Elsewhere in Weather News: March 21st, 2015

Maritimes Experience a Winter to Remember

With spring now in place Maritime residents would expect to see more forgiving weather than they have been experiencing this past winter. However, this has not been the case this past week. The East Coast has been hit with another strong coastal storm that brought blizzard conditions and large amounts of snow Tuesday-Wednesday. A fairly deep low pressure system was anchored just off the coast and drew in some cold air in behind – conditions right for a blizzard.

Halifax was especially hit hard by this storm with a general 35cm falling in the city, with some higher amounts reported. These combined with winds that gusted up to 113km/h to create blizzard conditions. Schools, businesses and government offices were forced to shut down and no public transit was running. Currently, Halifax has a whopping 93cm of snow on the ground which almost doubles the old record of snow on ground of 51cm in 1967 for today (records for snow on ground have been kept since 1955 in Halifax). Saint John, NB even had more snow than that on the ground after the storm – 169cm of snow was on the ground Thursday.

Sidewalks in Halifax are getting quite narrow after the most recent snowstorm. (Source: Twitter/@HadynWatters)
Sidewalks in Halifax are getting quite narrow after the most recent snowstorm. (Source: Twitter/@HadynWatters)

Unfortunately, yet another system is set to affect the Atlantic Provinces as another strong trough makes its way towards the East Coast. The storm will really ramp up later this afternoon – numerous types of precipitation will be in play, with mostly rain near the shoreline, transitioning to mixed types and finally heavy snow as you head further inland. The highest snowfall amounts are expected to be around 40-50cm where it will be all snow, and as much as 20mm of rain could fall in Halifax. City crews have begun clearing city drains to limit the flooding that could take place if most precipitation falls as rain in Halifax.

In other news, Australia has been hit with another strong cyclone this week. The cyclone had a fairly small inner core, but still managed to bring winds of up to 170km/h near Cooktown and a decent storm surge to the coast. Thankfully no injuries were reported with the storm and it is currently in the dissipating stage over northern Australia.

Elsewhere in Weather News: March 14th, 2015

Powerful Cyclone Strikes Pacific Islands

The strongest Pacific cyclone of 2015, Pam, struck the small island nation of Vanuatu located in the South Pacific this past week and brought with it extreme conditions as it topped the cyclone scale at a category five storm.

The cyclone developed about 1,000km northwest of Fiji last weekend as an area of thunderstorms organized under ideal conditions – sea surface temperatures were very high in the region, as high as 31°C, and shear was minimal. Pam continued to organize early this week. It struggled as it ingested some dry air into its core while heading towards Vanuatu but by Thursday morning it formed a large eyewall that was fairly symmetric. This meant that it had fought off the dry air and was intensifying rapidly. Peak strength was reached several hours before it reached the Vanuatu Islands, winds were sustained at 270km/h, gusting over 300km/h, and pressure bottomed out at extremely low values estimated by satellites to be around 890mb. Early Friday morning the storm’s eye passed very close to several of Vanuatu’s islands making it a worst case scenario situation. The islands were battered with 250km/h winds, storm surges of 6-8m and extremely heavy rainfall.

Typical buzz-saw appearance of a category five cyclone seen as Pam approached Vanuatu and was near peak strength. (Source: NOAA)
Typical buzz-saw appearance of a category five cyclone seen as Pam approached Vanuatu and was near peak strength. (Source: NOAA)

As of Friday evening rescue efforts were still underway while searchers made their way into remote regions that were completely isolated from the storm. Overall the infrastructure on the islands is not the best, with some houses simply made out of mud resulting in more damage than you’d typically see in a developed country. The largest city, Port Vila, was reported to be out of power and running water and had debris scattered across roads making travel difficult. There are unconfirmed reports of numerous deaths associated with this storm, but they have not been confirmed yet.

