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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
NI tornadoes 'not so uncommon'
Trees were uprooted in Aghalee
Trees were uprooted in Aghalee
Strong winds which felled trees and damaged property in County Antrim villages were not as uncommon as one might think, a meteorologist has said.

Paul Knightley of the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation had predicted the storms which hit Aghalee and Rasharkin on Wednesday afternoon.

"Northern Ireland gets four or five such events a year, possibly more," he said.

Mr Knightley said judging by reports, it seemed to have been a tornado.

Locals in Rasharkin described winds which blew down trees and damaged farm buildings in Rasharkin as a "mini-tornado".

However, Mr Knightley said meteorologists were not too fond of this term.

They're not particularly common, but they're not uncommon either
Paul Knightley
Tornado expert
"Quite often people say 'mini-tornado' when in fact it is a tornado. All tornadoes are tornadoes, if you like," he said.

Mr Knightley said Wednesday's high winds did not just come out of the blue.

"We had a very strong cold front heading in from the west," he said.

"As it pushed its way across the province through the day, it was shoving up the warmer air ahead of it very violently.

"There was also a lot of wind chill in the atmosphere, which basically allows any air that's ascending to start rotating."

Mr Knightley is sure that the tornado had nothing to do with global warming.

A family recently moved out of this mobile home
A family recently moved out of this mobile home
"Every time we get some strong winds or strange weather event, people start asking if it's climate change.

"Tornadoes have been occurring in the UK since the year dot. They're not particularly common, but they're not uncommon either."

He said the science behind tornadoes is still not fully understood and forecasting methods remained "fairly crude".

"All you can say is something like an area the size of Ireland has a chance of a tornado within the next four to six hours," he said.

"At the moment, that's as accurate as we can get.

"These things are so small that just one or two villages get hit, and trying to predict something as local as that in the grand scheme of the weather is very tricky."


SEE ALSO
Villages hit by freak whirlwinds
28 Sep 05 |  Northern Ireland

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