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1903 Ulysses Storm among windiest ever in British Isles

April 24, 2023

By Paul Homewood



h/t Euan Mearns

This is a very interesting read:



A mighty storm that tore across Ireland and the UK more than a century ago produced some of the strongest winds the British Isles have ever witnessed.

Scientists reviewed Storm Ulysses of 1903 by digitising paper-based weather readings from the time and subjecting them to a modern reanalysis.

Many places would have felt gusts in excess of 45m/s (100mph or 87 knots).

The cyclone left a trail of death, shipwrecks, smashed infrastructure, uprooted trees and widespread flooding.

"We think it is likely that the winds were stronger in some locations than anything in the modern period 1950-2015," explained Prof Ed Hawkins from the University of Reading and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

"The precise values are a bit uncertain as the reanalysis does not produce gust values at the surface but they would have been pretty high to cause the damage we see in photos from the time – on a par with big storms in 1990, 1997, 1998 and the Great Storm of 1987," he told the BBC.

Storm Ulysses is so called because it inspired a passage in James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses.

Weather charts

The windstorm blasted through the British Isles over 26 and 27 February. Its track ran across Ireland, northern England and Scotland.

The Times newspaper recounted widespread damage, a sizeable number of injuries, and fatalities.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) reported 10 significant crew rescues from distressed ships. A pier in Morecambe was damaged, and a train in Cumbria was blown over.

Ulysses’ ferocity was well recognised at the time. But by reanalysing the raw weather observations from 1903, using the very latest modern numerical modelling techniques like those that produce today’s daily forecasts, researchers have now obtained a new, more detailed appreciation of the event

Read the full story here.

What is particularly interesting is how this new reanalysis compares with what was reported at the time:



It is now believed that many places experienced gusts of over 100 mph, which is well above anything actually recorded at the time. As we find with hurricanes, anemometers in the past were often not in the places where gusts are highest. Whereas as now we have a host of automatic monitors in the most exposed places.

Storm Ulysses shows why it is difficult to make direct comparisons with storms in the past.

  1. chriskshaw permalink
    April 24, 2023 11:49 am

    Interesting article describing new subsea volcanoes discovered

    • catweazle666 permalink
      April 24, 2023 6:55 pm

      Interesting photo of volcanic vent:

      Bubbles of liquid carbon dioxide rise from the seafloor at the Champagne vent on Northwest Eifuku volcano in the western Pacific. CO2 exists in its liquid form due to the high pressure.NOAA via AP

      • April 24, 2023 7:11 pm

        Well, that need blocking up for a start!

      • John Palmer permalink
        April 26, 2023 5:16 pm

        Surely, either the EU or our lot should be taxing that source of fertiliser!

  2. April 24, 2023 12:11 pm

    Big Weather back in the early medieval period too. Just been watching an old Time Team on Dunwich, Suffolk where present day erosion of the unstable coastline is very rapid. But it seems the main forces that swept half the town away occurred in 2 specific storms, one in the late 13th century and another in the early 14th. At a similar period on the other side of the British Isles a huge storm was responsible for the massive dune system along the mid Wales coast and west coast Anglesey. We really need to get a grip on our understanding of weather and climate.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 25, 2023 8:36 am

      Yes just read last night about 2 great storms at that time and the disastrous effects they had on the Low Countries – presumably the same storms. Towns disappeared and sea defender were completely destroyed.

  3. Gamecock permalink
    April 24, 2023 1:46 pm

    ‘As we find with hurricanes, anemometers in the past were often not in the places where gusts are highest. Whereas as now we have a host of automatic monitors in the most exposed places.’

    But even today, we have the problem of the winds destroying anemometers before the peak.

    • John Hultquist permalink
      April 24, 2023 4:51 pm

      Wind speeds are also taken from flight-level reconnaissance data. This sets up arguments as to whether ground or flight results are correct. Folks will write “I did not find a station reporting that high of a wind speed.” Seems to me these arguments are specious.

  4. Ian Wilson permalink
    April 24, 2023 3:46 pm

    So much for the incessant claims ‘extreme weather events’ are becoming more intense and more frequent due to climate change. Exactly 200 years before was the Great Storm of 1703, well documented in Daniel Defoe’s book The Storm.

    It is interesting the BBC reported this study of the 1903 storm so prominently, presumably not appreciating how it punctures their own narrative that the supposed bogey CO2 is making such events worse. When Ulysses struck there were precious few cars and the first aeroplane flight was still a few months away.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      April 24, 2023 7:51 pm

      Should someone complain to the BBC that as it is almost Climate Denial?

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      April 25, 2023 9:05 am

      Indeed, problem for the narrative.

      CMIP6 models show no warming trend at all over the period 1850 – 1910. Warming only commences 1910 in the models – and even then they get the rate and timing wrong of the warming from 1910-1945.

      My link below shows IPCC AR6 SPM Fig 1 on the left with the CMIP6 model and HadCRUT4. On the right is my Figure with CMIP6 re-baselined to the period 1961-1990 and UAH6 added. You can then see clearly there is apparently no warming until 1910 and the modelled warming clearly outstripping reality post-2000.

