Natural disasters in Denmark: past and future risks
Denmark is a popular destination for many European countries. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists come here to relax and admire the unusual northern nature. And, of course, they should know in advance what natural disasters or catastrophes they may encounter. Natural disasters always come unexpectedly, but knowing their potential, you can prepare for them.
Climatic characteristics of Denmark
Denmark is located in a temperate maritime climate zone. Its weather is heavily influenced by the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current, and the long coastline.
In fact, there is no point on the mainland more than 100 kilometres from the coast. As a result, the kingdom is highly susceptible to storms and hurricanes that bring not only waves but also heavy rainfall.
The entire country is covered by a hilly plain, and a large part of it lies below sea level.
Potential hazards that could cause a natural disaster include:
- The proximity of the sea, a long coastline. Threatens settlements with storms, winds and flooding.
- Seasonal precipitation. Most rainfall in Denmark occurs in autumn. At this time, the risk of flooding is highest.
- Lowland terrain. The country’s lowest point is -7 meters below sea level. This further increases the likelihood of flooding.
The importance of studying the history of natural disasters
The history of natural disasters is important information to learn before travelling to your chosen country. Knowing the potential dangers that may be waiting for you, you can not only choose the right place, but also the time, the season of the year when the threat of being in the epicentre of a natural disaster will be minimal.
For example, knowing that autumn is the start of the storm, hurricane and flood season in Denmark, you may want to visit the country at a different time of year.
This article provides a chronology of disasters that have occurred in Denmark in the past.
Denmark is not a country that is located in an active seismic zone. It is located on the East European plate, far from active tectonic zones. But frequent earthquakes occur in the North Sea, west of Denmark. Their reverberations are regularly felt by the inhabitants of the Kingdom.
Over the last hundred years, seismologists have recorded more than 200 earthquakes. Their magnitudes have been between 2.2 and 4.4. No noticeable destruction was caused by these earthquakes, and many were only recorded by instruments.
Some of the strongest earthquakes of recent years include:
21 December 2015. The earthquake had an amplitude of 4 and its epicentre was in the North Sea. There were no noticeable effects.
19 February 2010. An earthquake with magnitude 4.4 occurred 60 kilometres northwest of the town of Lemvig. There was no damage or casualties.
28 January 2007. The tremors reached a magnitude of 4.4. The epicentre of the earthquake was 90 kilometres west of the town of Kristiansand. No destruction has been recorded.
20 January 1980. The magnitude of the tremor exceeded 4.2. Its epicentre was again located near the town of Kristiansand. There were no fatalities.
15 April 1977. An earthquake of magnitude 4.4 occurred at a depth of 33 kilometres and was therefore hardly felt on the surface. Its epicentre was in the south of Denmark.
Tsunamis occur in the ocean after strong ground shocks or volcanic eruptions. Neither of these has been seen in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea area for a long time. Hence, the tsunamis have bypassed the coastline of the Kingdom.
However, in the distant past, destructive tsunamis have also reached here. Scientists have found traces of such a disaster off the western coast of Denmark about 8,000 years ago. They estimate that the tsunami might have been 20 m high. It is very rare in the region, but no one is immune to its recurrence.
Storms and hurricanes
The hurricane season begins in the North Sea in October and continues until February. During this time, powerful storms often hit Denmark, accompanied by heavy rainfall. They cause destruction of coastlines, storm surge and flooding.
13 January 1362. Grote Mandrenke
The strongest cyclone has swept over the British Isles and Northern Europe, affecting the Jutland Peninsula. The cyclone coincided with a new moon, increasing its destructive power. As a result, vast areas of the coast were flooded and the total number of victims exceeded 25,000.
25 December 1902. Christmas hurricane
According to the Danish Meteorological Station, wind speeds of up to 50 metres per second were possible. The storm lasted for a relatively short time but managed to do a lot of damage to forestry. It affected all regions of northern Denmark up to the south-western island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The hurricane also caused considerable flooding.
17 October 1967. Hurricane Lena
Accompanied by the heaviest rainfall in the history of meteorological observations. A low pressure area covered the entire kingdom. Wind speeds of up to 40 metres per second. In addition to causing devastation, it caused severe flooding.
18 January 1983. Hurricane Christiansborg
The force of the wind was so great that the roof of the Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen was blown off. Three people died as a result of the cataclysm.
3 December 1999. Hurricane Anatoly
The storm, which was classified as a category 1 storm, hit the shores of Denmark. Wind gusts reached speeds of 180 kilometres per hour. As a result, 20 people were killed and more than 800 injured in the kingdom. Damage from the hurricane is estimated at $3 billion. Hurricanes of this magnitude hit Jutland once every 500 years.
28 October 2013. Hurricane St. Jude
It affected many countries in Western Europe, but reached its maximum strength over the territory of Denmark. Here its speed was 37 metres per second. Flights at airports were cancelled, trains were stopped and hundreds of trees were fallen. As a result, one person died and 15 others were hospitalised.
Floods in Denmark coincide with either cyclones or the heavy rainy season. Because of its low altitude, almost every cyclone ends in flooding for the country. But while rains simply flood the country, cyclones often cause storm surges, which are the most destructive. Scientists have discovered evidence of a storm surge that occurred in 120 B.C. It was catastrophic and according to various estimates could have caused thousands of deaths.
16 January 1362. The flood of St Marcellus
A catastrophic storm surge occurred after the extratropical cyclone Grote Mandrenke struck the coast of the kingdom. It peaked on 16 January. The tide swept far inland, wiping out entire towns and severely altering the contours of the coastline. The total number of casualties exceeded 25,000. Such tides were typical of Europe during the Little Ice Age.
5 February 1825. The Great Hallig Flood
It was caused once again by a storm surge which struck the North Sea coast from Belgium to Denmark. This time the coastline changed even more dramatically. The sand spit of Agger Tange was wiped out, and the whole of northern Jutland became an island. As a result of the flooding 800 people died.
1 February 1953
A storm surge of enormous force struck the countries of Northern Europe, including Denmark. Waves reached up to 6 metres high. Significant areas were flooded. A total of 2,400 people died.
4 January 2017
A storm accompanied by torrential rainfall swept through the Scandinavian countries. Denmark received record rainfall, causing water to rise significantly in rivers and on the coast. In some places the water rose by almost 2 metres and in Copenhagen by 87 centimetres. Thanks to the coordinated action of the emergency services, casualties were avoided.
Forests cover about 11% of the kingdom, or 4,800 square kilometres. So the threat of forest fires is still present in Denmark. But the country has not seen a major fire in a long time. The reason for this is that the climate is wet and cool, so forests don’t have time to dry out.
However, the Danish special services are prepared for unfavourable developments. Most recently, in August 2019, Danish firefighters were involved in extinguishing forest fires in Greenland, an autonomous region within the kingdom.
The biggest threat to tourists in Denmark is posed by hurricanes and the flooding they cause. Powerful cyclones have been disturbing Western Europe increasingly in recent years. Gusts of wind tear out trees, tear down roofs, break wires. Sometimes it ends in loss of life. Storm surge can penetrate far into the territory and also cause loss of life.
The earthquake threat to the country is low, although it is worth noting that the strongest tremors regularly occur during the winter months.
There is no threat of tsunamis or forest fires.
The best and safest time to visit Denmark is from mid-spring to early autumn. Cyclones and storms are rare and there is less rainfall.