Can Tornadoes Happen In The UK? (Useful Guide)

can tornadoes happen in the uk

When you think of tornadoes, you likely think of a large vortex ripping its way through the United States, but you may be surprised to find that the US isn’t the only tornado-prone country.

In this post, we’re going to answer a question that many brits are keen to learn the answer to. Can tornadoes happen in the UK?

Yes, in fact, the UK averages around 30 – 50 tornadoes every single year. That’s more tornadoes per land area than any other place in the world!

Let’s take a closer look…

Can Tornadoes Really Happen In The UK?

Tornadoes most certainly do occur in the UK, although they are rarely very powerful and often don’t do much damage unlike the tornadoes seen in the US.

The UK has more tornadoes per land area than any other country in the world, which may come as a surprise to many residents of the UK.

Most of the tornadoes that happen in the UK are small and often only last a matter of minutes without doing much damage, which is the reason they often never make national news.

However, occasionally tornadoes in the UK can be big, like the 2005 Birmingham tornado which was one of the strongest ever recorded in Great Britain.

This tornado was an F2 tornado that had wind speeds of 137mph and caused over £40 million in damage to the city of Birmingham.

It lasted for a total of 8 minutes and ripped rooves of homes, demolished a church, and ripped 1000 trees right out of the ground.

When Was The Last UK Tornado?

Tornadoes happen on a regular basis in the UK, often in the summer and autumn months, but they’re mostly short-lived and don’t cause much damage.

The last large tornado that the UK saw was the 2005 Birmingham tornado which caused millions in damages and injured 19 people.

Back on November 23, 1981, Britain saw the biggest tornado outbreak recorded in European history.

Over the course of five hours and 26 minutes, a total of 104 tornadoes were confirmed across England and Wales.

Tornadoes were recorded across Merseyside, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, St. Helens, Warrington, and many other cities.

The most destructive tornado of those that touched down during the outbreak hit Holyhead at Anglesey, damaging 20 homes and destroying a mobile home.

The amount of tornadoes that happened during this short space of time is jaw-dropping. To give context, there were just 17 tornadoes logged by the European Severe Weather in the whole of 2021.

Where Do Tornadoes Occur In The UK?

Tornadoes happen all over the UK but most occur in an area encompassing the Wirral in the North West to East Anglia with relatively high concentrations of reports along the Southern coasts of England and Wales.

Research by the University of Manchester has shown that May to October is tornado season for the United Kingdom with the most prone areas being the South, South East, and West.

In fact, the research goes even further and states that the UK actually has its own “Tornado Alley”, a hotspot for tornadoes similar to the tornado alley found in the US.

The area between London and Reading, in Berkshire, is the UK’s tornado alley. This is the region where the UK experiences the most tornadoes in any given year.

How Many Tornadoes Does The UK Have?

There are around 30 – 35 tornadoes reported every single year in the UK, but there are likely much more than are not being reported.

Almost all of the tornadoes that happen in the UK are small and short-lived, they often do not cause damage, if any at all, and usually only last for a matter of minutes.

That said, the UK has also experienced some significant tornadoes that have resulted in millions of pounds worth of damages, but these are very few and far between.

On December 7, 2017, a T4 (F2) magnitude tornado ripped through the northwest side of the city and injured a total of 6 people.

Thankfully this tornado wasn’t as dangerous as some others that have hit London city, but even though it only lasted for less than a minute, it still had time to cause damage to 100 buildings.

Are UK Tornadoes Severe?

Whilst many of the tornadoes that occur in the UK are not severe and only last a matter of seconds, there are some that have been recorded throughout history that has been devastating.

For example, in 1913 the United Kingdom saw a tornado outbreak, particularly over England and Wales had some strong tornadoes.

The most notable occurred in South Wales, where at least two tornadoes had winds of 160 miles per hour (260km/h).

This is equal to an F3 tornado on the Fujita scale which is incredibly powerful for a tornado that has occurred in the UK.

One of the tornadoes at Edwardsville, Merthyr Tydfil, resulted in 6 deaths and hundreds of people injured.

This is the deadliest known tornado that has ever been recorded in the United Kingdom.

However, it has to be said that these types of tornadoes are rare in the UK, and 95% of British tornadoes are classified as F0 – F1 on the Fujita scale.

Final Thoughts

Can tornadoes happen in the UK? Yes, absolutely. Tornadoes happen in the UK all of the time, with an average of 35 per year forming in the UK.

Many of these tornadoes are small and short-lived, a world away from some of the tornadoes that are regularly seen here in the United States.

That said, the UK has seen some powerful tornadoes in the past, with the 2005 Birmingham tornado and the tornado outbreak that happened in 1981.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this post today and have learned a thing or two about some of the tornadoes that happen in the UK.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to stick around to learn more about tornadoes.

Scroll to Top