List of natural disasters in the British Isles
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List of natural disasters to have affected the British Isles, ordered chronologically
|Colour scheme used in this table:|
|Cold weather event|
|Hot weather event|
|High winds event|
|Wet weather event|
|Year||Disaster event||Notes; disaster type, people killed, region affected, etc.|
|70,000-75,000 ybp||Prolonged volcanic winter||Long lasting volcanic winters following the Toba catastrophe have been hypothesised to have killed every human not living in Africa at the time.|
|6100 BC||Tsunami||Caused by the Storegga Slide, struck east Scotland with 70-foot (21 m) wave after undersea landslip off Norway.|
|535-536||Extreme weather events of 535–536||The most severe cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 2,000 years, likely caused crop failures and freezing for the Anglo-Saxons.|
|10th century||Regular heatwaves||Extended droughts with regularity: also through the period summers lasted half a year and were often warm or very warm - some notably extreme summers.|
|1091||London tornado of 1091||2 deaths, the early London Bridge, 600 houses, many churches (inc. St Mary-le-Bow)|
|1235||Famine||England; 20,000 die in London alone|
|1252-1253||Both dry years and excessive heat||Considered by some (e.g. Brooks), as the driest pair of consecutive years known in the record. The summer (and possibly the spring in London/south) of 1252 was outstandingly dry/hot, with the ensuing drought ruining crops and many people died from the excessive heat. Spring/summer 1253 was also noted as dry/hot London/south.|
|1287||St. Lucia's flood||Not known by that name the flood killed hundreds in England. This flood along with the South England flood of February 1287 contributed to the decline of Dunwich as a major port|
|1315-1317||Great Famine of 1315–1317||Throughout Europe|
|1324||10 years of hot summers||Drought in summer (London/south). Possibly the start of ten or so years of warm, often dry summers.|
|1348-1350s||Black Death in England||Killed somewhere around 50% of the population|
|1360s||Black Death in England||Killed a further 20% of the population|
|1485–1551||Sweating sickness||Sporadic outbreaks kill many thousands|
|1540-41||Great heat and drought||Dry, in 1538-39. In 1540-41, the River Thames was so low that seawater extended above London Bridge. Reports at the time suggest that there were many deaths due to the 'Ague', and 1540 is described in contemporary chronicles as the 'Big Sun Year'.|
|1580||1580 Dover Straits earthquake||Estimated to have been 5.3–5.9 ML. Two deaths in England.|
|1607||Bristol Channel floods, 1607||30 January 1607 (possible tsunami). Flooding in the Bristol Channel hit Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, Devon, and Somerset|
|1623-24||Famine||Said to be the last peace-time famine in England|
|1638||The Great Thunderstorm||Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon, four killed and sixty injured|
|1651-1653||Famine||Famine throughout much of Ireland during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland|
|1665||Great Plague of London||Bubonic plague killed an estimated 100,000 people, 20% of London's population|
|1665||Derby plague of 1665||The bubonic plague spread north, but was stalled by the famous quarantine of Eyam|
|1665-66||Long drought followed by a hot summer||Every month from November 1665 to September 1666 was dry. The climatological summer (June, July and August) of 1666 was amongst the top 10 or so of warm summers in the Central English Temperatures (CET) series (began 1659). CET also suggests that July 1666 had a mean value of 18 °C (64 °F), and August was 17 °C (63 °F). The heat and long drought added to a heightened risk of fire in populated areas. Lack of rain and hot temperatures helped spark the Great Fire of London. As a result, this year saw an end to the Great Plague of London due to extreme heat and fire.|
|1690s||Famine||Known as the seven ill years it occurred throughout Scotland, killing 15% of the population|
|1703||Great Storm of 1703||Up to 15,000 deaths, ships lost, mass damage to buildings and trees|
|16th-18th centuries||Little Ice Age||Long-lasting period of lower-than-normal average temperatures|
|1709||Great Frost of 1709||Extremely cold winter, temperatures as low as −12 °C (10 °F) on 5 January|
|1729||Tornado||Bexhill-on-Sea struck by a waterspout that came ashore|
|1740||Irish Famine (1740–41)||Somewhere between 310,000 and 480,000 people starve in Ireland due to cold weather affecting harvests|
|1755||Tsunami||Following the Lisbon earthquake, Cornwall was struck by a 10 ft (3.0 m) wave|
|1770||Flooding and storms||In August throughout southern England. A flood was thought to have occurred in Lynmouth, Devon in 1769 and the date may have transposed to 1796.|
