Western Europe hit by worst storm in a decade (23-25 January 2009)

by Cecilie Wettre and HansPeter Roesli (EUMETSAT)

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On 23-25 January 2009, Western Europe was hit by a severe storm that killed at least 26 people and caused hundreds of millions of Euros in damage. The progress of the storm, one of Western Europe’s worst in a decade, was tracked by Meteosat-9.

Most of the human loss and material damage occurred in Spain, where winds of over 180 kilometres an hour and 20-metre Atlantic Ocean waves were reported. Waves also killed at least one person in southern Italy. Portugal experienced severe weather with winds of up to 108 km/h in Cabo Carvoeiro near Nazaré on the western coast of Portugal, and there were reports of tornados near Batalha.

The first signs of the storm could be seen with infrared and water vapour imagery by Meteosat-9 on 22 January. AEMET, the Spanish State Meteorological Agency reported that a sharp front between a cold, polar airmass and a more temperate and humid airmass formed in the area of the Azores islands. In the Meteosat-9 IR image (22 Jan. 18:00 UTC, JPG, 91 KB, source: AEMET), the frontal zone is marked with an ‘F’, whilst‘B’ marks the area where the storm was formed. Meteosat-9 tracked the storm as it blew in from the Atlantic Ocean and left a trail of destruction in south-western France and northern Spain (see animation below the image).

The effects of the storm could have been even worse if it had not been for the early warning provided by Meteosat-9. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country’s response to the storm was better than it had been to the 1999 storm, the worst of last century, Agence France Presse reported.

Meteosat-9 Airmass RGB Product
Met-9, 24 January 2009, 00:00 UTC
RGB Composite (Airmass RGB)
WV6.2-WV7.3, IR9.7-IR10.8, WV6.2
Large Area (PNG, 1168 KB)
with abs. topography 1000 hPa (JPG, 578 KB, source: SatRep Online)
Animation (23 Jan 00 UTC - 24 Jan 06 UTC, MPG, 7165 KB)
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