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Most Powerful Storm in 14 Years Sweeps Northwestern Europe

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:42 PM GMT on October 29, 2013

Most Powerful Storm in 14 Years Sweeps Northwestern Europe

An extra-tropical cyclone, variously named St. Jude (The Weather Channel and the U.K. Met Office), Christian (Free Univ. of Berlin), Carmen (European Windstorm Centre, UK), and Simone (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute), swept across northwestern Europe October 27-29 with the strongest winds ever recorded for some locations and resulting in at least 16 fatalities as well as causing yet to be determined amounts of financial damage. Herein is a brief summary of this historic storm.


Video 1. A 6-story scaffolding collapses during extratropical storm "Christian" in Denmark on October 28, 2013. A new all time wind speed record in Denmark of 192.6 kph (120 mph) was measured that day at Kegnæs on the Baltic Sea, close to the German border.

Storm Synoptics

The storm developed along a wave front in the northwest Atlantic on October 26th before becoming engaged with a strong jet stream carrying copious moisture associated with the remnants of ex-tropical storm Lorenzo. The tropical air mass provided the catalyst for rapid strengthening of the low-pressure system at a location unusually close to the British Isles. The low crossed England on the night of October 27-28 deepening from 982 mb to 975 mb as it moved over England. The storm intensified rapidly on October 28th as it approached the European mainland with the central pressure bottoming out at around 965 mb over the North Sea. The lowest observed land-based pressure measurement during the storm was 967.6 mb at the Danish station of Thyboron at 14 UTC, October 28th. By the time the center of the storm reached Finland at around 1 UTC on October 29th it still had a central pressure of 970 mb. The cyclone was remarkable for its rapid advancement, covering 2000 km (1240 miles) in just 26 hours, an average forward speed of 77 kmh (48 mph). To the east of the low-pressure center a ‘dry slot’ developed between the warm and cold fronts as a result of what German meteorologists call a ‘sting jet’ formation. Dr. Michael Theusner of Germany’s Klimahaus Museum explains: “As the precipitation evaporates it lead to the formation of cold air at an elevation of a few kilometers. This cold air accelerated downward and likely led to the exceptionally high gusts of more than 170 kmh (105 mph) that were recorded at several locations in Germany and in Denmark. So the sting jet phenomenon was likely the ultimate cause for the extreme wind.”



Satellite image of the cyclone at 12:00 (noon) UTC on October 28th. The overlaid graphics show the positions of the warm and cold fronts, center of storm ‘T’, and the dry slot and sting jet location (yellow lines). Graphics from Wetterzentrale Forum.

Country Wind and Damage Reports

GREAT BRITAIN

In Britain there have been 4 confirmed fatalities with 1 still missing. This included two people killed by a gas explosion that destroyed three homes when a tree fell on the structures. A peak wind gust of 159 kmh (99 mph) was measured at Needles Battery on the Isle of Wight (English Channel) but in general the maximum wind gusts over the U.K. mainland were limited to 120 kmh (75 mph). At its peak 660,000 homes lost power.



Three homes were destroyed and two lives lost when a tree fell causing a gas explosion in this neighborhood of Hounslow, London. Photo by London Fire Brigade/AFP.

FRANCE

The storm largely bypassed France although in the northeastern portion of the country 75,000 homes lost power. A peak wind gust of 133 kmh (83 mph) was measured at Ile d’Ouessant, Finistere.

NETHERLANDS

The peak gust of 152 kmh (94 mph) at Vlieland, Friesland was the highest such ever measured in Holland during the month of October and the strongest since the Burn’s Day storm of 1990. A gust of 148 kmh (92 mph) was also recorded at Texel in the north of the country. There have been two fatalities and 25 injuries so far reported. Damage is estimated at 95 million Euros (about $123 million).

DENMARK

A new all-time wind speed record for Denmark was set at Kegnaes with a gust to 192.6 kmh (120 mph). The site is located on the shore of the Baltic Sea near the German border. A 10-minute sustained wind of 142.2 kmh (88 mph) was measured at Rosnaes. Two fatalities and 36 serious injuries have been reported and a tremendous amount of damage. All flights were suspended for several hours at Copenhagen International Airport. It was, as in Holland, the worst storm to affect the country since the famous Burn’s Day storm of January 25-26, 1990.



A map of top wind speeds observed in Denmark during the storm on October 28th. The figures are in meters per second: 1 mps=2.24 mph or 3.6 kmh. The first figure is the 10-minute sustained wind and the second figure the peak gust. Map from Danish TV 2.

GERMANY

A possible low-elevation national wind speed record for Germany was observed at both Borkum and Heligoland (North Sea Islands) with wind gusts of 191 kmh (119 mph) on October 28th. Maximum sustained winds were 130 kmh (88 mph). However, these measurements were made by private equipment and may not be acceptable by the official German met agency DWD (Deutscher Wetterdienst). Germany was the hardest hit nation in Europe with at least eight fatalities and severe destruction in the northern third of the country. Damage estimates are not yet available but much of the transportation infrastructure remained at a standstill on Tuesday October 29th in the region.