|1783||"Laki haze"||Sulphurous gas from an eruption in Iceland suffocates more than 10,000 in Britain, followed by about 8,000 deaths in winter|
|1816||Year Without a Summer||Caused by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, crops devastated, unknown thousands die|
|1831-50||Cholera pandemic||Part of the 1829–1851 cholera pandemic, beginning in London, 55,000 die in outbreaks across England and Wales|
|1836||Lewes avalanche||Lewes, the only major avalanche recorded in England|
|1839||Night of the Big Wind||A European windstorm swept across Ireland causing hundreds of deaths and severe damage to property. Gusts were over 100 knots (190 km/h; 120 mph)|
|1840s||Great Irish Famine||Potato blight devastates food sources. Killed around 1 million people out of a total population of 8 million|
|1840s||Highland Potato Famine||Another starvation event, similar to the one directly above but in Scoltand and with very few deaths. However, 200,000 were said to have emigrated.|
|1848||Moray Firth fishing disaster||100 fishermen and 124 boats lost at sea during a storm in Scotland|
|1852||Holmfirth Flood||Bilberry Reservoir embankment collapses, causing 81 deaths and a large amount of damage to property.|
|1859||Royal Charter Storm||Named for the Royal Charter the storm, which lasted for two days, sank 133 ships killing 800.|
|1864||Great Sheffield Flood||Dale Dike Reservoir bursts, destroying 800 houses and killing 270 people. (not strictly a natural disaster because it was structural failure caused by human error)|
|1871||Great Gale of 1871||Occurring in the North Sea on Friday 10 February 1871 it killed at least 50 people.|
|1879||Tay Bridge disaster||A European windstorm on 28 December 1879 caused the Tay Rail Bridge to collapse killing between 60 and 75 people.|
|1881||Eyemouth disaster||189 fishermen died during a storm in Scotland|
|1881||Blizzard of January 1881||Around 100 die in one of the most severe blizzards ever to hit the southern parts of the United Kingdom|
|1884||1884 Colchester earthquake||Several people killed, and 1200 buildings destroyed in Essex|
|1894-95||Winter of 1894–95 in the United Kingdom||Conditions were such that many people died of hypothermia or respiratory conditions|
|1911||1911 United Kingdom heat wave||Heat wave lasted from early July to mid-September. Newspapers ran deaths by heat columns|
|1918-19||1918 flu pandemic||Worldwide influenza pandemic nicknamed the Spanish flu|
|1928||1928 Thames flood||A disastrous flood of the River Thames in London. 14 drowned and thousands made homeless.|
|1931||1931 Dogger Bank earthquake||At 6.1 on the Richter Scale, was the largest earthquake in British history, but caused only minor damage as was offshore.|
|1946-47||Winter of 1946–1947||Right after WWII, blizzards block roads and cause blackouts, resulting in industrial stagnation. Followed by heavy flooding in March, causing £250–375 million of damage.|
|1952||Lynmouth flood of 1952||34 people were killed, with a further 420 made homeless. Over 100 buildings were destroyed.|
|1953||North Sea flood of 1953||307 were killed in the United Kingdom, in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.|
|1955||1955 United Kingdom heat wave||Heat wave and drought throughout the country.|
|1962-63||Winter of 1962–1963||Coldest winter for hundreds of years, temperatures as low as −16 °C (3 °F).|
|1968||July 1968 England and Wales dust fall storms||Dust from the Sahara desert causes extremely heavy rain and hail, causing widespread damage across Wales and western and northern England.|
|1968||Great Flood of 1968||Flooding causes extensive damage to Southern England.|
|1968||1968 Hurricane||Hurricane-force winds cause 20 deaths in the Central Belt of Scotland. In Glasgow alone, over 300 houses were destroyed and 70,000 homes were damaged. Electrical power also failed in Glasgow, leaving the whole city in darkness. In total the storm felled 8,000 hectares of forest across Scotland (1.6 million cubic metres of timber). The storm, which affected Northern England, Scotland and N. Ireland received little attention from the BBC or the national press.|
|1976||Gale of January 1976||The gale of 2–5 January resulted in severe wind damage across western and central Europe and coastal flooding around the southern North Sea coasts. At the time, this was the most severe storm over the British Isles.|
|1974-1976||Two-year drought and UK heat wave||1974-1975 had the mildest winter in England and Wales since 1869. However, during the first few days of June 1975, in and around London snow and sleet occurred. During the next week maximum temperatures of 27 °C (81 °F) were recorded each day across the country. The summer of 1976 experienced 5 days of temperatures exceeding 35 °C (95 °F) somewhere in the UK. Between 23 June to 7 July, temperatures in London and other parts of Southern England reached above 32 °C (90 °F) for 15 consecutive days. The weather was settled and temperatures were above average, with many short and long periods of above 30 °C (86 °F) heat, between mid June to mid September. In 1976, the country suffered forest fires, grass fires and water shortages. Summer 1976 was followed by an extremely unsettled Autumn.|
