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Can we get hurricanes in the UK?

It's one of the questions as a meteorologist I get asked regularly. Do we get hurricanes in the UK?

To put it simply, the answer is NO!

A hurricane (also known as a tropical cyclone) is a tropical feature which is driven by high sea temperatures (a temperature of 26.5C or above to be precise). Now, I don't know about you, but I've never known the sea temperature get anywhere close to that in the UK!

Hurricanes start their life over the ocean and can strengthen into a huge swirling vortices with catastrophic, damaging winds and torrential rainfall. The strongest winds are located around the eye of the storm, in the "eye wall".

Hurricanes end their life when their heat and moisture source is cut off - i.e they make landfall or when they curve away from the tropics and become ripped apart by winds higher in the atmosphere.

Hurricane Lorenzo forecast track September 2019 Credit: National Hurricane Center, Miami

So how do hurricanes impact the UK?

We've all seen the headlines claiming a hurricane is heading to the UK - and with Hurricane Lorenzo currently making its way across the Atlantic, it's something being talked about right now.

What tends to happen is, as a hurricane develops, winds high up in the atmosphere can deflect hurricanes away from the tropics and move them closer to our latitudes.

However, as these topical storms travel over cooler waters, they go through a process known as "Extratropical Transition". They lose their tropical characteristics and become areas of low pressure with fronts.

They can still bring us strong winds and heavy rain as well as plumes of warm tropical air.

Weather models can struggle to handle these systems and, as a result, they can lead to large uncertainty in our forecasts.

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