A map of peak wind gusts in kmh observed in Germany on Monday October 28th. These figures represent only the official numbers provided by the national weather agency DWD and so do not contain the 191 kmh figures noted above. There is a suspiciously low figure of just 69 kmh at Bremerhaven in the north on the coast. This is a result of equipment failure.

Elsewhere in Europe, and an interesting side note, the storm was responsible for the formation of huge waves off the coast of Portugal, one of which, a 100-foot monster, was surfed by Brazilian Carlos Burle. If verified, it would be the first 100-footer yet surfed (and thus, obviously, the tallest wave ever verifiably ridden!).



A photograph of the 100-foot wave observed from Praia do Norte, Portugal and the soon-to-be-famous Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle making his way down its face. Photographer not identified.

KUDOS: Many thanks for much of the above information to Dr. Michael Theusner of the German climate museum Klimahaus.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Extra-tropical Storms Wind

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Thanks

But I am not too sure the UK Met office named the storm ....

Met Office: We don't know why the storm is called St Jude

Great blog on our European storm! Thanks a lot for the metereological explanations.



This video is showing the strength of the storm. The author (Wolfgang Schwarz) writes in the youtube caption that he took this video just by chance as he and other people were standing on this bridge to watch the storm. Thankfully a little later the driver climbed out of his truck unharmed, apart from a little laceration at his head.
Video was taken in Toenning, near the area of "landfall".

Aerea of Toenning. Map Wikipedia.

Here the link (it may be a problem to embed this video) to another impressive youtube video showing people and bikes blown away in Sylt.

These and more pictures and videos of this region were collected on the german weather site of Lars Rohwer.
Quoting 1. VR46L:
Thanks

But I am not too sure the UK Met office named the storm ....

Met Office: We don't know why the storm is called St Jude



Met Office didn't name it.

Leon Brown, forecaster for The Weather Channel, said wind speed in the jet stream %u2013 a ribbon of air which circulates the globe and influences the weather %u2013 could hit 200mph.

He said: %u201CWe continue to monitor developments very closely for this coming Monday.

%u201CThe storm in question, which we have named Saint Jude, is currently a minor disturbance over the Gulf of Mexico which will propagate eastwards and become caught in a ferocious jet stream currently off the eastern seaboard of the US.

%u201CWind speeds in the jet stream are likely to reach as much as 200mph this weekend %u2013 typically it%u2019s around 100mph over the Atlantic.

%u201CThe exact development and track is still uncertain, but it looks most likely to cross central or southern Britain during Monday, but could yet move further north or south.%u201D


The Express

From what I've read, TWC-UK named it and the media latched on. The Free University of Berlin supplied the name Christian, which according to the The Guardian, is the 'official' name currently.
Officially, then, EU institutions are calling the St Jude's storm the Christian storm, named after someone called Christian Widera.
Quoting 3. Astrometeor:


Met Office didn't name it.

Leon Brown, forecaster for The Weather Channel, said wind speed in the jet stream %u2013 a ribbon of air which circulates the globe and influences the weather %u2013 could hit 200mph.

He said: %u201CWe continue to monitor developments very closely for this coming Monday.

%u201CThe storm in question, which we have named Saint Jude, is currently a minor disturbance over the Gulf of Mexico which will propagate eastwards and become caught in a ferocious jet stream currently off the eastern seaboard of the US.

%u201CWind speeds in the jet stream are likely to reach as much as 200mph this weekend %u2013 typically it%u2019s around 100mph over the Atlantic.

%u201CThe exact development and track is still uncertain, but it looks most likely to cross central or southern Britain during Monday, but could yet move further north or south.%u201D


The Express

From what I've read, TWC-UK named it and the media latched on. The Free University of Berlin supplied the name Christian, which according to the The Guardian, is the 'official' name currently.
Officially, then, EU institutions are calling the St Jude's storm the Christian storm, named after someone called Christian Widera.



Thanks for the clarification! Not that it matters much. Or does it? TWC had a ton of criticism for naming winter storms. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would get their knickers all tied up about this naming of non-tropical storms. Please elucidate for me why the naming of storms is such an issue?
Quoting 4. weatherhistorian:



Thanks for the clarification! Not that it matters much. Or does it? TWC had a ton of criticism for naming winter storms. Frankly, I don't see why anyone would get their knickers all tied up about this naming of non-tropical storms. Please elucidate for me why the naming of storms is such an issue?


My own personal take

I must say, though, I wrote the above with a slight tint of emotion, I wasn't exactly calm at the time. Almost embarrassing when Stu replied to me in Masters (I think?) and no one supported me, even though the blog was/and is split in two on the issue.
Quoting 5. Astrometeor:


My own personal take

I must say, though, I wrote the above with a slight tint of emotion, I wasn't exactly calm at the time. Almost embarrassing when Stu replied to me in Masters (I think?) and no one supported me, even though the blog was/and is split in two on the issue.


