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January hurricanes

There has been a certain amount of interest in a tropic weather system, christened Hurricane Alex, which is apparently the first Atlantic hurricane for nearly a century:

Alex first became a hurricane in the eastern Atlantic Ocean Thursday, making it just the second hurricane on record to form in that basin during the month of January. The last hurricane that formed in the Atlantic during January was in 1938, according to NOAA's historical hurricane tracker database

It seems to have hit the Azores on Friday, albeit by then it was only a tropical storm.

However, this "from the archives" piece in the Scotsman documents a considerably more recent Atlantic hurricane, albeit at the western end of the ocean, in Glasgow. 

Our nation is no stranger to howling winds and dangerous weather, as nearly 50 years ago 20 Scots died across the country during the storm.

Homes, shops, cars and churches were all desolated by the strong gusts brought on by Hurricane Low Q, which first hit land on the night of 14 January 1968.

Perhaps this one formed in December and only made landfall in January. 

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Reader Comments (58)

Cold air up top.

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Best thing that could happen to a Vauxhall Victor super. Hope there was no one in it.

Jan 17, 2016 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

I remember it well. Our chimney came down and damaged the roof. I was awake all night. In the morning walking to school there was destruction everywhere. It must have been global warming!

Jan 17, 2016 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterGuirme

It seems a reasonable idea that in a warming world (with or without a pause) that tornado, hurricane and even just plain storms might not increase but just change the season at which they happen. eg the storms we just had were autumn weather, not winter weather. For autumn, the local, hemispherical or global temperature wasn't abnormally warm. The concept of a planet 1C warmer than it should be and having 6 or 7% more atmospheric moisture only works in summer when the planet or hemisphere is at it's warmest.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Since hurricanes were clearly stated as a consequence of Global Warming, and were going to wreak havoc along southern and eastern seaboards of the USA, a whole new industry has developed, and they have not had very much evidence to report since.

The huge investment in tracking tropical storms and hurricanes has undoubtedly saved lives, and money for those ashore, and those seafarers offshore. This has been one of the great achievements of improved meteorology and weather forecasting.

But when professional hurricane warning services are reduced to publicity seeking, about tropical storms that would have gone unrecorded without all this technology, it does suggest they have not got a lot of work to do, and need to justify their taxpayer funded budgets.

For those that remember the October 15/16th 1987 'storm/gale/hurricane' that was missed by the Met Office, despite their much vaunted new sooper dooper Kray computer, they were keen to emphasise that it was NOT a 'hurricane', under the meteorological definition, even though the wind strength was.

Weather reports need to demonstrate some consistency about when to use scary sounding words, otherwise they are going to sound as unreliable as climate scientists.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"Cold air up top".

And missing heat down below.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

@golf charlie
I remember the 87 storm well.
I'm sure if it happened now the warmsits would have given it a name such as "Monster Huricane Zebedee" and be running around shouting "glooooballlll waaaarminnnng!"

Back in 1987 we just laughed at Michael Fish of the Met Office making a complete wally of himself:

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavid smith

Unprecedented storm and its precedent.

Jan 17, 2016 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

There has been a certain amount of interest in a tropic weather system, christened Hurricane Alex, which is apparently the first Atlantic hurricane for nearly a century:

Missing 'to form in January'?

Jan 17, 2016 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Low Q moved across and demolished my porch in Falkirk which was, admittedly, a fairly ramshackle affair.
I was in Aberdeen at the time but Mrs J remembers the noise of the wind and the rain (and the demolition) as being "quite alarming" — and nervous she ain't!

Jan 17, 2016 at 1:55 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I managed to track down a met office report at

It makes interesting reading

The temperature in London on Jan 15 1968 was 11.8 Deg C

If that happened today it would be trumpeted as proof of global warming but of course at the time the consensus belief was that global cooling was going to be the climate change to fear.

Jan 17, 2016 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Willshaw

Of course, the 1938 hurricane could not have been due to global warming!

