Ophelia pummels Ireland

Actual Palm trees in Ireland: Via: Smithsonian

I think we can all say honestly that of all the Atlantic Islands to be battered by a tropical feature this year, Ireland was not near the top of our list. Alas, Ophelia is a nasty extratropical cyclone, battering the British Isles today in a strange turn in an already unusual tropical season.

Ophelia is the easternmost hurricane in recorded history, and this was before she became post tropical and clipped the western counties of Ireland, killing three and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people. She is continuing towards Scotland today, and will impact Scandinavia later in the week.

Getting nasty weather from the Caribbean or tropical Atlantic isn’t that unusual for Ireland, however. Consider that in the southwestern part of the island, there are actually palm trees, transported as seeds from the Caribbean by those same currents that guided Ophelia and many other storms, albeit non-tropical to the British Isles in the past.

We tend to forget about these tropical features after they have left North America, but a common graveyard for tropical systems from the western Atlantic is actually Iceland and the North Sea. They batter the southwestern part of the island, keeping it the dismal but somewhat verdant island that it is

Typically, storms follow the Gulfstream off the coast of North America before teetering off towards the North Sea. Storms that the rest of continental Europe sees tend to drift through the Atlantic before veering back into the continent, if they are indeed of oceanic provenance. For a tropical system to be traceable to a hurricane, however, is very unusual because the central Atlantic is quite foreboding to those storms, thanks to the broad and chilly Atlantic.

Indeed, the typical route is for such storms to go north, up and over the Sargasso Sea, following the warmer currents towards Iceland. Ireland, though it is on a parallel latitude with Labrador is, unintuitively, an unusual place to receive a post tropical storm because of how far south it is.  They get their share of nasty weather in Ireland, and despite some fatalities and power outages, the Emerald Isle should be able to weather Ophelia as well as one could hope.