The reports here summarise weather events and climate news, including a round-up of their media coverage. They are archived in the relevant day's Daily Weather Summary to help make it a more complete record of the day's events. Timeliness of the reports is entirely at the mercy of my available time so, for the most up-to-date information, make good use of my media links here.
Sun 18 Nov 2018 WA, QLD, NSW: Storms bring wild weather in west and east. Thunderstorms brought a violent mix of very large hail, torrential rain and storm force winds to parts of the country's west and east on Saturday afternoon 17th, some rain continuing overnight.
In the east, storms developed in a trough over SE QLD and NE NSW. One storm, tagged as "very dangerous" by the BoM, moved from Kilcoy to Gympie bringing golfball-sized hail and heavy, horizontal rain in wind strong enough to down trees and knock power out to about 9,500 properties around Gympie [ABC]. Many places around Gympie reported over 50mm in the 24 hours to 09.00 AEST Sunday 18th with the highest 88mm at Glenwood Alert NW of the town.
In NSW, heavy rain accompanied storms in the far NE. Ballina recorded 96.8mm for the 24 hours with many being kept awake by torrential falls during the night: 11.6mm fell in 10 minutes to midnight then another 13.4mm in 10 minutes to 02.26 Sunday 18th. The heaviest 24-hour falls were Houghlahan's Creek, 10km NW of Ballina, 105mm and Cudgera Creek, between Brunswick Heads and Tweed Heads, 112mm. 4cm hail was reported at Urbenville in the border ranges as one of the storms that hit SE QLD developed. Weatherzone said that over 180,000 lightning flashes were detected across both states in the storms.
In WA, the main feature was strong winds from storms in a trough that ran north/south through the whole state. In the south, Norseman reported a wind gust of 104km/h at 15.00 AWST, its equal highest for November while Fitzroy Crossing in the north had an all-time highest gust of 106km/h at 16.06. Both stations have been operating for 15 years.
|Saturday 17 November 2018
USA: Californian fires worst in recorded history.
Sat 17 Nov 2018
| The Woolsey Fire, California. Photo taken while evacuating Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway on 10 November. Grant Denham.
The past 9 days have seen the most intense wildfires in California's history flare up with alarming speed causing death and destruction on a massive scale. One, the Camp Fire, NE of San Francisco, is the deadliest in Californian history. State officials said 157,000 people had been evacuated or had self-evacuated across the state as of Friday 9th, with the BBC and AFP stating more than 250,000 by Sunday 11th [AP via San Francisco's Press Democrat, BBC, AFP].
As of 1900 AEDT 16th, two fires continued to burn. The Camp Fire in Butte County, 200km NNE of San Francisco, has burnt through 567 sq km and is 40% contained while the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County, 50km NW of Los Angeles, has incinerated 398 sq km and is 62% contained. The smaller Hill Fire, also in Ventura County, is mostly contained. Sixty-three people were officially confirmed dead in the Camp Fire and three in the Woolsey Fire with 631 people still missing. The Camp Fire has destroyed 11,858 structures and damaged 205 while the Woolsey and Hill Fires have destroyed 548 and damaged 157. In terms of destruction, the Camp Fire has destroyed more than twice the number of structures razed in the October 2017 Tubbs fire (5,636), the previous most destructive wildfire in Californian history. This map shows the locations of the fires. [CalFire, ECHO, Reuters and others]
The current fires follow extreme wildfires in August/September in California and British Columbia, and the previous most catastrophic Californian wildfires in October last year. The current fires come unusually late in the season to Australian eyes - the equivalent of our May - but are the product of California's dry Mediterranean climate from late spring to autumn combined in particular in this case with hot, strong and dry Santa Ana winds.
There has been saturation media coverage of the fires, but a number of articles and posts stand out.
- Bob Henson and Dr Jeff Masters have covered the developing fires and the meteorology behind them in their blog on Weather Underground on Friday 9th, Sunday 11th and Wednesday 14th. If you want detail and accuracy, this is the place to go.
- The explosive development of the devastating Camp Fire over just 35 minutes is shown in this dramatic tweet from Nevada Fire Cameras over the border from California. Four hours after ignition, it had engulfed half the large town of Paradise [LiveScience].
- The intensity of the fire was captured in many posts on social media: the roiling smoke rising from the Woolsey Fire near Malibu (and here); vortexes, both small and immense, that helped make the fire uncontrollable and spread quickly; and this extraordinary video in the heart of a fire as a whole neighbourhood is consumed [Severe World Weather]. The Guardian produced this gallery.
- This satellite loop from Monday 12th showed the extent of the the three fires [NOAA, RAMMB]. Los Angeles, whose lights can be seen sprawling east of the coastal indentation near the bottom of the loop as it enters night, has the small Hill Fire and the Woolsey Fire to its west. The greatest amount of smoke comes from the Camp Fire burning north of San Francisco. The city is located on the twin bays visible north of the centre of the image.