      • Ian Wilson permalink
        April 25, 2023 4:19 pm

        Thanks, Thinking Scientist. It seems recent reported warming has been inflated by the urban heat island effect, ‘adjustments’ (i.e. fiddling) to terrestrial records (though the UAH satellite data look sounder) and the change from mercury to electronic thermometers, the latter responding faster and showing ‘records’ like the claimed one at Coningsby probably triggered by Typhoons taking off which a slower mercury instrument would have missed.

  5. John Hultquist permalink
    April 24, 2023 4:41 pm

    I do greatly like extreme weather stories from the past.

    Note: “… and subjecting them to a modern reanalysis.”

    When did the word “reanalysis” enter the lexicon?
    What is added that this doesn’t convey? “… to a modern analysis.”

    • catweazle666 permalink
      April 24, 2023 6:57 pm

      “Making stuff up”?

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 26, 2023 9:54 pm

      You can’t have “reanalysis” without “anal.”

  6. Joe Public permalink
    April 24, 2023 6:00 pm

    Its effect upon any un-featherable wind turbines would be a sight to behold. From a safe distance.

  7. Mark Hodgson permalink
    April 24, 2023 7:25 pm

    Paul, I hope we’re going to see more realism about weather from history, and recognition that we’re not seeing anything so unusual now. There was a similar story about a year ago, and we both wrote about it at the time:

    It Never Rains But It Pours

  8. April 24, 2023 8:32 pm

    Note, the reanalysis used as reference, data from the modern period 1950-2015. In November 2015, the Met Office started naming storms and we all know that from then on, named storms which hit the UK were the most ferocious evah(!) due to climate change. And they came in threes, like London buses. Who can forget the deadly trio of Dudley, Eunice and Franklin? Ulysses was just a pre climate crisis lone wolf.

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 26, 2023 9:55 pm

      Interesting. I don’t consider 1950 to be “modern.”

  9. dave permalink
    April 25, 2023 9:28 am

    Meanwhile, absolutely normal* Arctic Spring:

    * Or perhaps ‘new-normal,’ as there was a definite shift a decade ago to slightly warmer winters and slightly thinner sea-ice. Because these shifts have been a cyclical phenomenon for millennia, related to the harmonics of the 18.3 years orbital period of the moon, it is possible that the volume of ice will expand again in the second half of the 202o’s

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      April 25, 2023 9:42 am

      Along with Gridwatch my favourite views at breakfast.
      I have found the Greenland accumulation chart intresting this year. Got off to a flying start, which was a continuation from 2021-22, and has now gone baack to something more normal.
      I’m thinking that the mass gain overall will be below average by the end of the year (end of August) and will be used by the BBC to prove Climate Change is going to drown us all by this time next year.

    • dave permalink
      April 25, 2023 9:47 am

      This interview with Peter Ridd is also quite interesting:

      The Great Barrier reef is in good, natural, condition. It is a fluctuating ecological zone. That anybody has to be told the basics of Ecology 101 is astonishing, of course; but we simply do not have an educational system in the West which is fit for purpose.

      Ridd thinks grumbling from ordinary people will be listened to by mad greenies and thicko politicians. Ever the optimist!

    • dave permalink
      April 25, 2023 10:39 am

      “…will be used by the BBC…”

      Well, ‘they’ – the richly paid, permanently employed, shills of the whole project – have about fifty, standard, entirely pre-written, stories. Just looking all the time for a ‘peg’ to hang one on. By the Law of Averages, one or two such opportunities will arise (or be twisted into use) every month or so. If there is a dearth of such opportunities ‘they’ start talking loudly among themselves, in a vaguely ‘sciencey’ way, about climate doom as the new normal, until the inflamed nerves of the gas-lit population are twanging again.

      The tricks are utterly obvious and threadbare. Everything is a Project Fear.
      nNow that there is a government and pharma campaign for a spring boost in Covid vaccination, there is suddenly a “NEW DEADLY VARIANT.” Luckily, people are tired of THIS particular nonsense. The great plan, for the world as a whole to be given 40 million injections a day for ever at $100 a shot, is a FLOP.

  10. April 25, 2023 11:21 am

    An interesting ‘extreme weather’ historical document of May 1822, London. This is a letter from Eleanor Porden to Sir John Franklin who is away exploring the Arctic. The letter is in the Derbyshire Record Office and documents: heat – 3 months of storm – flood – mixed up seasons – lack of winter snow (and written only a few years after the last Frost Fair of 1814)

    • dave permalink
      April 25, 2023 7:23 pm

      The World revolves, and returns to its original condition. Or sometimes it doesn’t. Why worry?

  11. watersider permalink
    April 25, 2023 7:30 pm

    In Irish metrological history this James Joyce storm was a bit of a pussy.
    I well remember my father (born 1887) telling us about Oiche na Gaoithe Moire – the night of the big wind. This occured on the night of 6th January 1839. His parents still had nightmares when a storm brewed as they remembered the absolute destruction visited upon the west of Ireland by the big wind.
    It is well documented on that site which I usually avoid like the plague Wickidpedo – or something.


  1. 1903 Ulysses Storm among windiest ever in British Isles – Watts Up With That? – The Insight Post

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