Our paper, Tornadoes in Romania - a contribution to the study of tornadoes in Eastern Europe, a region were there is a lack of tornado reports (as I showed in my previous post) - was accepted for publication in Monthly Weather Review (Mon. Wea. Rev.) [update 14 Oct. 2014: the paper is now available as an early online release]. This blog post is the story of Tornadoes in Romania

I begin collecting tornado reports, with the aim of developing a tornado database for Romania, in 2004 few months after I started to work as a short range forecaster for Romanian National Meteorological Administration (RNMA). At that time the general opinion was that tornadoes cannot occur in Romania, despite the previous observations of tornadoes in this country. For example, on August 2002 a F3+ long-track tornado that occurred over southeastern Romania was responsible for at least three fatalities (Lemon et al. 2003). So, why tornadoes cannot form in Romania? Lemon et al. (2003) provide this explanations:

It has been stated publicly by senior meteorologists that the latitude of Romania (∼45° north) was too far north to permit tornadoes. Beyond that, little explanation has been given except in newspapers where it was stated that tornadoes are ‘confined to the tropics’.
— Lemon et al. (2003, p. 392)

This situation resulted in what Doswell III (2003) described as a self-fulfilling prophecy: since the existence of tornadoes in Romania was denied, then no records were keep for such events, and when tornadoes do occurred they were not reported.

This situation began to change after 2004 due: a) the efforts of a newly form severe weather forecasting group (lead by Aurora Bell), b) the implementation of the WSR-98D radar network in 2002 (which allowed the detection of the larger circulation in which the tornado is embedded, i.e., the mesocyclone) and c) increased public awareness (the Facaeni tornado and other tornadoes featured extensively in mass media). This change culiminated with the first verified tornado warning for Romania (and one of the few tornado warnings in Europe). In their paper on severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings in Europe, Rauhala and Schultz (2009) provide a description of this forecast:

Romania issued their first tornado warning on 28 May 2005. Forecasters were alerted to the developing scenario by a convergence line in satellite imagery. Later, radar-data algorithms for mesocyclones and tornado detection were used as guidance. Because this warning was the first tornado warning issued in Romania, the mesoscale forecaster [ link], who is responsible for warnings in the Center of Operational Forecasts at the National Meteorological Administration, and the synoptic forecaster, discussed with the deputy director and with a severe-weather expert before issuing the warning. The warning was issued for an area approximately 170 km2 . Ten minutes after the tornado warning was issued, a local TV station reported a funnel cloud
— Rauhala and Schultz (2009, p. 373)

Despite the accumulated evidence from mass-media, from the general public, and from the damage surveys conducted by a small team from RNMA (that included Aurora Bell, Sorin Burcea, Daniel Carbunaru, and Carolina Oprea among others) the general view that tornadoes cannot occur in Romania persisted. To provide more convincing arguments (in 2005 the Romanian tornado database comprised only few cases) we needed to show that tornadoes were observed in the past in Romania.  

In 2006, the only historical report that we had in the database was of a tornado that occurred in Bucharest on 9 June 1886. This tornado was discovered in  Alfred Wegener's  book on tornadoes and waterspouts in Europe. The reference provided by Wegener for the Bucharest tornado was a paper by Stefan Hepites (the founder of the Romanian Meteorological Institute) published in Ciel et Terre (a Belgium journal devoted to astronomy and meteorology). Hoping that we will be able to find references to other tornadoes that occurred before 1886, we ask for a copy of this paper from the Société Royale Belge d'Astronomie, de Météorologie et de Physique du Globe. Unfortunately, the paper, an excellent case study of the event, contained a single reference to a paper describing the same event published in the Annals of the Romanian Meteorological Institute. Fortunately, the library of RNMA had copies of the Annals published between 1885 and 1915. Thus, I have spend almost one year going through the entire collection of the Annals, learning about the history of meteorology in Romania, reading the studies of the Romanian meteorologists and discovering new tornado cases. At the end of 2007 we had the first version of the Romanian tornado database and for the next 6 year, together with my colleagues from RNMA we developed the database adding new tornado reports and trying to find historical reports.

In 2013, with more than 100 tornado reports in the database (from 18862013, with only six reports between 19451989 corresponding to the period during which Romania was socialist country) we decided to write the first climatology of tornadoes in Romania and thus to provide the definite proof that tornadoes do occur in Romania (Fig. 1).

 Figure 1. Tornadoes reported in Romania between 1822 and 2013.  (click on the image to explore the details) 

Figure 1. Tornadoes reported in Romania between 1822 and 2013. (click on the image to explore the details) 

The paper was submitted to Mon. Wea. Rev. and during the review process I have discovered through an excellent on line resource more historical tornado reports. Thus, the version of the study that will be published in Mon. Wea. Rev. is based on a database extending back to 1822. Trough this article we hope that we have provided the evidence that tornadoes do occur in Romania, and we hope that we have made a small contribution toward a pan-European tornado database that will provide the basis for understanding the tornado threat in Europe.

Reaching the end of this post you may ask were are the dragons from the title ? I can tell you, but I think is better to let you discover by reading the paper. 

AuthorBogdan Antonescu