British Weather Extremes: Hailstorm

Earliest Severe (H3=>) Hailstorm

The earliest known severe hailstorm in Britain occurred at Wellesbourne in Warwickshire in May 1141 and was at least H3 in intensity. However, there are believed to have been one or more fatalities caused by hail - which would infer very large stones and hence a much higher intensity rating.

No equivalent data is currently available for the continent.

Artist's impression of the Wellesbourne hailstorm

Artist's impression of the Wellesbourne hailstorm (Chris Chatfield).

Longest-Track Hailstorm
On September 22, 1935, an H6 hailstorm tracked 335 km from the west-south-west from Newport (Gwent) to Mundesley (Norfolk). It is likely that the true length was longer still, as the storm probably tracked along the Bristol Channel for some distance before reaching Newport, as well as continuing over the North Sea after Mundesley.

No equivalent data is currently available for the continent.

Most Intense Hailstorm

Artist's impression of the Hitchen to Great Offley hailstorm

Artist's impression of the Hitchin to Great Offley hailstorm (Chris Chatfield).

Several hailstorms have reached H7 in Britain, but only one H8 has been recorded. On May 15, 1697, a H8 hailstorm tracked from Hitchin to Great Offley (Hertfordshire) - although this makes a track length of only 5 km, the true hail swathe must have been much longer.

No equivalent data is currently available for the continent.

Heaviest Hailstone
The heaviest hailstone recorded in Britain fell from the H7 storm which tracked 150 km from West Wittering (West Sussex) to Maldon (Essex) on September 5, 1958 - the stone, which fell on Horsham (Sussex), weighed 190 g. However, descriptions from older accounts which do not usually quote weights clearly indicate that significantly heavier stones have fallen in Britain (even when suspected exaggeration is taken in to account).

No equivalent data is currently available for the continent.

Hailstorms in Great Britain (General)
For the recent period from 1981 to 2000 potentially damaging hail (TORRO intensity of H1 or more) was reported on between 6 and 28 days each year with an average annual frequency of 15 days in Great Britain .

Analysis of TORRO's database of more than 800 hailstorms which reached an intensity of H3 or more reveals that the early summer experiences the highest proportion of such storms, with more than half (52%) occurring in June or July. Around three-quarters of all these hailstorms (77%) occurred between May and August, with June experiencing the peak monthly frequency (29%).

The area most frequently affected by hail damage extends from Lancashire, Greater Manchester, and Merseyside, southeastwards to the counties in and around the Thames Valley (Berkshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire) and Greater London, and to parts of East Anglia (Cambridgeshire, Essex and Suffolk).

For further details see Webb, J. D. C, Elsom, D. M, and Reynolds, D. J (2001) Climatology of severe hailstorms in Great Britain, Atmospheric Research 56, pp 291-308