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Cataclysms of England

     With the focus so strong on Anthropogenic Global Warming, climate change and the real or perceived acceleration in the number of cataclysms occurring around the world, there's no reason why the "Pleasant pastures" I have a particular affection for, the British Isles, should be spared by any major cataclysms!

England's green pastures: Brentor church, Dartmoor

     On the contrary. The British Isles, or the British archipelago as it may also be called, is no stranger to natural disasters. Earthquakes1, floods2, tornadoes3 and poisonous gas clouds4, not to mention storms, tsunamis, volcanic winters, prehistoric megafloods and tectonic plate movements. The list is long, the difference being that with the increase in the population of the British Isles - the 04th most densely populated island in the world - any such disaster happening today would have consequences beyond conception. Imagine one scenario, among several...

...London, in the near future: The city is bracing itself for a particularly high equinox tide and the city's frequently tried and tested Emergency Facilities Management Agency are preparing for a busy time. Not only will they have to manage the seasonal equinox tide and following high spring tide waters - that will once again show the limits of an outdated Thames barrier - they will also have to factor in its conjunction with a super-moon.

Conceiving a valid evacuation plan of London's population in case of flooding, via its public transport and ever-spreading infrastructure systems, had been designated top priority ever since new infrastructures had been built to serve the new residential zones to the east of the ever expanding city were constructed on reclaimed marshlands.

The authorities understood the marshlands that once served as a natural barrier against storm and flood waters of the North Sea are no longer there to play their role as they know what will happen when a surge of storm water would gush through the rectilinear streets of the new dormitory housing complexes, would gush along the canals that linking the estuary to the rehabilitated and fashionable eastern docklands of London, would gush down into the new underground railway stations linking Canvey Island to the West India docks, Whitechapel and central London.

The city fathers remember the price the city of New Orleans paid when the bayous, that once protected the city against the ravages the Hurricanes that regularly batter a beleaguered and doomed city, were sacrificed in the name of progress and speculation. It was a dearly learnt lesson the English authorities have no wish of replicating.

The remains of hurricane Katia after it hit the UK in 2011

     What the city fathers couldn't imagine, though, is that a freak category 5 hurricane - the very same hurricane that ripped through the northeast USA, wreaking billions of dollars of havoc with exceptional fury - is heading back across the North Atlantic, increasing rather than decreasing in fury, fueled by the unusually warm water temperatures, for the time of year, of the Northern Atlantic.
The hurricane is heading across the Atlantic and is due to rush round the the northern tip of Scotland and down into the North sea, furious winds pushing water that have only one one way to go, south, down the North Sea over Doggerland (Doggerbank), building up volume and force along the way as the North Sea finally narrows.

Improbable? Couldn't happen here?... nothing is impossible. It has happened before and, judging by the disaster doc-fictions on TV, it's going to happen again, maybe sooner than later.

London... the day after tomorrow

     So much for the shock scenario but it's not far off the mark. During its long history the British Isles have experienced several major meteorological, geological phenomena and natural disasters, see listed below, and is no stranger to the tale-end, whiplash effects of North Atlantic hurricanes that regularly decimate the eastern seaboard of the United States before doubling back east to die off on the western European coastline causing severe weather phenomena in the UK, such as floods and gale force winds such as the western British Isles suffered with the storm of 2008.

The British Isles is used to floods and storms but here below are a few examples of other phenomena the British Isles have suffered:

1 The British Isles are also subject to earthquakes. In 1931, the largest earthquake ever recorded in the United Kingdom took place below the bank, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale. Its focus was 23 km beneath the Doggerbank, and the quake was felt in countries all around the North Sea, causing damage across eastern England.

2 1953 North Sea flood. The combination of a spring tide and a windstorm of European dimension caused a storm tide. In combination with a tidal surge in the North Sea the water level locally exceeded 5.6 metres overwhelming coastal defences. the death toll In English counties of Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex was 307.

3 In 2005 Birmingham suffered a tornado force F2 on the extended Fujita scale, one of the strongest recorded in 30 years, with winds up to 200 kph. Another Tornado F2 struck London in 2006.

NB. the United Kingdom has reportedly more tornadoes, relative to its land area, than any other country excluding the Netherlands. The vast majority of the tornadoes are weak but an F4 tornado struck Portsmouth on December 14, 1810, with a top wind speed of 380Kph.

While minor in comparison, the UK has
more tornadoes per year than the US (citation)

4 8 June 1783, a phenomenon called the "Loki Haze" caused the death of an estimated 20 000 plus people died in England. The cause of this catastrophe was the eruption of the Laki fissure and the adjoining GrÝmsv÷tn volcano in Southern Iceland from which clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid/sulphur dioxide gases escaped, killing a large percentage of the livestock in Iceland and more generally 6 million people word wide. Imagine the impact of such a disaster today.

Other Notable Major Cataclysms Include:

     After reading the list of cataclysms that have struck the British Isles in the past you could say that the only cataclysm missing from the list is a volcanic eruption. Well, while it's true that the volcanoes that once existed in the British Isles are long since extinct, as the volcanic cones of Dartmoor, better known as "Tors" can testify, there is a volcano off the West African coast on the Canary Island of La Palma, the Cumbre Vieja volcano, that could, sometime in the future and as certain geologists expect, erupt, cause a landslide and generate a Tsunami so powerful that it would bring about a cataclysm so devastating it would reshape the British Isles... forever.

Certain data courtesy of:


©N.Richards 11/2011

The White Cliffs