This post was most recently updated on January 6th, 2023
Natural Disasters that happen or could happen in Portugal are earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, wildfires, landslides, and floods. Today in this article we will learn about natural disasters in Portugal in detail.
What are natural disasters?
Natural disasters are catastrophic events with atmospheric, geological, and hydrological origins (e.g., droughts, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides) that can cause fatalities, property damage, and social environmental disruption.
Natural disasters can be aggravated by inadequate building norms, marginalization of people, inequities, overexploitation of resources, extreme urban sprawl, and climate change.
Does Portugal have a lot of earthquakes?
Earthquakes do not occur frequently in Portugal. The strongest earthquake in Portugal happened on 02/28/1969 in the Rabat, Sale; Spain (Canary Is) region with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale. The shifting of tectonic plates at a depth of 32 km resulted in 13 deaths. The earthquake also triggered a tsunami, leading to further victims and destruction.
Before that, in 1755 a major earthquake had occurred centering Lisbon the capital city of Portugal. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, with a magnitude estimated at 8.5 to 9, is the largest known historic earthquake to impact Europe and northern Africa. It killed 60,000 people in Lisbon alone.
The regions of Lisbon and the Algarve are among those where earthquakes are most likely to occur. Recently on 21st November 2022, an earthquake of magnitude 4.8 occurred in the Azores Islands. If was a weak quake, so no destruction was done.
Does Tsunami occur in Portugal?
Tsunamis usually don’t occur in Portugal. In fact, only 3 tidal waves classified as a tsunami have occurred since 1531 in Portugal. Tsunamis, therefore, occur only rarely in Portugal.
The last deadliest tsunami that occurred in Portugal was after the earthquake of 1755. On 11/01/1755, this tsunami killed a total of 63,000 people.
Approximately half an hour after the first shock, massive tsunami waves up to 12 meters in height began to arrive, wrecking ships and drowning thousands of people.
Towns along Portugal’s western and southern coasts, southwestern Spain, and most of Morocco’s Atlantic coast also suffered significant damage and loss of life.
The effects of the tsunami were noted as far away as England to the north and in the Caribbean islands across the ocean.
Does Portugal have Tornadoes?
The strongest Tornado in Portugal happened in November 1954, since then only less intense tornadoes have occurred in Portugal. Tornadoes are very rare in Portugal.
As tornadoes only affect a small area, the probability of their being observed at a meteorological station is very small.
Thus, most of the existing records are people’s recollections, some descriptions in newspapers, and some photos. It was possible to find data on 30 tornadoes that occurred from 1936 to 2002.
Tornadoes occur mainly from October to January in association with strong cold fronts or line squalls. Most cases were in association with deep extratropical cyclones west of Portugal when there was a moist and warm southwest with strong to gale-force flow and generalized severe weather over the country.
There are also records of summer tornadoes, developing from strong thunderstorm cells.
Landslides in Portugal
Landslides are not that common in Portugal. The last recorded landslide occurred on 19th November 2018 at Borba in Evora. It killed two people and four were injured. Apart from that, you rarely get to see landslides in Portugal.
Is Portugal affected by floods?
The last recorded flood in Portugal occurred in Manteigas municipality, Guarda District on 12th September 2022. The flood water, mud, downed trees, and debris raced down hillsides around the village of Sameiro in Manteigas municipality, damaging buildings and infrastructure and dragging vehicles into the Zêzere river.
Floods have been the most deadly natural disaster in Portugal during the last century, followed by earthquakes. Large river floods are caused by heavy rains associated with a westerly zonal circulation that may persist for weeks.
The system of dams within the basin reduces the frequency of flooding, but cannot `tame’ the river. The dam system has even contributed to an increase in the peak flow, as in the 1979 flood. Nevertheless, these floods are not a danger to the human population.
Deforestation, soil impermeability, chaotic urbanization, building on floodplains, the blockage of small creeks or their canalization, and the building of walls and transverse embankments along the small creeks all contribute to the aggravation of this kind of flood.
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