1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak

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1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak
TypeTornado outbreak
Extratropical cyclone
Formed22 November 1981
Dissipated24 November 1981
Lowest pressure968 mb (28.59 inHg)
Tornadoes confirmed104 confirmed
Max rating1F2 tornado
Duration of tornado outbreak25 hours and 26 minutes
DamageHundreds of properties damaged
Areas affectedEast Midlands; East of England; North West England; South East England; Wales; West Midlands; Yorkshire and the Humber
1Most severe tornado damage; see Fujita scale

2Time from first tornado to last tornado

Part of the 1981–82 United Kingdom cold wave and tornado outbreaks of 1981

The 1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak is regarded as the largest recorded tornado outbreak in European history. In the span of 5 hours and 26 minutes during the late morning and early afternoon of 23 November 1981, 104 confirmed tornadoes touched down across Wales and central, northern and eastern England.[1]

Although the majority of tornadoes were very weak, measuring F0 on the Fujita scale, widespread property damage was reported, mainly from the small number of tornadoes which intensified to F1 and F2 strength. By the end of the outbreak, hundreds of properties across the country had been damaged.[2]

Most of the tornadoes occurred in rural areas and small villages across central parts of the United Kingdom, although several large metropolitan areas were affected. The Liverpool area was the first to be struck by multiple tornadoes around 11:30, followed by the Manchester area around 12:00, the Hull area around 13:30 and the Birmingham area around 14:00. The strongest tornado of the outbreak, an F2 tornado, struck Holyhead in Anglesey, Wales at 10:30; the only other F2 tornado of the outbreak caused considerable damage in the village of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire around 14:00.

With 104 tornadoes, this single-day outbreak alone saw more confirmed tornadoes than any other whole year in British history – 1974 previously held the record, with 80 tornadoes across the whole year.[3] At the time of the 1981 outbreak, there had only been one other tornado outbreak in recorded history which produced more than 100 tornadoes within 24 hours, that being the 1974 Super Outbreak in the United States.[4]

Meteorological background[edit]

On 22 November 1981, a rapidly deepening low-pressure extratropical cyclone was centred just off the northern coast of Scotland. The central pressure of this system was 994 mbar at 12:00 GMT on 22 November, deepening to 968 mbar by 12:00 GMT on 23 November.[5]

At the same time, a high-pressure anticyclone was pushing into southern England from mainland Europe. There was an unusually strong upper-level temperature gradient between the low- and high-pressure systems, with the low-pressure system funnelling in cold, arctic air from the north, clashing with humid, subtropical air moving up from southern Europe in the anticyclone.[6]

During the morning of 23 November, a cold front attached to the southern edge of the low-pressure area began to cross the United Kingdom from west to east. Fuelled by this temperature gradient and warm subtropical air to the south, a number of supercell thunderstorms became embedded within the southern edge of the cold front and its pre-frontal rain bands, spawning the first tornadoes over Wales by around 10:30 GMT. By mid-afternoon, 104 tornadoes had been confirmed across the United Kingdom.

Several days after the tornado outbreak, the high-pressure anticyclone to the south of the British Isles broke down, allowing colder arctic air to move in from the north, resulting in the start of a record-breaking cold wave.

Confirmed tornadoes[edit]