|1978||1978 North Sea storm surge||A storm surge which occurred over 11–12 January caused extensive coastal flooding and considerable damage on the east coast of England between the Humber and Kent. Locally severe flooding occurred in Lincolnshire, The Wash, north Norfolk and Kent. Improvements in flood protection following the devastating flood of 1953 meant that the catastrophic losses seen during that storm were not repeated. The storm caused severe damage to many piers along the east coast of England.|
|1987||Great Storm of 1987||After Michael Fish famously forecast "very windy" weather mainly over France, an unusually strong storm occurred in October 1987, with wind speeds widely over 100 mph (160 km/h) along England's southern coastline, and which killed 18 people in England. The great storm caused substantial damage over much of Southern England, downing an estimated 15 million trees (including six of the seven eponymous oaks in Sevenoaks).|
|1990||Burns' Day Storm||Winds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h) kill 97 people and cause £3.37 billion worth of damage, the most costly weather event for insurers in British history.|
|1990-91||Winter of 1990–91||Lasting from December 1990 to February 1991 throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and Western Europe. About 42 people died, almost all in the UK and Ireland|
|1998||1998 Easter floods||At the start of Easter 1998 (9–10 April) a stationary band of heavy rain affected the Midlands. This resulted in floods in which five people died and thousands had to be evacuated from their homes. The wettest area, with over 75 mm (3.0 in), stretched from Worcestershire towards The Wash and the flooded towns included Evesham, Leamington Spa, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bedford, Northampton and Huntingdon. On Maundy Thursday (9 April), thundery rain in the south of England moved northwards and became slow-moving from East Anglia through the Midlands to north Wales. This band gave some very heavy downpours with hail and thunder. On Good Friday (10th) the band rotated slowly anticlockwise spreading to Lincolnshire and the West Country and continued to rotate, with sleet and heavy bursts of rain in places. There was sleet and snow across the Pennines and north Wales during the evening.|
|2000||Flooding||Severe flooding in many parts of the UK. Among the worst hit were York, Kent, Sussex, Shrewsbury, Lewes, Uckfield and Maidstone.|
|2002||2002 Glasgow floods||200 people immediately evacuated, but the water supply of 140 thousand people was affected.|
|2003||2003 European heat wave||More than 2,000 people may have died in the UK alone as a result of the hottest summer recorded in Europe since 1540. Temperatures remained above 30 °C (86 °F) for 10 days, between 3 and 13 August. The highest temperature known and accepted was recorded at Faversham, Kent on 10 August when it reached 38.5 °C (101.3 °F).|
|2004||Boscastle flood of 2004||Boscastle and Crackington Haven, two villages in Cornwall, were heavily damaged due to flash floods.|
|2005||Flooding||Carlisle, 8 January 2005 See Cyclone Gudrun|
|2005||Birmingham Tornado||30 injuries caused by the tornado, which uprooted trees, destroyed roofs and picked up cars, causing £40 million in damages.|
|2006||London Tornado||Only one injury, but £10 million of damage caused.|
|2007||Storm Kyrill||Hurricane-force winds across British Isles, at least 11 people dead|
|2007||2007 United Kingdom floods||Killed 13 people. Gloucestershire suffers many road and rail closures, power cuts and evacuations, with 420,000 inhabitants left without drinking water requiring emergency assistance from the army. Other areas heavily affected include Yorkshire, Hull and Worcestershire. The disaster is estimated to have caused £6 billion of damage.|
|2008||2008 Irish flash floods||Flash floods throughout August lead to one death and the destruction of 50 houses.|
|2008||2008 Morpeth floods||River Wansbeck bursts its banks causing damage to 995 properties costing £40 million. Flooding across the Midlands and North East England associated with a slow moving front of the low pressure system Mattea.|
|2009||2009 Buachaille Etive Mòr avalanche||An avalanche on Buachaille Etive Mòr in Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands, UK, on 24 January 2009 killed three climbers and injured another.|