Actually, Astrometeor, you have raised a question that everyone in the met community is wondering about: the nomenclature 'validity' of non-tropical storms. So no reason to appologize whatsoever! Thanks for your input.

Personally, I think a storm is a storm. It doesn't matter too much what it is named. The issue, I think, is about the legacy/historical significance of such, so people will remember and, perhaps, learn from such i.e 'Katrina'. Few will remember "a big hurricane in 2005 that killed 1800 in the Southeast" whereas everyone (almost) will remember 'Katrina' or 'Sandy'.
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Quoting 8. barbamz:
BBC weather video, Oct. 30, 2013: How 'Sting Jets' influence our weather


Excellent explanation..
I had never heard of "sting Jets" before now..
Makes great sense..
Thanks for the post barb.. :)
Quoting 9. pcola57:


Excellent explanation..
I had never heard of "sting Jets" before now..
Makes great sense..
Thanks for the post barb.. :)


I've learned something new about those sting jets too, Marvin. Seems to be a specialty of European weather and metereology. Wikipedia explains where the name comes from:

A sting jet is a meteorological phenomenon which can be the cause of the most damaging winds in European windstorms.

Following reanalysis of the Great Storm of 1987, led by Professor Keith Browning at the University of Reading, researchers identified a mesoscale flow where the most damaging winds were shown to be emanating from the evaporating tip of the hooked cloud head on the southern flank of the cyclone. This cloud, hooked like a scorpion's tail, gives the wind region its name the "Sting Jet". ...


Addition some days later:

Interesting retrospect from BBC's forecaster Miller how he experienced the night and the morning when Jude-Christian hit the UK some days ago:



BBC Weather Presenter's brush with stormy weather
BBC, 1 November 2013 Last updated at 11:57

Nick Miller is an experienced weather forecaster for the BBC, but his credentials were no match for the ferocity of a storm he encountered on the morning of October 28, 2013, while heading home from work.


Some quotes from this article:
...I wasn't the only one not getting any sleep that night. The BBC Weather twitter feed was busy with people giving their own updates on what the storm was doing. Weather enthusiasts had decided to stay up to see the storm come in. ...

... It might sound peculiar for a meteorologist but I was genuinely scared and shocked by the sheer physicality of this storm. It's just an eight minute walk to my house but with plenty of trees being battered and difficulty walking against the wind anyway, I couldn't risk it. My choices of refuge were limited - a flimsy-looking platform shelter, a telephone box or a railway bridge.
So, for the next twenty minutes or so, a very humbled weatherman watched, quite in awe from under a railway bridge, as this destructive force of nature unleashed its power before me. ...


weatherhistorian has created a new entry.
Quoting 10. barbamz:


I've learned something new about those sting jets too, Marvin. Seems to be a specialty of European weather and metereology. Wikipedia explains where the name comes from:

A sting jet is a meteorological phenomenon which can be the cause of the most damaging winds in European windstorms.

Following reanalysis of the Great Storm of 1987, led by Professor Keith Browning at the University of Reading, researchers identified a mesoscale flow where the most damaging winds were shown to be emanating from the evaporating tip of the hooked cloud head on the southern flank of the cyclone. This cloud, hooked like a scorpion's tail, gives the wind region its name the "Sting Jet". ...


Addition some days later:

Interesting retrospect from BBC's forecaster Miller how he experienced the night and the morning when Jude-Christian hit the UK some days ago:



BBC Weather Presenter's brush with stormy weather
BBC, 1 November 2013 Last updated at 11:57

Nick Miller is an experienced weather forecaster for the BBC, but his credentials were no match for the ferocity of a storm he encountered on the morning of October 28, 2013, while heading home from work.


Some quotes from this article:
...I wasn't the only one not getting any sleep that night. The BBC Weather twitter feed was busy with people giving their own updates on what the storm was doing. Weather enthusiasts had decided to stay up to see the storm come in. ...

... It might sound peculiar for a meteorologist but I was genuinely scared and shocked by the sheer physicality of this storm. It's just an eight minute walk to my house but with plenty of trees being battered and difficulty walking against the wind anyway, I couldn't risk it. My choices of refuge were limited - a flimsy-looking platform shelter, a telephone box or a railway bridge.
So, for the next twenty minutes or so, a very humbled weatherman watched, quite in awe from under a railway bridge, as this destructive force of nature unleashed its power before me. ...




I think it is a special term used by European weather describers and synopticians. I approached it skeptically when I first saw it two DAYS ago but it looks like a real phenomenon not described by any classification I learned in my US education and studies and we should reexamine strong mature baroclinic systems on our side of the pond for them also. I doubt they're unique to Europe.