Confirmed tornadoes by Fujita rating
FU F0 F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 Total
21 24 57 2 0 0 0 104
List of reported tornadoes - Monday 23 November 1981[7]
F#
T#
Location
County
Coord.
Time (UTC)
Path length
Comments/Damage
Wales
F1 T2 Amlwch Anglesey 53°24′N 4°20′W / 53.40°N 4.33°W / 53.40; -4.33 (Amlwch (1019, F1)) 10:19
(±15 mins)
6 kilometres (3.7 mi) First tornado of the outbreak; touched down in Rhosgoch and moved north-eastwards towards Amlwch.
F2 T5 Holyhead Anglesey 53°19′N 4°38′W / 53.31°N 4.64°W / 53.31; -4.64 (Holyhead (1034, F2)) 10:34 Strongest tornado of the outbreak. 20 houses were damaged in Holyhead and a mobile home was overturned and destroyed.[8]
FU TU Holyhead Anglesey 53°18′N 4°38′W / 53.30°N 4.63°W / 53.30; -4.63 (Holyhead (1034, FU)) 10:34
F1 T2 Penrhos Feilw Anglesey 52°17′N 4°41′W / 52.29°N 4.68°W / 52.29; -4.68 (Penrhos Feilw (1045, F1)) 10:45
(±15 mins)
F1 T3 Llanddaniel Fab Anglesey 52°13′N 4°16′W / 52.21°N 4.26°W / 52.21; -4.26 (Llanddaniel Fab (1100, F1)) 11:00
(±5 mins)
North West England
F1 T3 Wallasey Merseyside 53°26′N 3°04′W / 53.43°N 3.07°W / 53.43; -3.07 (Wallasey (1130, F1)) 11:30
(±5 mins)
F0 T1 Birkenhead Merseyside 53°24′N 3°02′W / 53.40°N 3.03°W / 53.40; -3.03 (Birkenhead (1130, F0)) 11:30
(±1 hour)
F1 T2 St Helens Merseyside 53°27′N 2°44′W / 53.45°N 2.73°W / 53.45; -2.73 (St Helens (1150, F1)) 11:50
(±5 mins)
Tornado passed through St Helens town centre, causing damage.
F1 T3 Great Sutton Cheshire 53°16′N 2°56′W / 53.27°N 2.94°W / 53.27; -2.94 (Great Sutton (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±5 mins)
F1 T3 Antrobus Cheshire 53°19′N 2°32′W / 53.31°N 2.54°W / 53.31; -2.54 (Antrobus (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T3 Croft Cheshire 53°26′N 2°33′W / 53.43°N 2.55°W / 53.43; -2.55 (Croft (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
11 kilometres (6.8 mi) Tornado later moved over the town of Warrington, causing some damage.
F1 T2 Hollinwood Greater Manchester 53°31′N 2°08′W / 53.52°N 2.13°W / 53.52; -2.13 (Hollinwood (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±30 mins)
5 kilometres (3.1 mi) Tornado later moved over the town of Oldham, causing some damage.
F1 T2 Cheadle Hulme Greater Manchester 53°22′N 2°11′W / 53.37°N 2.18°W / 53.37; -2.18 (Cheadle Hulme (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
Small tornado affecting parts of the town of Stockport.
F0 T1 Whitefield Greater Manchester 53°33′N 2°18′W / 53.55°N 2.30°W / 53.55; -2.30 (Whitefield (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
Small tornado affecting parts of the town of Bury.
F0 T1 Timperley Greater Manchester 53°24′N 2°20′W / 53.40°N 2.33°W / 53.40; -2.33 (Timperley (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±5 mins)
West Midlands
F1 T2 Norbury Shropshire 53°32′N 2°56′W / 53.53°N 2.94°W / 53.53; -2.94 (Norbury (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
60 kilometres (37 mi) Staying on the ground for a long distance, this tornado also significantly affected the town of Whitchurch before dissipating.
F1 T3 Market Drayton Shropshire 52°55′N 2°29′W / 52.91°N 2.49°W / 52.91; -2.49 (Market Drayton (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±5 mins)
F0 T1 Beckbury Shropshire 52°37′N 2°21′W / 52.62°N 2.35°W / 52.62; -2.35 (Beckbury (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T2 Knockin Shropshire 52°47′N 3°00′W / 52.78°N 3.00°W / 52.78; -3.00 (Knockin (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
