The Challenge of Weather Hazards

Welcome back to Beyond’s Geography Blog! This blog entry focuses on The Challenges of Weather Hazards, exploring tropical storms such as hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. 

We’ll be looking at how weather hazards pose risks to both people and property. Exploring how meteorology hazards are largely caused by weather and climate.

Learn about how tropical storms are monitored with computer models, satellite and aircraft data so that an accurate path for storms can be predicted. 

So, get ready to learn about recent extreme weather events as we explore case studies looking at the immediate impacts they have along with responses and secondary effects. 

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The Challenge of Weather Hazards

In 2022, we experienced heatwaves in the UK that were previously impossible according to scientists. The Met Office even issued a national severe weather warning for parts of the UK, with July becoming the driest on record for England. A new record was ultimately set with the temperatures in the UK having exceeded 40°C! 

These high temperatures and dry spells affected the entire country with widespread fires and a sharp rise in hospitalisations. Public transportation was severely disrupted, with trains operating at reduced speeds and airport runways melting. Studies have found that this severe weather event would have been impossible without climate change. 

Professor Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts in the Met Office, spoke of the increasing hot weather and stated that these severe weather events will happen more often and will be hotter than we’re used to.

This blog post will consider the various challenges that these weather hazards bring not only to the UK but around the world. It will explore the impact and aftermath of different weather hazards, examining the role climate change plays in these severe weather events. 

What are the Challenges of Weather Hazards? 

  • Natural hazards pose major risks to people and property.
  • Natural hazards are natural processes which cause damage, injury and death.
  • Meteorology hazards are caused by the weather and climate.
  • Different factors affect hazard risk including the severity of the natural hazard, the ability of a place to cope with the hazard and the likelihood that a hazard will occur

Monitoring Tropical Storms

  • Scientists use computer models, which use satellite and aircraft data, to predict a path for storms. 
  • People use this information to prepare for the coming storm (e.g. boarding up windows and evacuating).
  • Planning for future storms means that building in certain areas may be avoided. Also, governments may plan and prepare for disaster scenarios with emergency services as well as plan evacuation routes from disaster-prone areas. 
  • Future buildings can be protected from future storms by using reinforced concrete or by building on stilts. Flood defences and sea walls may also protect homes from future storms. 

Tropical Storms (hurricanes/cyclones/typhoons)

  • Tropical storms form in the tropics when warm air rises rapidly over warm seas (over 27°C). This creates an area of low pressure on the Earth’s surface causing strong surface winds. These winds rotate anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere due to the Coriolis effect. 
  • Energy from the warm sea causes the storm to become more powerful. 
  • They can last for 7-14 days. 
  • Tropical storms travel west due to the easterly winds that blow from the equator (global atmospheric circulation). 
  • Tropical storms are circular (100-2 000km in diameter).
  • The eye is an area of very low pressure (sinking air) in the centre of the storm. It can be 30-300km wide. 
  • The eye-wall consists of tall clouds that surround the eye of the storm. Here the air rises most rapidly and the wind/rain is most severe. 
  • Tropical storms are less powerful towards their edges. 
  • Tropical storms lose energy as they travel over land or cooler water. 

Global warming could increase sea temperatures increasing the likelihood and strength of tropical storms. More places may experience tropical storms as a result. Some believe that global warming is responsible for extreme weather events becoming more frequent in the UK, for example: 

  • December 2010 was the coldest December in 100 years. 
  • April 2011 was the warmest April on record. 
  • Storms are becoming more frequent, with 2013 being the stormiest December since 1969. 
  • December 2015 was the wettest month ever recorded.

Case Study: Tropical Storm: Hurricane Sandy, October 2012 

Primary Effects (Immediate Impacts)

  • 6700 national guards deployed
  • 80% of New York school damaged
  • Storm surge travelled down the entire eastern USA coast, killing 41 people
  • 650 000 homes damaged in USA
  • 59 deaths from flooding in Haiti
  • 8.5 million people lost electricity
  • 11 million commuters were without service and public transport was cancelled

Secondary Effects (Happened Afterwards)

  • Millions left without electricity for several weeks. 
  • New York Bellevue Hospital was evacuated two days after the storm due to extensive damage. 
  • 87 deaths resulted from a lack of electricity, e.g. from hyperthermia or emissions from unsafe heaters. 
  • Monitoring/prediction/warnings improved. 

Immediate Responses

  • Rescue teams search for survivors/recover bodies
  • Treat injuries 
  • Provide shelter, food, water and medical supplies
  • 9000 people spent the night in a New York shelter
  • Companies donated $33 million
  • Gas was rationed for several weeks

Long-Term Responses 

  • Rebuild/repair damage
  • Restore utilities
  • Promote economic recovery
  • Rehome homeless people
  • The government approved $137 million for repair and restoration

A Recent Extreme Weather Event in UK: Cumbria Floods 2015 


  • Storm Desmond (5-6th December) 
  • Deep atmospheric low pressure formed over Atlantic Ocean
  • Ground already saturated by second wettest November since 1910
  • 341.4mm rainfall at Honister Pass, Cumbria in 24 hours (a UK rainfall record)
  • December 2015 was the wettest month on record

Social and Economic Impacts 

  • Thousands of homes/ business flooded
  • Tens of thousands of homes without power
  • Many bridges swept away
  • One death
  • Road/rail links cut
  • Schools and hospitals closed
  • Over 1000 people evacuated

Environmental Impacts

  • Millions of tonnes of sediment were transported and deposited downstream
  • Thousands of trees ripped from river banks
  • Saturated land resulted in landslides
  • Large areas severely eroded

Management Strategies

  • The government announced a £50million rebuilding scheme
  • National Flood Resilience Review to protect the UK from future flooding and extreme weather events
  • Cumbrian Floods Partnership Group will investigate flood defences

We hope you found this blog post on The Challenges of Weather Hazards useful. You can find more helpful Geography revision resources here

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