|2009||2009 Great Britain and Ireland floods||Strong winds and heavy rain across the United Kingdom with the worst flooding concentrated in Cumbria. Four people were killed as a direct result of the flooding.|
|2009||February 2009 Great Britain and Ireland snowfall||There was 55 cm (22 in) of snow causing several deaths and an estimated £1.3 billion in damages|
|2009-10||Winter of 2009–10||Reported to be the coldest weather since 1987. About 22 people died.|
|2010-11||Winter of 2010-11||The winter of 2010–2011 was a weather event that brought heavy snowfalls, record low temperatures, travel chaos and school disruption to the islands of Britain and Ireland. It included the UK's coldest December since Met Office records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of −1 °C (30 °F), breaking the previous record of 0.1 °C (32.2 °F) in December 1981.|
|2012||2012 Great Britain and Ireland floods||A series of low pressure systems steered by the jet stream bring the wettest April in 100 years, and flooding across Britain and Ireland. Continuing through May and leading to the wettest beginning to June in 150 years, with flooding and extreme events occurring periodically throughout Britain and parts of Western Europe. On 9 June, severe flooding began around Aberystwyth, West Wales with people evacuated from two holiday parks. 150 people saved by lifeboats with 4–5 ft (1.2–1.5 m) of water. On 28 June, a large low-pressure area moved across Northern Ireland. Its fronts brought heavy rain and large hail to many areas in England. One man died from the storm.|
|2013||St. Jude storm||Torrential rain and winds of up to 100 mph (160 km/h) hit the south of England and Wales. 600,000 homes were left without power, and 5 people were killed. In Europe another 6 people were killed by the same storm.|
|2013||2013 Great Britain and Ireland heat wave||An extra 760 deaths were reported in the UK. In Ireland the heat wave indirectly caused 30 deaths by drowning.|
|2013||2013 East Coast Tidal Surge||On 5 December 2013 a large depression that passed eastwards over Scotland brought strong northerly winds along the eastern coast of Britain. This coincided with the spring tide and caused a large tidal surge to affect large swathes of the east coast. Many settlements along the coast were severely flooded, with sea defences breached in many locations.|
|2013-2014||Winter Storms of 2013-14||During the winter of 2013–14 the British Isles were in the path of several winter storms, which culminated in serious coastal damage and widespread persistent flooding. The storms brought the greatest January rainfall in Southern England since at least the year records began in 1910. The season saw persistent flooding on the Somerset Levels with recurrent fluvial flooding in Southern England of the non-tidal Thames, Severn and in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire and the Stour in Dorset. Briefer coastal flooding and wave battering damage took place in exposed parts of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.|
|2015||2015–16 Great Britain and Ireland floods||Flooding in Cumbria, Yorkshire, southern Scotland and parts of Ireland.|
|2017||Hurricane Ophelia||During the autumn of 2017, Ireland and the United Kingdom were hit by Hurricane Ophelia, which had completed its transition into an extratropical cyclone shortly before its landfall in Ireland and subjected the island to hurricane-force winds. Three people were killed by fallen trees in Ireland and 22,000 people were left without electricity. This also cut off internet for some households across the UK.|
|2018||Drought (May 2018-present) and Heatwave (May-August 2018)||Summer 2018 was the fifth hottest in the CET records back to 1659, with the period May-July being the hottest such period on record. During this period there was very little rainfall, with particularly low totals in North West England and South East England. Some places had more than 54 consecutive days without rainfall. This led to the 2018 United Kingdom wildfires. The dry weather continued into the autumn, with most places seeing less than 90% of average rainfall between September and November. As of November 2018, Northern England, the Northern Midlands, Eastern England and some parts of East Anglia are still ranked as 'severely dry'.|
|2018||2018 United Kingdom wildfires||From June 2018, many destructive wildfires struck the United Kingdom, with the most prolonged and severe of these being in England, with some fires burning for over a month. By the end of the year, there had been 76 fires. This was a new record for the UK. However, this was beaten in April 2019.|
- List of disasters in Great Britain and Ireland by death toll
- Climate of the United Kingdom
- Geology of Great Britain
- Geology of Ireland
- Tsunamis affecting the British Isles
- Drought in the United Kingdom
- Floods in the United Kingdom
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