The North Atlantic hurricane season of 2015 was extremely quiet, with a total of 11 tropical storms, of which only four reached hurricane status. The suppression of hurricane activity was due to the strong El Niño phenomenon gripping the tropical Pacific at the time.
This year the Pacific is entering the opposite oceanic circulation pattern, known as La Niña, which can promote active Atlantic hurricane seasons. Over the past week Hurricane Gaston has meandered in the mid Atlantic, attaining a rating of category two with gusts in excess of 120mph.
At the same time, two tropical disturbances have been threatening to develop into tropical storms around the south-east coasts of the US, although initial fears that at least one of these could go on to become a damaging hurricane have lessened.
Last weekend, thunderstorms affected the Hardangervidda national park in central-southern Norway. On Saturday morning the bodies of more than 300 reindeers were found on a mountain plateau, all lying close together. In what is possibly the largest event of its type recorded this catastrophic loss of life might have been caused by a lightning strike. Reindeer huddle together in bad weather conditions and this could have contributed to the large number of deaths.
Late last week another thunderstorm rumbled over the city of Syktyvkar in the Komi republic of north-west Russia. As well as producing hail and frequent lightning the storm dropped a tornado over an industrial part of the city. Factories and other buildings were badly damaged and large cranes were toppled. Despite hundreds of factory workers taking cover as their buildings were destroyed around them, there were no reported deaths.