List of natural disasters in the British Isles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is a list of natural disasters in the British Isles.

Colour scheme used in this table:
Geological event
Cold weather event
Hot weather event
High winds event
Wet weather event
Sickness epidemic
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.[1]
6100 BC Tsunami Caused by the Storegga Slide, struck east Scotland with 70-foot (21 m) wave after undersea landslip off Norway.[2]
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.[3]
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.[4]
1091 London tornado of 1091 Two deaths, the early London Bridge, 600 houses, many churches (inc. St Mary-le-Bow) demolished.
1235 Famine England; 20,000 die in London alone.[5]
1252–53 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.[6]
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.
1315–17 Great Famine of 1315–1317 Throughout Europe.
1324 10 years of hot summers Drought in summer (London/south). Possibly the start of 10 or so years of warm, often dry summers.[7]
1348–1350s Black Death in England Killed 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'.[8]
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 60 injured.
1651–53 Famine Famine throughout much of Ireland, caused by scorched-earth tactics during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[9]
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.[10] 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.
1697 Hertfordshire Hailstorm The most severe hailstorm ever documented in the UK, travelling 25 km from Hitchin (Bedfordshire) to Potton (Oxfordshire). At least 1 person was killed. Hailstones as large as bowling balls caused severe damage to homes.[11]
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 (1740–1741) 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.[12]
1783 "Laki haze" Sulphurous gas from an eruption in Iceland suffocates more than 10,000 in Britain,[13] 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.
1816–19 Typhus epidemic Outbreak in Ireland.
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.[14][15][16][17]
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 Highland Potato Famine and Great Famine (Ireland) Starvation events. The Irish, from starvation and disease, killed over 400,000 people. The Highland was similar to the Irish but in Scotland 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 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 1,200 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.
1913 1913 United Kingdom tornado outbreak The 1913 United Kingdom tornado outbreak was a series on tornados on 27 October, particularly in England and Wales. This day was the only known time in British history where two tornados exceed F3 on the Fujita Scale. One tornado in Edwardsville, Merthyr Tydfil resulted in hundreds of injuries and six deaths and is the deadliest-known tornado to occur in the UK. The damage caused was around £100,000.
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 were made homeless.
1931 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake At 6.1 on the Richter Scale, it was the largest earthquake in British history, but caused only minor damage as it 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.[18][19][20][21]
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 Great Sheffield Gale High winds affected much of the United Kingdom, causing particular devastation in Sheffield, killing nine people.[22]
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.[23]
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 Northern Ireland, received little attention from the BBC or the national press.[24]
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.[25] The summer of 1976 experienced five 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.
1981 1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak The 1981 United Kingdom tornado outbreak is regarded as the largest tornado outbreak in European history. 104 confirmed tornadoes touched down across Wales and central, northern and eastern England. 8 injuries were recorded but there were no casualties.
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 47 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 Periods of heavy snow and rainstorms 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.
1991-92 New Year's Day Storm The most violent winds ever successfully recorded unofficially hit the Northern isles of Scotland, with winds exceeding 200mph (320 km/h), leading to the deaths of 2 people in Unst, Shetland and 1 person in Frei, Norway.
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.[26]
2000 Autumn 2000 Western Europe floods Severe flooding hit many parts of the UK. Among the worst hit were York, Kent, Sussex, Shrewsbury, Lewes, Uckfield and Maidstone.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33]
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). The death toll across Europe as a result of the heatwave was eventually estimated at 70,000.[34]
2004 Boscastle flood of 2004 Boscastle and Crackington Haven, two villages in Cornwall, were heavily damaged due to flash floods.
2005 Cyclone Gudrun Significant flooding was seen in Cumbria, which was the hardest hit area in the UK and affected more than 3,000 properties.[35]
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.[36]
2009 2009 Buachaille Etive Mòr avalanche On 24 January 2009, an avalanche on Buachaille Etive Mòr in Glen Coe in the Scottish Highlands killed three climbers and injured another.
2009 2009 swine flu pandemic in the United Kingdom The 2009 flu pandemic was a global outbreak of a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1. First cases confirmed 27 April 2009 in passengers returning from Mexico. 392 people were confirmed to have died in the UK.
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.[37]
2009 February 2009 Great Britain and Ireland snowfall There was 55 cm (22 in) of snow causing at least four deaths and an estimated £1.3 billion in damages.
2009–10 Winter of 2009–10 Reported[by whom?] to be the coldest weather since 1987. About 22 people died[citation needed].
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.
2012–13 2013 Swansea measles epidemic Beginning in November 2012, there were a total of 1,219 cases of measles across Wales. 88 people were hospitalised during the epidemic and one person died.[38]
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 five people were killed. In Europe, another six 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 2018 Great Britain and Ireland Cold Wave Britain and Ireland were struck by a cold wave which began on 22 February and would affect most of Europe. Officially named Anticyclone Hartmut, the cold wave brought unusually low temperatures and heavy snowfall to the UK and would later combine with Storm Emma which would make landfall over South West England and Southern Ireland on 2 March. The lowest temperature recorded was -14.7 degrees Celsius in Cairn Gorm. The cold spell was nicknamed the Beast from the East. 17 people in total died from this cold wave, with 95 casualties across Europe. This spell of cold weather cost £1.2 billion in damages.
2018 2018 British Isles Heatwave 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.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41] By November 2018, Northern England, the Northern Midlands, Eastern England and some parts of East Anglia were still ranked as 'severely dry'.[42]
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.[43]
2019–20 2019–20 United Kingdom floods Flooding in much of England in November. 2019 was the wettest year on record across parts of the Midlands, Central and Northern England.[44] Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis caused more flooding in February.
2020– COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom Outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, originating in China, has caused over 188 million cases and more than 4 million deaths globally as of July 2021.[45] The United Kingdom recorded more than 22 million cases and 178,064 COVID-19 deaths as of May 2022.[46]
2021 2021 European floods Heavy rainfall on 12 July resulted in more than the average monthly rainfall total to be recorded in a 24-hour period across parts of the country, with London Fire Brigade saying that they received over 1000 calls relating to flooding and Thames Water saying that they received more than 2500 calls as sewers filled up and flooded.[47] Flooding also occurred in Southampton.[48] By 14 July, the low pressure system moved over mainland Europe.
2022 Storm Eunice Three deaths, many injuries, as many as 1.4 million homes without power, widespread destruction and over £360 million in damage.
2022 2022 monkeypox outbreak Outbreak of Monkeypox has caused a number of cases in the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA and Australia. First case detected on 5 May in England from someone who had recently returned from Nigeria, but the other cases within the UK had no travel history. Total number of cases in the UK is 56 as of 23 May.[49]
2022 2022 United Kingdom heat wave Unusually hot weather across much of the United Kingdom, reaching its expected peak with a heat wave from 17 to 20 July that reached temperatures of 40 degrees in parts of England on 19 July. [50]

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