Why is Europe not subjected to tropical storms or hurricanes?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hurricanes, the most violent storms on earth, are tropical cyclones that are formed over the Atlantic Ocean or eastern Pacific Ocean. Scientists have determined that most hurricanes are generated off the coast of Africa. Since sand from the Sahara Desert has been detected in places like the beaches of Florida in the U.S., these scientists theorize that some hurricanes initiate in Ethiopia and gain wind strength as they cross the Sahara Desert. Other hurricanes appear to have originated in the Caribbean sea. 

While these hurricanes can track to the north and make their way up the Eastern seacoast of America, they are relatively rare in Western Europe because the waters are too cold. Currently, the eastern tropical Atlantic on which England and France reside is not warm enough to generate cyclones because it is necessary for sea surface temperatures to rise above a certain threshold in order to form a cyclone. However, scientists theorize that with global warming, these sea temperatures may, indeed, rise and Western Europe may possibly experience a storm such as Sandy which hit the beaches of New Jersey this year. (Sandy was a hybrid storm of massive strength formed from a tropical storm.) Here is a statement from a report made in the Geophysical Research Letters on this subject:

...simulations indicate that the number of potentially damaging hurricanes during the August through October season over western Europe could increase more than fourfold by the end of the century.

Source: UXL Science Fact Finder, ©1998 Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved.