List of natural disasters in Great Britain and Ireland

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

Most deadly natural disasters, listed by type[edit]

Disaster Location Date Size Casualties Article
Disease England and Scotland 1348 Outbreak of Yersinia pestis across the world, killed around 30% of Europe's population Over 1,500,000 deaths in England and Scotland Black Death
Storm Southern England 24 November to 2 December 1703 Hurricane strength storm at 120 mph (193 km/h) Up to 15,000 deaths, ships lost, mass damage to buildings and trees Great Storm of 1703
Tsunami Bristol Channel 30 January 1607 Disputed tsunami of unknown size or European windstorm 2,000 deaths, many settlements swept away, local economy ruined Bristol Channel floods, 1607
Earthquake Colchester, Essex, England 22 April 1884 4.7 not the UK's strongest, but most destructive Thousands of homes, around 5 deaths 1884 Colchester earthquake
Tornado London, England 17 October 1091 F4 2 deaths, the early London Bridge, 600 houses, many churches (inc. St Mary-le-Bow) London tornado of 1091
Avalanche Lewes, East Sussex, England 27 December 1836 Dozens harmed, 8 killed when the UK's worst ever avalanche covered a street on the town's outskirts Lewes avalanche

List of natural disasters to have affected the British Isles, ordered chronologically[edit]

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.
70-75k ybp Prolonged volcanic winter long lasting volcanic winters following the Toba catastrophe have been hypothesized[by whom?] 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 landslip in 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 thought the period summers lasted half a year and where often warm or very warm - some notably extreme summers.[1]
1091 London Tornado of 1091
1235 Famine England; 20,000 die in London alone[2]
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 (& possibly the spring in London/South) of 1252 was outstandingly dry/hot, with the ensuing drought ruining crops & many people died from the excessive heat. Spring/Summer 1253 was also noted as dry/hot London/South.[3]
1315-17 Great Famine of 1315–1317
1324 10 years of hot summers Drought in summer (London/South). Possibly the start of ten or so years of warm, often dry summers.[4]
1348-50s 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
1540-1541 Great Heat & Drought Dry, in 1538-1539. In 1540-1541, the Thames was so low that sea water extended above London Bridge. Reports at the time suggest that there where many deaths due to the 'Ague', and 1540 is described in contemporary chronicles as the 'Big Sun Year'.[5]
1580 Dover Straits earthquake of 1580
1607 Bristol Channel floods, 1607 20 January 1607 (possible tsunami)
1607 Flooding Lynmouth flooding, Devon[citation needed]
1623-24 Famine England
1638 The Great Thunderstorm Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon
1651-53 Famine famine throughout much of Ireland during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland[6]
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
1665-1666 Long drought followed by a hot Summer Every month from November 1665 to September 1666 was dry. The climatological summer (June, July & August) of 1666 was amongst the top 10 or so of warm summers in the CET series (began 1659). Central English Temperatures also suggests that July 1666 had a mean value of 18degC, and August was 17degC. The heat and long drought added to a heightened risk of fire in populated areas. Lack of rain and hot temperatures helped spark towards the Great Fire of London.[7] As a result, this year saw an end to the Great Plague of London due to extreme heat and fire.
1690s Famine occurs throughout Scotland, killing 15% of the population
1703 Great Storm of 1703
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 on 5 January
1729 Tornado Bexhill-on-Sea struck by a waterspout that came ashore
1740 Irish Famine (1740–1741) somewhere between 310,000 to 480,000 people starve in Ireland due to cold weather affecting harvests
1755 Tsunami Following Lisbon earthquake, Cornwall was struck by a ten-foot wave
1783 "Laki haze" Sulphurous gas from eruption in Iceland suffocates an estimated 30,000 in Britain, followed by about 8,000 deaths in winter
1796 Flooding Lynmouth, Devon[citation needed]
1816 Year Without a Summer Crops devastated, unknown thousands die
1816-19 Typhus epidemic Ireland
1831-50 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[8][9][10][11]
1840s Great Irish Famine Potato blight devastates food sources, resulting in starvation and disease that kills somewhere around a million people.
1840s Highland Potato Famine Another starvation event, similar to the above, that occurred in Scotland
1848 Moray Firth fishing disaster 100 fishermen and 124 boats lost at sea during a storm in Scotland
1852 Holmfirth Flood reservoir embankment collapses, causing 81 deaths and a large amount of damage to property.
1864 Great Sheffield Flood Dale Dyke Dam bursts, destroying 800 houses and killing 270 people. (not strictly a natural disaster because it was structural failure caused by human error)
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
1918-19 1918 flu pandemic
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.[12][13][14][15]
1953 North Sea flood of 1953 307 were killed in the United Kingdom, in the counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.
1962-63 Winter of 1962–1963 Coldest winter for hundreds of years, temperatures as low as −16C (3.2F).
1968 Great Flood of 1968 Flooding causes extensive damage to Southern England.[16]
1968 1968 Scotland storm Hurricane causes 20 deaths in West of Scotland.[17]
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 of the century to date over the British Isles.
1974-1976 The two-year drought and the 1976 United Kingdom heat wave 1974-1975 had the mildest winter in England and Wales since 1869. (surprisingly) Snow and Sleet occurred as far south as the London area during the first few days of June 1975 (this thought to have occurred only 3 times in the previous 100 years), but over the following week, maxima of at least 27 degC were recorded somewhere in Britain each day. For England and Wales 1975 was believed to be one of the top ten warmest summers of the 20th century. Winter 1975/76 was the sixth driest winter for the last 100 years and less than 50% of normal rainfall in the south-east of England during spring 1976, this continued into a summer drought. 1976 was probably the hottest summer for over three centuries. CET values were (with anomalies relative to 1961-90 averages): Jun:17.0(+2.8), Jul:18.7(+2.6), Aug: 17.6(+1.8).[18] 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 Britain reached above 32 °C (90 °F) for 15 consecutive days. The weather was settled and temperatures where 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 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 kill 97 people and cause £3.37 billion worth of damage, the most costly weather event for insurers in British history.
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, stretched from Worcestershire towards The Wash and the flooded towns included Evesham, Leamington Spa, Stratford-on-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.[19]
2000 Flooding Severe flooding in many parts of the UK. Among the worst hits are York, Shrewsbury, Lewes, Uckfield and Maidstone.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27]
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 Two villages of Cornwall were heavily damaged due to flash floods.
2005 Flooding Carlisle, 8 January 2005[28][29] See Cyclone Gudrun[30]
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 Morpeth floods River Wansbeck bursts its banks causing damage to 995 properties costing £40 million. Flooding across English Midlands and North East associated with a slow moving front of the low pressure system Mattea.[31]
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.[32]
2010-2011 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, breaking the previous record of 0.1 °C 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 2 holiday parks. 150 people saved from lifeboats with 4–5 ft of water. On 28 June, a large area of low pressure 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 hit the south of England and Wales. 600,000 homes were left without power, and 5 were killed. In Europe another 6 were killed by the same storm.
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, 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, Southern Scotland and parts of Ireland.