Or for that matter Hurricane Alice in Jan 1955, which apparently was formed on 31st Dec 1954.

Jan 17, 2016 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Homewood

The 1979 Fastnet Race storm wasn't very well forecast.

The storms of early and mid June 1944 were forecast by James Stagg. D-Day was postponed for a day, and 2 weeks later one of the Mulberry Harbours was smashed up. No satellites then.

Jan 17, 2016 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The argument over whether or not warming will change the severity of weather has always been between more energy in the system increasing severity vs a decreased Polar/Equatorial temperature gradient decreasing severity. The former is a tiny percentage increase, and the latter is a much larger percentage decrease.

If I'm not mistaken, this event was not due to warmer surface waters, but to colder than usual air up high. If this event suggests anything, it is of a cooling world.

Jan 17, 2016 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

I remember the January Gales of 1968. I was a student in St Andrews at the time and shared a room, next to the 18th hole at the Old Course, with a fellow student.
We'd got somewhat intoxicated the evening before they'd hit and the next morning I, in my bed which was next to the window three stories up, woke up to find myself surrounded by broken glass from said window that had been blown in earlier.
Both my room-mate and I had slept through the experience and although I didn't know it at the time, this was my first taste of CAGW; believe you me, it gave us both massive hangovers and a raging thirst!

Jan 17, 2016 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Yes I remember it well as I lived in Glasgow at the time.

A record number of houses had their slates stipped off and several chimneys brought down.
The damage took months to be cleared up.
Several houses had to put up with 'temporary' plastic tarpaulins for months until the slaters got round to doing a proper repair.

The slaters however had a cash bonanza working double shifts and seven day working weeks till the backlog was cleared.

Jan 17, 2016 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterBryan

"albeit at the western end of the ocean, in Glasgow." Thank God, someone must have cut Glasgow out of Scotland and towed it thousands of miles away. I'll drink to that.

Jan 17, 2016 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

…1C warmer than it should be…
TinyCO2: exactly what temperature should the planet be? And why?

Jan 17, 2016 at 3:42 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical Rodent, the temperature of anything should not be too hot or cold. Goldilocks stole her porridge on that basis, along with claiming squatters rights in an established harmonious community and trying to prove how useful she was.

Climate science, on the other hand, is just a fairy story.

Jan 17, 2016 at 4:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I vaguely remember the 1968 storm. I slept right through it - I was 7 at the time and lived in Balquhidder, Perthshire. I remember my Mum and Dad talking about it and also looking at some of the trees and power lines which had been blown down.

Jan 17, 2016 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

golf Charlie.

Are you sure your not mixing Goldilocks squatters rights and usefulness with Camerons case to stay in the EU?

Jan 17, 2016 at 4:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Sorry Bish OT comment

BBC news 24 "inside out" reporting the aftermath of last December Cumbria Yorkshire floods . Obviously mention Climate Change ,Record Rainfull blah blah but don't mention DREDGING

Seems dredging it's a new Taboo.

A barge with a JCB digger is a lot cheaper and effective than miles of concrete along a river bank that shifts the flooding downstream.

According to Farrage E U directive silt from rivers is categorised as a Hazzardous substance.Not as Harardous as leaving it there.

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Pathe News film footage Scotland Hurricane 1968

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Radical Rodent, that magical temperature where no bad weather happens ;-)

Jan 17, 2016 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

I remember 1968 very clearly. The wind striped the slates off our Perthshire home, I woke in the morning and the bedroom carpet was undulating in the wind. It was a drafty old farmhouse but even so it took my half awake brain about a minute to work out what was going on.

Locally the A9, A85 and A822 were blocked by fallen trees and it was about 3 days before I could get to school. We normally lost a few school days due to snow at that time of year.

Jan 17, 2016 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

As the governments of other EU member states allow dredging and waterway clearing, Holland and France for instance, I suspect it is UK bureaucrats who are to blame. Farrage will of course blame the EU as it suits his purpose, he is a politician after all.

Not sure what happen to Germany's plans to dredge the Weser and Elbe rivers as a result of a ruling regarding maintaining water quality . In this particular instance it wasn't flood prevention dredging.

The Weser case was triggered by German environment group Bund fuer Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland in a challenge against the German government.

Jan 17, 2016 at 6:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

I was too young to remember the 1968 hurricane, but I recall my parents talking about it, as it moved north from Glasgow and up the Argyll coast, where we lived. My father was working in the safest place possible - the machine hall in Cruachan, 1200ft underground. But his NOSHEB colleagues were sent out to fix faults in the midst of it. I don't know how true this was but one said he didn't need headlights as he crossed the Connel Bridge, such was the frequency of the thunder. More terrifying were the rocks whipped up from Loch Etive below which were crashing down on the roadway as he crossed the bridge.

I remember looking up the track for this storm about 10 years ago (probably on the NOAA website), to check it was a true hurricane, and it was - it originated in the tropics but then veered away from America in a north-easterly direction until it hit land in Scotland.

Jan 17, 2016 at 6:28 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Thereby the need for a humongous yacht. DiCaprio showing the way once again.

Jan 17, 2016 at 6:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterAila


Alex was not a classical tropical cyclone, it was a "subtropical storm/cyclone". That is an official category of hurricanes since 1972, and they are named, but their characteristics differ from classical tropical cyclones (and the NHC did characterize Alex as a Subtropical Cyclone, see their weather discussions).

Below are some things found online.

The most common formation mechanism of a north Atlantic subtropical cyclone is when upper level cold air moves from (sub)polar regions towards the tropics, but they can also spontaneously form (cyclogenesis). Either way, they form over somewhat colder waters (~ 24 C) than your classical tropical cyclone (> 27 C).

They are similar to tropical cyclones in that no frontal zones (= temperature differences; frontal zones are typical for mid-latitude low pressure areas) are associated with such systems.

They differ from classical tropical cyclones in that their diameter is larger, maximum winds occur further outside of the core and as a consequence, maximum wind speeds are lower. Also, classical tropical cyclones are accompanied by upper atmospheric cirrus clouds spiraling away from the center. In subtropical cyclones, these spiraling upper air cloud bands are generally missing of much more difficult to distinguish.

Jan 17, 2016 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJos

Perhaps this one formed in December and only made landfall in January.

Nope! It formed from a cold front near Bermuda on 12 January 1968:

Jan 17, 2016 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Interesting pre-Elf 'n' Safety factoid: 20 people died in the storm; 30 people died repairing houses afterwards.

Jan 17, 2016 at 8:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Historic Storms of the North Sea, British Isles and Northwest Europe (Hubert Lamb, Knud Frydendahl) has a catalogue of storms from the 1300s on which indicates storms were probably worse in the North Atlantic during the LIA -- at least they were pretty bad.

Jan 17, 2016 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris Hanley

One would expect the Bish to pay more attention to the real time NCAR satellite feed: a week before this winter hurricane got its name, another cyclone revved up to 125 KPH under Newfoundland-,47.44,410

Jan 17, 2016 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Jos, thank you for the technical explanation, but the average man ( or woman ) just wants to know how flippin' windy it is going to be, or was, in comparison to the 'other one'.

I suffered no personal loss or injury on 15th-16th October 1987, but I remember it and the consequences very well. The Met Office were quick to deny it was a hurricane, just a storm, but now they want to give 'named storm' status to anything over a strong breeze. If they want to keep crying wolf in this manner, people will get cynical about the Met Office being cynical in their use of words and their meanings. Some of us already have.

Jan 17, 2016 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Spot on, Russell. Extreme weather is but one of the fundamental reasons why, in addition to billions, Mark Zuckerberg et al. require an standing ovation.

I feel like we are kindred spirits, you and I.