 

Damage seen on Friday evening (our time) as Pam was on its way out. (Source: UNICEF Pacific)
Damage seen on Friday evening (our time) as Pam was on its way out. (Source: UNICEF Pacific)

After Pam has finished its swipe through the Vanuatu islands, it is not expected have any other significant effect on any other island nations as it heads Poleward where it will weaken. The Pacific/Eastern Indian oceans have been extremely active this week, not only because of Pam, but there have been three other cyclones that were active at one time this week. Two of these made landfall on Australian soils (category three and category two), with minimal damage reported. With that said, there are no other areas of interest for possible formation of other cyclones as of Friday night.

Elsewhere in Weather News: October 11th, 2014

Two Dangerous Storms Spin Up

Notable activity has expanded from the tropical waters of the Western Pacific into the Bay of Bengal over the past week. We mentioned in last week’s EIWN that typhoon Vongfong could be a threat to Japan sometime this week – this has since become a reality. Formerly known as super typhoon Vongfong, typhoon Vongfong took aim at the Japanese island of Okinawa early this morning. Packing sustained winds of 140km/h which gusted to over 200km/h, the storm caused power outages to 27,000 residents and some locations on the island reported over 200mm of rain.

News agencies in the region report 20 injuries as of Saturday morning but thankfully no deaths from the storm. Vongfong is expected to curve northeast and slowly transition to an extratropical storm, but not before it brings significant rainfall to Japan’s main islands. This could be bad news, especially for the mountainous regions, as this is the second storm to hit Japan in the span of a week. With already saturated ground, these regions are more prone to landslides.

Cyclone Hudhud Develops

The second tropical storm is cyclone Hudhud which spun up only a few days ago. With sea surface temperatures approaching the 30°C mark in the Bay of Bengal, Hudhud quickly became a “very severe cyclonic storm” as classified by India’s Meteorological Department. As of Saturday morning Hudhud was 200 kilometres offshore of India with sustained winds of 205km/h.

Visakhapatnam radar image of cyclone Hudhud Saturday morning. Outer bands are already affecting India's coast and the eye is visible offshore. (Source: India Met Department)
Visakhapatnam radar image of cyclone Hudhud Saturday morning. Outer bands are already affecting India’s coast and the eye is visible offshore. (Source: India Met Department)

The evacuation of 150,000 people was underway along the coast because a significant storm surge of up to 1.8 metres is expected along the coast. Hudhud is forecast to make landfall overnight tonight just southwest of Visakhapatnam and continue inland, where it will die off, but not before dumping significant amounts of rain. The hardest hit areas can expect over 250mm of rain.

Elsewhere in Weather News: April 12, 2014

Cyclone Ita hit North Queensland last Friday, called one of the worst ever in the region.

Visible satellite image of Cyclone Ita as it hit Far North Queensland
Visible satellite image of Cyclone Ita as it hit Far North Queensland

Cyclone Ita hit North Queensland, Australia as a category 3 storm on Friday into Saturday (local time), bringing strong winds and flooding rain to the region. Wind speeds higher than 120 km/h were reported near the small town of Cookstown, Australia and speeds near 160 km/h were reported at Cape Flattery. In addition, more than 125 mm of rain fell in Cookstown. However, the highest reported rainfall total was 311 mm in Bairds. Cyclone Ita hit the Soloman Islands before impacting Australia, causing 21 deaths there. The number of deaths, were there any, from Ita in Australia is not presently known. Luckily, the part of North Queensland hit by Ita is sparsely populated, helping to minimize the impact of the storm.

Cyclones are a common phenomenon in the waters surrounding Australia. Also called willy-willies by locals, cyclones are the same as hurricanes, except that they occur in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, rather than the Atlantic Ocean. The main requirements for cyclone formation are surface water temperatures of at least 27 degrees Celsius and weak vertical wind shear (the absence of a jet stream overhead). These conditions are most often met in the tropics, though cyclones and hurricanes have been known to impact areas at higher latitudes late in the summer and early in the fall.

Sources: