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What The BBC Won’t Tell You About Tornadoes

January 8, 2014

By Paul Homewood


I’ve just been watching a BBC programme about the history of weather forecasting.


It was good in parts, and started with past “bad weather” like the Lynmouth floods of 1952, the North Sea Floods of 1953, the winter of 1962/3, the drought of 1976 and the 1987 storm. All events, of course, that go down in the annals as some of the most extreme weather of the 20thC.

Unfortunately, as could be expected of the BBC, the programme went full alarmist, with tales of how the “weather” suddenly went off the rails at the start of the 21stC.

After describing all the things that had started to happen (that had regularly happened before in the 20thC), the twat narrating mentioned “that we even had a tornado”!


So for anybody who might be labouring under the misapprehension that a tornado in the UK proves global weirding, it’s time for a reminder that Britain experiences on average 35 to 40 tornadoes every year.

Indeed, American tornado expert, Theodore Fujita, reckons that we get more tornadoes for land area, than any other country in the world.

Of course, most are pretty small affairs, but our history is littered with many strong ones, including two, in 1091 and 1810, that, from the damage, are now estimated to be EF-5 strength, the most violent category, with winds of 213 to 240mph.


The following compilation is from TORRO, the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation.



Longest-Track Tornado
On May 21, 1950, a tornado which touched-down at Little London (Buckinghamshire) tracked 107.1 km to Coveney (Cambridgeshire). From there it continued as a funnel cloud, travelling another 52.6 km to Shipham (Norfolk) where it was last seen disappearing out across the North Sea (and hence the distance travelled as a funnel is the absolute minimum). Reports are sufficiently frequent from the many villages along this T5-6 tornado’s track to indicate that it probably was caused by a single tornado, rather than a series of individual tornadoes

Widest Tornado Path

A tornado on September 22, 1810 (T4) at Fernhill Heath (Hereford & Worcester) had a path width varying between 805 m and 1,609 m (converted from the reported 0.5 to 1 mi); however there is the possibility of the upward-rounding of the figures, given the reported values and the units used. The tornado of July 4, 1946 (T2) which hit Fairlight (East Sussex) had a width of 1,207 m (converted from reported 0.75 mi), while in this case only one figure was quoted.

Most Intense Tornado

Artist's impression of the St. Mary le Bow tornado

Artist’s impression of the St. Mary le Bow tornado

Two tornadoes in Britain are known to have reached T8; their antiquated nature (especially of the one) necessitated great caution in assigning intensities, so it is possible that they may have been even stronger. The first, also Britain’s earliest known tornado, occurred on October 23, 1091. The church at St. Mary le Bow in central London was badly damaged, with four rafters – each 7.9 m long (converted from the reported 26 ft) – being driven into the ground (composed of heavy London Clay) with such force that only 1.2 m (converted from the reported 4 ft) protruded above the surface. Other churches in the area were demolished, as were over 600 (mostly wooden) houses. On December 14, 1810, another T8 tornado tracked from Old Portsmouth to Southsea Common (Hampshire) also causing immense damage – although no deaths, it is believed. Some houses were completely levelled and many others were so badly damaged that they had to be demolished; chimneys were blown down and the lead on a bank roof was "rolled up like a piece of canvas and blown from its situation".

Largest Tornado Outbreak
The largest tornado outbreak in Britain is also the largest tornado outbreak known anywhere in Europe. On November 23, 1981, 105 tornadoes were spawned by a cold front in the space of 5.25 hours. Excepting Derbyshire, every county in a triangular area from Gwynedd to Humberside to Essex was hit by at least one tornado, while Norfolk was hit by at least 13. Very fortunately most tornadoes were short-lived and also weak (the strongest was around T5 on the TORRO Tornado Scale) and no deaths occurred



TORRO’s classification of T8’s is:-


This would qualify as an EF-5 tornado, although direct comparisons are always difficult.

  1. Brian H permalink
    January 9, 2014 2:14 am

    1091?? What is that? No references … a typo?

  2. Brian H permalink
    January 9, 2014 2:21 am

    Sorry, missed the St. Mary’s etc. connection. More coffee.

    Driving rafters 24′ into clay is even harder than straws 8″ into telephone poles. 😉 Wouldn’t want to get in the way of either.

  3. Paul Twyman permalink
    January 9, 2014 7:41 am

    So are you going to make a formal complaint to the BBC? I think one needs to be relentless in pursuing them – even if the replies are likely to be rubbish. Paul T

    >________________________________ > From: NOT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW THAT >To: >Sent: Wednesday, 8 January 2014, 23:41 >Subject: [New post] More Lies From The BBC > > > > >Paul Homewood posted: “By Paul Homewood   I’ve just been watching a BBC programme about the history of weather forecasting.   It was good in parts, and started with past “bad weather” like the Lynmouth floods of 1952, the North Sea Floods of 1953, the winter of 19” >

  4. Wellers permalink
    January 9, 2014 9:33 pm

    The BBC continued to peddle its North Korean style propaganda tonight on Radio 4’s ‘Inside Science’ with coverage of the failed Turkey expedition to the Antarctic. The presenter proceeded to abuse its science oriented audience by calling its sceptical listeners “deniers”. He then interviewed a warmist scientist from the British Antarctic Survey, John Turner, who tried to make the case that the sudden change in weather was something quite exceptional, and that the ice was only 1% above normal. Hopelessly unbalanced pseudo-science.

  5. John F. Hultquist permalink
    January 10, 2014 2:38 am

    I see in the woodcut image that the stone castle is holding out while the wooden buildings are kindling. In the USA’s tornado alley they still have to learn that lesson.

    I wonder if “tonyb” has come across other references to the 1091 storm? He has spent more time reading about historic UK weather than anyone. He sometimes comments on WUWT but I don’t have a link saved for him.

    Long before buildings start to come apart you need to be in a secure location. A falling tree nearly hit me once and another time I was on a bare ridge top when the wind started. I had to move sideways because head on the wind blew me around each time I lifted a foot off of the ground. Later the local airport estimated such winds in the area were about 80 mph (~35 mps). Things start to move at these speeds, such as garbage cans and their lids, lawn chairs, and many more. The USA news reporters seem to think they have to be out in strong winds to report on them. I have seen them blown over while trying to face the video camera. Makes one wonder about their intelligence.

  6. Andy DC permalink
    January 10, 2014 9:33 pm

    Here in North America, we don’t know squat about what the weather was doing in 1091 or even 1591 for that matter. The Native Americans did not apparently keep weather records.

  7. Paul Andrew Farquharson. permalink
    January 11, 2014 2:40 am

    Hello all.

    Two medieval sources describe the 1091 storm, below:

    16 October 1091. “…on Friday the sixteenth of the calends of November (16th October) a violent whirlwind from the south-west shook and demolished more than six hundred houses and a great number of churches in London. Rushing through the church of St. Mary, called ‘le Bow’, it killed two men, and tearing up the roof and timbers…at last drove six of the rafters, in the same order in which they were before fixed in the roofs, so deep into the earth that only the seventh or eighth part of them was visible, although they were twenty-seven or twenty-eight feet long.” (Florence of Worcester, p 193.)

    1091. “In his [William II Rufus] fourth year was a tempest of lightning, and a whirlwind: finally, on the ides [15th] of October, at Winchcombe, a stroke of lightning beat against the side of the tower with such force, that, shattering the wall where it joined to the roof, it opened a place wide enough to admit a man; entering there, it struck a very large beam, and scattered fragments of it over the whole church…A tempest of contending winds, from the south-east, on the sixteenth before the calends of November, destroyed more than six hundred houses in London. Churches were heaped up on houses, and walls on partitions. The tempest proceeding yet farther, carried off altogether the roof of the church of St. Mary le Bow, and killed two men. Rafters and beams were whirled through the air…four rafters, six and twenty feet long, were driven with such violence into the ground, that scarcely four feet of them were visible…” (William of Malmesbury’s Chronicle of the Kings of England, p 342.)

    This storm appears to have been preceded (by perhaps two weeks or so) by a great storm in the North Sea. And before that, in mid August, there was a notable auroral event reported from Russia, and the same aurora might also be described from England, but this is chronologically less clear. There seems to be some correlation between auroral events and following storms in the sources.

    I’m attempting to do a thesis at Macquarie University, in Australia, on the climate of the British Isles between AD 500 and 1300 based on chronicles, annals and histories, and I have a very large data base of extracts describing all manner of events. If anyone would like to discuss this stuff, feel free to contact me on

    All the best, and thanks for the post.

    Paul Andrew Farquharson.

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