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Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Volume 455: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many injuries there were as a result of tornadoes in each year for which figures are available; what costs were incurred due to tornadoes in each year; what assessment he has made of the likely effect of climate change on those numbers in future years; and if he will make a statement; (108957)

(2) how many tornadoes were recorded in each region in each year for which figures are available; and what effect he expects climate change to have on the number in future years;

(3) what research has been (a) conducted and (b) funded by his Department on the (i) effects and (ii) frequency of (A) tornadoes and (B) other future extreme weather events.

The Met Office has records of tornadoes reported by its network of manned observing stations. The only such recorded occurrence of a tornado was at Chivenor, Devon at 09:00 on 4 August 1960. This, of course, does not preclude other events that were not detected by the Met Office's stations.

The tornado over north-west London was generated within a fast-moving squall line moving east on the morning of 8 December 2006. Data were collected from numerous observational systems as this weather event passed over the UK. However, due to the small scale of the phenomena reported, no single operational synoptic observational system was close enough to measure the tornado directly.

Tornadoes are too small to be directly considered as part of current climate models. Any effect of climate change must be inferred from larger scale phenomena. To date, there is no clear indication of what effect climate change might have on either the frequency or intensity of tornadoes in the UK.

Research, funded by the Ministry of Defence through the Public Weather Service (PWS), has been conducted at the Met Office in the past to examine the predictability of tornadoes and associated severe thunder storms. There are no current plans to fund further PWS research at the Met Office on the occurrence and predictability of tornadoes.

Extensive research is also carried out at the Met Office, funded as part of the PWS, into the occurrence and predictability of extreme weather events. The primary output of PWS-funded research is to improve prediction of high-impact weather in the UK. However, this research does not address any future changes in the frequency or intensity of such events.

The main avenue of DEFRA funding for research on future extreme events in the UK is through the Met Office Hadley Centre and UK Climate Impacts Programme. DEFRA has also funded, or is funding, work at the Hadley Centre through the Climate Prediction Programme into future global extremes, including extra-tropical storms, tropical storms, drought, extreme precipitation and heat waves. However, DEFRA has not funded any specific research on the effects and frequency of tornadoes.

DEFRA does not hold information on either the number of people injured or the costs incurred as a result of tornadoes.