Good times.

Jan 17, 2016 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Martyn @4:52, I am not sure whether it is our right to stay in the EU, or our right to tell the EU to get stuffed. People strongly in favour of the EU are also likely to favour the lecturing of climate science experts. Lewandowsky might want to do a survey of this.

Jan 17, 2016 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

125 kph. That's almost 78 mph.

Golly, the Scots, Icelandics, and assorted Scandinavians will be quaking in their boots.</sarc>.

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Point is: if you look into the technical details, you start to realize these subtropical systems are different from the regular tropical cyclone, that there are various flavors of these systems and that institutions like UKMO should clarify that. That's what they are for. And I agree, I get cynical about some of that stuff as well, in particular since no one is given the back

Nevertheless, it is official USA NHC policy to name these things ever since 2002 (says so their website). That is not UKMO's fault. Failing to provide background info is a shortcoming (hohum).

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJos

"...The slaters however had a cash bonanza working double shifts and seven day working weeks till the backlog was cleared." --Bryan

It's an ill wind... etc. .

Jan 17, 2016 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

michael hart, you are not supposed to convert kph into mph, because the numbers get smaller and less scary. Knots are even bigger than mph, which may be why the Beaufort Scale and traditional shipping forecasts are now deemed unfashionable.

Jan 17, 2016 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

125 kph. That's almost 78 mph.

I think a person can still move forward (upright) at about that speed. Once I was out in very strong wind but had no idea what it might have been.
The problem is that things not tied down can become airborne and then smack into other things and soon there is a whole lot of stuff moving. I gather the Scots, Icelandics, and assorted Scandinavians are aware of this, and prepare. In the USA, garbage cans, lawn chairs, and loose roofing, both metal and fiberglass, prowl through neighborhoods looking for targets.

Jan 18, 2016 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

John F. Hultquist,

In the UK there has always been an acceptance that it gets windy. This did not occur to the people who designed the 'Wheelie Bin', a lightweight plastic container, for transporting garbage to the front of a house, onto the road or pavement, where it would remain until emptied into a truck. An empty wheelie bin ought to be entered into a a land yachting speed trial. Those things can shift, covering distance, at speed, until stopped abruptly, by an impact. One way or another, the results can get messy.

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Alla. you need a bigger boat.

Jan 18, 2016 at 1:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

'We'd got somewhat intoxicated the evening before they'd hit and the next morning I, in my bed which was next to the window three stories up, woke up to find myself surrounded by broken glass from said window that had been blown in earlier.
Both my room-mate and I had slept through the experience and although I didn't know it at the time, this was my first taste of CAGW; believe you me, it gave us both massive hangovers and a raging thirst!' - RoyFOMR

Woke up? Sounds like you came to.

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGamecock

No worries. Our pal has one of the largest superyatchs in the world:

All eco, of course, runs on angels farts.

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

Have another Poeboy sandwich Alla- real Green boats run on human fat

Jan 18, 2016 at 3:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

The climate obsessed will lie about anything to sell their obsession.

Jan 18, 2016 at 4:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Did anyone else initially misread "Low Q" as "Low IQ"?

@ tinyCO2: yes, reasonable points although the problem I have with the climate clergy is that they've got a file of predictions that now covers almost every eventuality. Colder winters, warmer winters, wetter winters, drier winters: they've all been predicted. Whichever happens to be going on at any given time, the clergy can bring out and dust off a prediction that this would happen, conveniently forgetting all the ones that didn't happen.

Banks do the same with things like oil price forecasts. One clown notoriously forecast both $25 and $250 as the likely oil price for 2008.

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Funny how all these 'unprecedented' occurrences seem to have - er - precedents.....

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

What exactly are you accusing DiCaprio of? I'm calling you out on this one. You've left me no choice. DiCaprio is literally on board (with program). Badmouthing the lad amounts to climate denial.

Jan 18, 2016 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

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