8 kilometres (5.0 mi) Also affected the town of Oswestry, causing some damage.
F1 T2 Chetwynd Manor Shropshire 52°46′N 2°23′W / 52.77°N 2.38°W / 52.77; -2.38 (Chetwynd Manor (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±5 mins)
5 kilometres (3.1 mi) The market town of Newport was also impacted by this tornado.
F1 T2 Ironbridge Shropshire 52°38′N 2°28′W / 52.63°N 2.47°W / 52.63; -2.47 (Ironbridge (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F0 T1 Kenilworth Warwickshire 52°21′N 1°35′W / 52.35°N 1.58°W / 52.35; -1.58 (Kenilworth (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±15 mins)
F0 T1 Fenny Compton Warwickshire 52°09′N 1°23′W / 52.15°N 1.38°W / 52.15; -1.38 (Fenny Compton (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T2 Wem Shropshire 52°52′N 2°43′W / 52.86°N 2.72°W / 52.86; -2.72 (Wem (1205, F1)) 12:05
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Fordhouses West Midlands 52°38′N 2°08′W / 52.63°N 2.13°W / 52.63; -2.13 (Fordhouses (1400, F1)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
Tornado caused damage in the suburbs of Wolverhampton.
F1 T2 Bloxwich West Midlands 52°37′N 2°00′W / 52.62°N 2.00°W / 52.62; -2.00 (Bloxwich (1400, F1)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
Tornado affected the outskirts of Walsall.
F1 T2 Dudley West Midlands 52°30′N 2°05′W / 52.50°N 2.08°W / 52.50; -2.08 (Dudley (1400, F1)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) Tornado touched down in the suburb of Woodsetton and later passed through Dudley town centre causing some damage before dissipating.
F1 T2 Erdington West Midlands 52°31′N 1°50′W / 52.52°N 1.84°W / 52.52; -1.84 (Erdington (1400, F1)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
Tornado impacted the northern suburbs of Birmingham, causing some damage.
F1 T2 Selly Oak West Midlands 52°26′N 1°57′W / 52.43°N 1.95°W / 52.43; -1.95 (Selly Oak (1400, F1)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
Tornado impacted the southern suburbs of Birmingham, causing some damage.
F0 T1 Solihull West Midlands 52°25′N 1°47′W / 52.42°N 1.78°W / 52.42; -1.78 (Solihull (1400, F0)) 14:00
(±1 hour)
4 kilometres (2.5 mi) Small tornado touched down in the suburb of Shirley and continued through to Solihull town centre.
F2 T4 Stoneleigh Warwickshire 52°21′N 1°31′W / 52.35°N 1.52°W / 52.35; -1.52 (Stoneleigh (1400, F2)) 14:00
(±15 mins)
Second strongest tornado of the outbreak, caused considerable damage in the village of Stoneleigh. 20 large static caravans were blown over and destroyed.[9]
South East England
F0 T1 Claydon Oxfordshire 52°08′N 1°20′W / 52.13°N 1.33°W / 52.13; -1.33 (Claydon (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F0 T1 Hornton Oxfordshire 52°05′N 1°25′W / 52.08°N 1.42°W / 52.08; -1.42 (Hornton (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T2 Haversham Buckinghamshire 52°04′N 0°47′W / 52.07°N 0.78°W / 52.07; -0.78 (Haversham (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
Affected Milton Keynes.
F1 T3 Wolverton Buckinghamshire 52°03′N 0°49′W / 52.05°N 0.82°W / 52.05; -0.82 (Wolverton (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
Affected Milton Keynes.
East Midlands
F0 T1 Daventry Northamptonshire 52°15′N 1°10′W / 52.25°N 1.17°W / 52.25; -1.17 (Daventry (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T2 Great Houghton Northamptonshire 52°13′N 0°50′W / 52.22°N 0.83°W / 52.22; -0.83 (Great Houghton (1200, F1)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F0 T1 Yardley Hastings Northamptonshire 52°12′N 0°44′W / 52.20°N 0.73°W / 52.20; -0.73 (Yardley Hastings (1200, F0)) 12:00
