Tanja Dallafior – Modeler, Event Response, RMS
Michèle Lai – Product Manager, Model Product Management, RMS
Tom Sabbatelli – Manager – Event Response, RMS
A typical European windstorm season usually spans from October to March, with a peak of activity during the winter months. But with a quiet and sunny February, due to a strong blocking situation in Western Europe, had spring arrived? No, Mother Nature decided differently, and March came with its series of windstorms, and although March is not over yet, let’s look at what has happened so far.
What’s in a Name?
March 2019 started with the formation of a westerly weather pattern that prevailed until March 16-17, and an unstable atmospheric situation that brought a series of eight spring storms passing through Europe in just over two weeks. This series of storms brought damage and disruption across Europe, with uprooted trees, power outages, transport interruptions on road, rail, and in the air, injuries and even fatalities were reported.
Little more than a week ago, I signed off my previous blog post, discussing storm Eleanor/Burglind, with the following thought:
As the number of minor windstorms impacting Europe this season grows, we are left to wonder how many more “near misses” can we experience before our luck runs out?
At the time, I further noted that:
- One-day-out, the forecasts for Friederike were trending towards lower and lower severities
- As an immature and fast-moving system, these forecasts were subject to high uncertainty
- Eventual losses would be very sensitive to gust speeds experienced in urban areas near to the forecast footprint, such as Rotterdam and Dortmund
In the week since this post, it has become clear that our lucky streak has already come to an end. Storm Friederike (also named David by Météo-France) intensified towards the upper end of the forecast severities in Benelux and Germany, bringing strong gusts to highly populated areas and producing significant insurance losses.
Over the course of this winter, RMS has been publishing a series of blog posts charting the progress of the 2017/18 European windstorm season. In October last year, we outlined our forecast for a stormier-than-recent season, before checking in with an update at the end of November following three notable autumnal windstorm events. Following a relative lull in activity in December, we used the fiftieth anniversary of the “Glasgow Hurricane” as a reminder of the potential impacts when strong windstorms directly hit major urban areas.
However, at the start of 2018 this lull was broken with the arrival of storm Eleanor (U.K. Met Office/Met Éireann) / Burglind (Freie Universität Berlin), motivating us to once again check-in on the progress of the storm season. Here we outline the meteorology and impacts of this latest storm, and discuss how it fits into the seasonal forecast issued at the start of the season.
In the early hours of Monday, January 15, 1968, cyclone “Low Q” charged across northern U.K. and smashed the densely populated Central Belt of Scotland with urban winds which have only since been matched when storm Lothar hit southern Paris in late 1999. Glasgow suffered the most intense damage leading to the storm’s more common misnomer of the “Glasgow Hurricane”. This event has quite a low profile today, even in the U.K., and we use its fiftieth anniversary to highlight this exceptional European Windstorm.
December is fast approaching, and in much of North America and Europe the crisp days and golden colors of autumn are giving way to a world of sparkling lights, frenzied shoppers, and the sense of merriment that comes with the onset of the festive period. At this time of year, an equally marked transition takes place within the catastrophe risk management community, as the Atlantic hurricane season closes and attention shifts to the onset of the December to February (or, in meteorological parlance, DJF) peak season for European windstorm risk.
However, three notable early season wind events have already impacted Europe during the earlier part of this current windstorm season. These are windstorm Xavier (October 5; Germany, Poland, and Czech Republic), ex-hurricane Ophelia (October 16; Ireland), and windstorm Herwart (October 29; Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Austria). The earliest of these, Xavier, formed just one day after the Category Five Hurricane Maria dissipated — at a time when the attention of the global insurance market was firmly focused on the other side of the Atlantic.