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Bartholomew, James (8 August 2004). "Poor studies will always be with us". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "1200_1299". 
  4. ^ "1300_1399". 
  5. ^ "1500_1599". 
  6. ^ "BBC iPlayer - Northern Ireland - A Short History". 
  7. ^ "1650_1699". 
  8. ^ "Avalanche anniversary in Lewes pub". The Argus. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "Radicals and Rebels - Stage 3". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  10. ^ "Inside Out - South: Monday 7th October, 2002". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  11. ^ [dead link]
  12. ^ "On This Day: 1952: Flood devastates Devon village". BBC. 16 August 1952. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "Rain-making link to killer floods". BBC. 30 August 2001. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  14. ^ "The 1952 Flood Disaster in Context". Exmoor National Park. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  15. ^ Joint, Laura. "Lynmouth flood disaster". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  16. ^ "Hundreds homeless after flood havoc". The Times. 16 September 1968. p. 1. 
  17. ^ "Hansard: SCOTLAND (STORM DAMAGE)". 
  18. ^ "1975 - 1999". 
  19. ^ "Easter 1998 floods". M.W. Horner and P.D. Walsh. 25 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "BBC Weather: Flood Facts". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  21. ^ [dead link]
  22. ^ "Lessons Learned: Autumn 2000 floods". Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  23. ^ "Southern Counties > Nature > Walks > Lewes - Radicals and Rebels > Stage 3". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. [not in citation given]
  24. ^ Kelman, Ilan (2002). "The Autumn 2000 Floods in England" (PDF). The Martin Centre, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  25. ^ "U.K. Floods, October 13–14, 2000: Examination of U.K. Flood Damage During Increased Rainfall in October 2000" (PDF). Risk Management Solutions. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  26. ^ "THE LEWES FLOOD OF OCTOBER 2000" (PDF). Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  27. ^ "Flood Report: March 2001" (PDF). Environment Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  28. ^ "Archive: Cumbrian Floods". BBC. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  29. ^ "Cumbria floods". Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  30. ^ "Windstorm Erwin / Gudrun – January 2005" (PDF). Guy Carpenter. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  31. ^ "England struck by flash flooding". BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  32. ^ Laing, Aislinn; Stokes, Paul; Bunyan, Nigel (20 November 2009). "Cumbria floods". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 November 2009.