(±3 hours)
F1 T2 Wrawby Lincolnshire 53°34′N 0°28′W / 53.57°N 0.47°W / 53.57; -0.47 (Wrawby (1315, F1)) 13:15
(±5 mins)
F1 T3 South Killingholme Lincolnshire 53°34′N 0°14′W / 53.57°N 0.23°W / 53.57; -0.23 (South Killingholme (1330, F1)) 13:30
(±1 hour)
F1 T2 Keelby Lincolnshire 53°34′N 0°15′W / 53.57°N 0.25°W / 53.57; -0.25 (Keelby (1330, F1)) 13:30
(±1 hour)
F1 T3 Grimsby Lincolnshire 53°32′N 0°03′W / 53.53°N 0.05°W / 53.53; -0.05 (Grimsby (1330, F1)) 13:30
(±1 hour)
F0 T0 Tydd St Mary Lincolnshire 52°45′N 0°08′E / 52.75°N 0.14°E / 52.75; 0.14 (Tydd St Mary (1445, F0)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
Yorkshire and the Humber
F1 T2 Kingston upon Hull East Riding of Yorkshire 53°45′N 0°20′W / 53.75°N 0.34°W / 53.75; -0.34 (Kingston upon Hull (1330, F1)) 13:30
(±5 mins)
Tornado passed through the north-eastern residential suburbs of Hull, causing damage.
F0 T0 Kingston upon Hull East Riding of Yorkshire 53°44′N 0°17′W / 53.74°N 0.29°W / 53.74; -0.29 (Kingston upon Hull (1330, F0)) 13:30
(±1 hour)
Small tornado affected the Port of Hull.
East of England
F1 T2 Carlton Bedfordshire 52°11′N 0°37′W / 52.19°N 0.61°W / 52.19; -0.61 (Carlton (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±5 mins)
F0 T0 Aspley Guise Bedfordshire 52°01′N 0°38′W / 52.02°N 0.63°W / 52.02; -0.63 (Aspley Guise (1445, F0)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Flitton Bedfordshire 52°00′N 0°27′W / 52.00°N 0.45°W / 52.00; -0.45 (Flitton (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F0 T0 Luton Bedfordshire 51°53′N 0°25′W / 51.88°N 0.42°W / 51.88; -0.42 (Luton (1445, F0)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
Small tornado affected Luton, causing minimal damage.
F1 T2 Letchworth Garden City Hertfordshire 51°58′N 0°13′W / 51.97°N 0.22°W / 51.97; -0.22 (Letchworth Garden City (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Fowlmere Cambridgeshire 52°05′N 0°05′E / 52.08°N 0.08°E / 52.08; 0.08 (Fowlmere (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±5 mins)
F0 T0 Friday Bridge Cambridgeshire 52°37′N 0°10′E / 52.62°N 0.16°E / 52.62; 0.16 (Friday Bridge (1445, F0)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Upwell Norfolk 52°36′N 0°13′E / 52.60°N 0.22°E / 52.60; 0.22 (Upwell (1445, F0)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T3 Huntingdon Cambridgeshire 52°20′N 0°11′W / 52.33°N 0.18°W / 52.33; -0.18 (Huntingdon (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±5 mins)
Moderate tornado caused damage in Huntingdon town centre.
FU TU Wicken Cambridgeshire 52°18′N 0°18′E / 52.30°N 0.30°E / 52.30; 0.30 (Wicken (1445, FU)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Diddington Cambridgeshire 52°16′N 0°15′W / 52.27°N 0.25°W / 52.27; -0.25 (Diddington (1445, F1)) 14:45
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Harrold Bedfordshire 52°12′N 0°37′W / 52.20°N 0.61°W / 52.20; -0.61 (Harrold (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Silsoe Bedfordshire 52°00′N 0°25′W / 52.00°N 0.42°W / 52.00; -0.42 (Silsoe (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±5 mins)
F0 T1 Melton Constable Norfolk 52°51′N 1°02′E / 52.85°N 1.03°E / 52.85; 1.03 (Melton Constable (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Swaffham Norfolk 52°39′N 0°41′E / 52.65°N 0.68°E / 52.65; 0.68 (Swaffham (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F0 T1 Norwich Norfolk 52°38′N 1°18′E / 52.63°N 1.30°E / 52.63; 1.30 (Norwich (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
