How common are hurricanes in the UK? Ex-Hurricane Joaquin will miss UK but give Spain some rain

Richard Chapman
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Hurricane Joaquin
Hurricane Joaquin is the strongest Atlantic hurricane since 2010 (Source: Getty)

Everyone’s been talking about Hurricane Joaquin, but when it’s the strongest Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Igor in 2010 – and now moving briskly towards Europe – you can probably see why. It was at its peak last Saturday when winds reached 155mph (just 2mph short of being a Category 5 hurricane) - unleashing itself on the Bahamas last week and was partially responsible for the record rainfall seen in South Carolina.

The good news is that Joaquin has been steadily weakening as it continues its track across the cool waters of the Atlantic towards Europe and will become an Atlantic mid-latitude depression – commonly known to us as a storm with strong winds and rain.

Earlier this week it looked like there would be two main tracks this storm could take with a small chance of it crossing the UK. It now appears that ex-hurricane Joaquin will have limited effect on the UK as a whole and take both tracks. As the storm meets a strong area of high pressure extending from Scandinavia across the UK it is likely to split into two.

All in all the UK should see minimal impact from this storm - so enjoy the fine weather this weekend.

So how common are ex-hurricanes in the UK? Tropical storms and hurricanes develop over the warm waters of the tropical Atlantic, usually between the months of June and November, when sea surface temperatures are at their highest.

Most of the systems then track eastwards towards the Caribbean and North America and usually either lose strength when they make landfall or travel over cooler waters. However, their track occasionally takes them further north and if they interact with the jet stream, they can then be transported towards north-west Europe.

It is virtually impossible for tropical storms and hurricanes to make it to the UK, as the waters around the country are far too cool to sustain them. Instead, the remnants of such systems can occasionally develop into powerful extra-tropical storms.

While such storms are by no means as intense as a hurricane, they can still bring heavy rain and strong winds to the UK, as they still contain some of the vast energy and moisture that they have picked up over the tropical seas.

On average, an ex-hurricane can make its way to the UK every couple of years, often during the late summer and early autumn when the Atlantic hurricane season is at its peak. Most will just bring fairly typical unsettled conditions, but sometimes they can interact with the jet stream to develop into powerful storms, bringing torrential rain and strong winds.

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