|Storm-cellar time. Courtesy: free-extras.com|
Americans generally feel like they’ve cornered the market on tornadoes, but the fact is that they happen almost everywhere.
- Tornadoes have been reported on every continent except Antarctica, which does not have the needed contrast between warm and cold air together with the humid air needed for thunderstorms to form, according to the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) in the United Kingdom
- Europe has 300 or more tornadoes a year, according to a study by Nikolai Dotzek, a scientist with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Wessling, Germany
- The United Kingdom has the most tornadoes of any European country, about 33 per year, according to TORRO. That number jumps to 50 when unreported tornadoes are added, making the United Kingdom the world’s leader in tornadoes based on number of twisters per area of land
- Germany has about 10 observed tornadoes a year: a category F-5 tornado, with wind speeds of 261 to 308 mph, happens every 150 years; an F-3 tornado, with wind speeds of 158 to 206 mph, happens every 40 to 50 years
- Large tornadoes have ravaged Europe in recent years. One smashed its way through Bognor Regis in southern England on Oct. 28, 2000, causing $7 million in damage and injuring four people. Europe’s most destructive tornado tore through the German town of Pforzheim in July 1968, causing $25 million in damage and killing two people
- There is a practical reason for the limited damage caused by European twisters. European houses are built of brick and stone, which can resist tornadoes better than the wood frame houses or trailer homes found in the U.S.
- In Asia, tornadoes have been reported in India, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. Even in Japan, the tatsu maki has been reported
- In Australia, the “cockeyed bob” is reported about 20 times every year. That figure may be much higher because many storms occur in uninhabited areas. Strong tornadoes are very rare but do happen
- In South America, they have been reported in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina
- The United States is the world leader when it comes to number of tornadoes with roughly 1,400 per year. The majority of tornadoes occur in "Tornado Alley,"which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, and Illinois. They typically happen from April through June, but May is the busiest month. In 2003, a flurry of funnels in May set a record, with about 400 recorded in seven days
- In both Europe and the United States, about 75 percent of the tornadoes are weak, about 22 percent are strong, and 3 percent are violent. But with fewer tornadoes in Europe, it takes longer for a violent tornado to appear and cause the type of damage seen so often in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas
- Variation in tornado frequency between the United States and Europe can be attributed to Europe's higher latitude. Boston is on roughly the same latitude as Madrid, Spain. Oklahoma City is almost directly west of the Strait of Gibraltar. The sharp angle of the sun’s rays striking Europe inhibits their ability to heat air to the degree needed to create prime tornado conditions. Plus, the landscape of Europe changes quickly from mile to mile — from hills to river valleys and back to hills, which weakens storms. This is unlike America’s midsection, where the terrain is flat and featureless for hundreds of miles
|Not a sight you want to see out your kitchen window. Courtesy: free-extras.com|
- Flatlands like those in the Netherlands have twice as many tornadoes as the much larger countries of France and Germany. The level Dutch landscape is more similar to that in America’s breadbasket