Small tornado affected Norwich city centre and surrounding suburbs, causing widespread but minor damage.
F1 T2 Shipdham Norfolk 52°37′N 0°54′E / 52.62°N 0.90°E / 52.62; 0.90 (Shipdham (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±15 mins)
F0 T1 Foulden Norfolk 52°33′N 0°36′E / 52.55°N 0.60°E / 52.55; 0.60 (Foulden (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Methwold Norfolk 52°31′N 0°33′E / 52.52°N 0.55°E / 52.52; 0.55 (Methwold (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Morningthorpe Norfolk 52°29′N 1°16′E / 52.48°N 1.27°E / 52.48; 1.27 (Morningthorpe (1500, F1)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F0 T1 Pulham Market Norfolk 52°25′N 1°15′E / 52.42°N 1.25°E / 52.42; 1.25 (Pulham Market (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F0 T1 Pulham St Mary Norfolk 52°26′N 1°15′E / 52.43°N 1.25°E / 52.43; 1.25 (Pulham St Mary (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F0 T1 Lakenheath Suffolk 52°26′N 0°34′E / 52.43°N 0.57°E / 52.43; 0.57 (Lakenheath (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±30 mins)
F0 T1 Heybridge Basin Essex 51°44′N 0°43′E / 51.73°N 0.71°E / 51.73; 0.71 (Heybridge Basin (1500, F0)) 15:00
(±15 mins)
F1 T2 Antingham Norfolk 52°51′N 1°21′E / 52.85°N 1.35°E / 52.85; 1.35 (Antingham (1515, F1)) 15:15
(±15 mins)
F1 T2 Long Stratton Norfolk 52°29′N 1°14′E / 52.48°N 1.23°E / 52.48; 1.23 (Long Stratton (1515, F1)) 15:15
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Elmswell Suffolk 52°14′N 0°55′E / 52.23°N 0.92°E / 52.23; 0.92 (Elmswell (1515, F1)) 15:15
(±30 mins)
F1 T2 Chelmsford Essex 51°44′N 0°29′E / 51.73°N 0.48°E / 51.73; 0.48 (Chelmsford (1515, F1)) 15:15
(±30 mins)
Tornado affected Chelmsford city centre and surrounding suburbs causing minor damage.
F1 T3 North Creake Norfolk 52°54′N 0°46′E / 52.90°N 0.77°E / 52.90; 0.77 (North Creake (1520, F1)) 15:20
(±15 mins)
F0 T1 Mendlesham Suffolk 52°15′N 1°04′E / 52.25°N 1.07°E / 52.25; 1.07 (Mendlesham (1520, F0)) 15:20
(±5 mins)
F1 T3 Beccles Suffolk 52°28′N 1°34′E / 52.47°N 1.57°E / 52.47; 1.57 (Beccles (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Combs Suffolk 52°10′N 0°59′E / 52.17°N 0.99°E / 52.17; 0.99 (Combs (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Needham Market Suffolk 52°10′N 1°04′E / 52.16°N 1.06°E / 52.16; 1.06 (Needham Market (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±15 mins)
F1 T3 Coddenham Suffolk 52°08′N 1°07′E / 52.13°N 1.12°E / 52.13; 1.12 (Coddenham (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Chignall Smealy Essex 51°47′N 0°25′E / 51.78°N 0.41°E / 51.78; 0.41 (Chignall Smealy (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Broomfield Essex 51°46′N 0°28′E / 51.77°N 0.47°E / 51.77; 0.47 (Broomfield (1530, F1)) 15:30
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Mundon Essex 51°41′N 1°07′E / 51.68°N 1.12°E / 51.68; 1.12 (Mundon (1535, F1)) 15:35
(±5 mins)
F1 T2 Wymondham Norfolk 52°34′N 1°07′E / 52.57°N 1.12°E / 52.57; 1.12 (Wymondham (1540, F1)) 15:40
(±15 mins)
F1 T2 Clacton-on-Sea Essex 51°47′N 1°10′E / 51.79°N 1.16°E / 51.79; 1.16 (Clacton-on-Sea (1545, F1)) 15:45
(±5 mins)
Tornado affected Clacton town centre and the seafront, causing moderate damage.
F1 T2 West Mersea Essex 51°46′N 0°54′E / 51.77°N 0.90°E / 51.77; 0.90 (West Mersea (1545, F1)) 15:45
(±5 mins)
Last tornado of the outbreak, touching down 5 hours and 26 minutes after the first tornado.

See also[edit]

References[edit]