Could hurricanes or tornadoes develop in Europe?

For hurricanes the answer is a very clear ‘No’. Strong tropical cyclones over the Atlantic with wind speeds of more than 33 m/s are called hurricanes. Strong mid-latitude storms are sometimes also called hurricanes, but this is incorrect from a meteorological point of view. Tropical hurricanes can only form over ocean areas with a surface temperature of more than 26.5 ºC. Many hurricanes follow northward paths, some of them changing into ordinary low pressure systems in the mid-latitudes and only then coming to Europe.

The situation is different for tornadoes (the word being of Spanish origin ) that appear also in mid-latitudes including Europe. These cyclones are often accompanied by a cloud offshoot that stretches from the rain/storm cloud towards the ground, in which extremely high rotational velocities of up to 100 km/h can occur. Over water they are sometimes known as ‘waterspouts’ and over land as ‘dust devils’. They usually migrate with a speed of 50-60 km/h in the direction of the prevailing wind aloft over distances of 5-10 km, although in extreme cases distances of over 300 km have been observed. They often leave behind a trail of destruction with widths from 300m to over 1 km. On average 750 tornadoes a year occur in the USA, but only 10 in central Europe.