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3 Weird Impacts From Storm Ophelia Explained

Along with hurricane-force winds, the storm has caused red skies in England and wildfires in the Iberian Peninsula—which some are likening to the apocalypse.

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Huge waves strike Porthcawl, South Wales as a result of Storm Ophelia's fury. Such storms are very rare that far north.


This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whoosh.

It’s strange enough the U.K. is in the path of Storm Ophelia, a post-tropical storm that touched down in Ireland Sunday evening. Because of its eastern location and chillier climate, the U.K. doesn’t usually get warm water-loving hurricanes. But this time, it was different.

Ophelia made landfall in Ireland because of warmer-than-normal waters and a cooler upper atmosphere. A 2013 study in Geophysical Research Letters predicted that, sparked by rising temperatures, Western Europe could see more hurricanes in the future. With Ophelia as the 10th Atlantic hurricane this season, there’s something eerie in the premonition.

Ophelia’s rage hasn’t been sequestered to just the U.K., though. There’s a host of other weird phenomena that have fallen in the storm’s wake.

An Unlikely Path

Officials have downgraded Ophelia from a Category 3 hurricane to a post-tropical storm, but the storm is still an anomaly. Ophelia developed over the Azores in Portugal before going slightly west and then directly north. As it moved over cooler waters, the storm lost some of its power.

“It has a lot of moisture with air sucked into it and that’s why we have very warm air up over Ireland,” meteorologist Deirdre Lowe tells The Irish Times. “Why it has developed so far east is probably due to a combination of reasons to do with the gulf stream, the jet stream.”

Normally, hurricanes don’t even get as far east as Ophelia because the Atlantic is too cool. In fact, the last hurricane to develop this far was Hurricane Charley in 1992.

The storm has solicited the first severe weather alert in Ireland’s history, but it’s expected to dissipate near Norway by Tuesday night.

Hurricanes 101

Red Sky … All Day

Massive destruction has fallen over Ireland: at least three people have been killed, gale force gusts have left more than 120,000 homes without power, “large and destructive waves” have racked the coast, and forecasters have cautioned about flying debris. But those in England have been experiencing a different kind of doomsday, with images of a red sun taking over Twitter.

The phenomenon is actually transnational. Cyclonic winds kicked up dust from the North African Sahara, spraying sand into the English sky. From there, the desert dust scattered the sun’s rays into longer wavelengths, giving the sky an eerie, somewhat-apocalyptic hue.

“It’s all connected with Ophelia, on the eastern side of the low pressure system air is coming up in the southern direction,” forecaster Grahame Madge tells The Telegraph. “It’s certainly spectacular at the moment and quite a talking point.”

Fanning the Flames

Where the sky looks like it’s on fire in England, it actually is on fire in Portugal and Spain.

Wildfires raged across parts of the Iberian Peninsula on Sunday, fanned by powerful winds as Ophelia brushed the coast. At least 32 people have been killed, and the sky is filled with a toxic mix of ash and smoke.

After a hot, dry summer, the landscape was tinder for the flames. According to the European Environment Agency, “climate change projections suggest substantial warming and increases in the number of droughts, heat waves, and dry spells across most of the Mediterranean area and more generally in southern Europe.”

Did we mention that Storm Ophelia actually hit the U.K. exactly 30 years after another hurricane devastated many parts of the country?


Follow Elaina Zachos on Twitter.