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You know what. I can't recall if we've talked about the outlook this year for tropical waves coming off Africa.

Has that been covered yet? What's the bottom line?

They sure burned off last year, didn't they? One after another...like French aristocrats headed to the guillotine!
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got to watch for those multi-cell rapid firing tight T.S.clusters over open waters they get a spin well the rest is history
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

just rmember
with great power
comes great Responsibility


You hear that Levi? I gotta be poppin' some cores this year!
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Living down in so. Fla., I'll be paying attention to the posts of Adrian and Drak.


Doc, 456, StormW, Levi, Drak...and PensacolaDoug because of his AccuWeather account! :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:


I agree, and his are particularly keen! :)

just rmember
with great power
comes great Responsibility
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Living down in so. Fla., I'll be paying attention to the posts of Adrian and Drak.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
the more eyes watchin the better


I agree, and his are particularly keen! :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:


Have we told you how nice it is to have you back with us, Levi? :)


Lol, thanks :) I'm glad to be here for at least a little while.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting CycloneOz:


Have we told you how nice it is to have you back with us, Levi? :)
the more eyes watchin the better
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Quoting Patrap:
It aint in sight yet KOTG

Mid City Station, New Orleans, Louisiana (PWS)
Updated: 1 sec ago
Overcast
45.2 °F
Overcast
Windchill: 40 °F
Humidity: 70%
Dew Point: 35 °F
Wind: 10.0 mph from the NNW
Wind Gust: 12.0 mph

not yet but its a coming
winter is on the way out
today the sun passes the building behind me
for the first time since nov i have seen the evening sun setting
its moving north more quickly now not long more
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Quoting Levi32:


Well it's not completely a question of power. The strength of the Bermuda High isn't always what makes it direct storms further west. A negative NAO, which we are forecast to have this summer, results in a weaker-than-normal Bermuda High, but favors a more westward position of the high towards the SE U.S. This can direct a lot of storms into the gulf, Florida, or the SE coast. Long-track storms originating in the eastern Atlantic have more trouble making it that far west in this pattern due to dominant troughing in the central Atlantic, so a strong and elongated Bermuda High (usually present during a positive NAO) would be the better way to go if you're looking for Cape Verde storms making it all the way across.

On the other hand...a strong NAO and stronger Bermuda High increases trade winds and doesn't allow as many storms to form, so it's all in what the better balance is. Statistical studies have been done and generally a negative NAO is worse than a positive one for the United States and the Caribbean, which is funny because most people think of a large, powerful Bermuda High as being bad.


Have we told you how nice it is to have you back with us, Levi? :)
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Quoting CycloneOz:


My top three landfall candidates this year are:

1) Biloxi
2) Ft. Walton Beach / Destin
3) Panama City Beach

You folks in those cities don't worry. I'm very bad at future-casting, but a Bermuda High as powerful as the one in the graphic would send 'em right on into the Gulf just like that.


Well it's not completely a question of power. The strength of the Bermuda High isn't always what makes it direct storms further west. A negative NAO, which we are forecast to have this summer, results in a weaker-than-normal Bermuda High, but favors a more westward position of the high towards the SE U.S. This can direct a lot of storms into the gulf, Florida, or the SE coast. Long-track storms originating in the eastern Atlantic have more trouble making it that far west in this pattern due to dominant troughing in the central Atlantic, so a strong and elongated Bermuda High (usually present during a positive NAO) would be the better way to go if you're looking for Cape Verde storms making it all the way across.

On the other hand...a strong NAO and stronger Bermuda High increases trade winds and doesn't allow as many storms to form, so it's all in what the better balance is. Statistical studies have been done and generally a negative NAO is worse than a positive one for the United States and the Caribbean, which is funny because most people think of a large, powerful Bermuda High as being bad.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
I don't believe this year we are going to get lucky with wind shear. It is going to be there but not as this past year. 2009 was EL NINO = strong wind shear. 2010 will be La NINA OR NEUTRAL= less wind shear
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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.