- Nearly 27,000 residents of Paradise, in the Sierra foothills 230km NNE of San Francisco, suffered most in the Camp Fire. It rushed in so soon after the evacuation order was given that there was little warning to leave. The first warning many received was flames rushing upon them. Roads became gridlocked with people desparate to flee, many leaving their cars to attempt to escape on foot. For those who had a clear road, however, it was still a horrific journey [The Guardian]. The fire expanded from 10 acres to 10,000 acres (40 sq km) in a matter of hours, according to the Los Angeles Times, virtually destroying the town [CBS News].
By Sunday 11th, BBC reported 23 confirmed deaths in the town and figures of those missing in the area were given as about one hundred. By Friday 16th, however, Reuters reported the number of confirmed deaths in and around the town as 63, while on Thursday 15th the list of missing soared to 297 then 631 due to a detailed review of emergency calls and missing people reports, and the extension of the search for victims. On Saturday 17th, the death toll was reported as 71 and the number of people missing had jumped again to 1,011 [The Guardian]. This number is expected to continue to vary as missing people are found and new missing persons are reported. The final death toll will not be known for weeks, due to the intensity of the fire and difficulties in search and identification, and it is doubted that a precise figure will ever be achieved.
A detailed article on the Paridise fire is given in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday 10th, while this drone footage shows the absolute devastation caused by the intensity of the fire [The Guardian]..
There have been numerous well-researched media articles written in the past week on the causes of the fires and what can be done to reduce them in future. They are relevant, not only to western North America, but also to Europe and Australia. Decades ago, fires such as these just did not enter large towns and cities, and a major factor in the present escalating destruction by wildfires is that communities have expanded into areas that have always been the wildfires' domain.
There is also no doubt that global warming is a major factor behind the steady increase in fires, particularly in California. At the same time as the state is warming, rainfall has been decreasing and wet seasons shrinking in length. The hottest five years in the state's 124-year climate history have been the last five. Four of the five largest fires in Californian history have occurred in the last six years and seven of the twenty most destructive fires have occurred in the past two years in terms of number of houses, outbuildings and commercial premises razed.
Reuters examines the state of the forests, criticised by President Donald Trump, and also the movement of housing into former bushland which is the fastest growing land-use type in the contiguous United States. In The weather and climate behind the California infernos that wrecked Paradise and torched Malibu, The Washington Post takes a comprehensive look at what has lead to an alarming upswing in wildfires in the state. In The Conversation, David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania, takes a broader, more international view. He argues that the current military-style approach to firefighting involving small armies of fire fighters supported by aircraft has failed, and that across the fire science community there is growing recognition that a new approach, which he outlines, is needed.
The lengthening fire seasons in both Australia and the United States also threatens a long-standing co-operative arrangement of sharing equipment and personnel between the two countries. The USA is moving away from the concept of a "fire season" towards fire impacts throughout the year. In particular, this would threaten the ability of Australian states to lease firefighting aircraft, such as the well-known Elvis, which has been brought out by the Victorian Government for each fire season since 2001-2002. [The Guardian]
Thu 15 Nov 2018 NT: Heavy storms hit Darwin. Three thunderstorms rolled across Darwin overnight 14/15 Nov as the storm season hits its peak. As usually happens with thunderstorms, rainfall was extremely variable. Berrimah CSIRO, 10km NE of the CBD, recorded 105mm, yet Darwin Hospital, only 8km to its NW, only recorded 21mm. The rest of the city recorded something in between, with the CBD (Stokes Hill) picking up 68 and the airport 73mm.
Thu 15 Nov 2018 WA: Lightning brings $3.6m fire bill around Dalwallinu. Up to 20 fires in crops were sparked by dry thunderstorm lightning strikes in the Dalwallinu area of the WA northern wheatbelt, 200km NE of Perth, late on Thursday 15th. The fires burnt through about 30 sq km of cereal crops in the largest blaze, while smaller fires also destroyed crops. The damage is estimated at at least $3.6m. The fires come in what is an otherwise good season for wheat in the region. [ABC]
Fri 16 Nov 2018 WA: Large bushfire closes Great Northern Highway. A large bushfire burning in the WA Pilbara closed the Great Northern Highway on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th, threatening properties including the Pardoo Roadhouse. [DFES]
Fri 16 Nov 2018 India: Tropical Cyclone Gaja brings death, heavy wind damage and rain. Category 1 Tropical Cyclone Gaja was strengthening as it crossed the east coast of far southern India near Nagapattinam, 300km S of Chennai, early today 16th. Maximum sustained winds up to 139km/h at landfall destroyed homes, felled thousands of trees and caused widespread power blackouts. The Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority said at least 11 people were known to have died.
Over 82,000 people were evacuated from low-lying areas to 471 relief centres as heavy rain was falling or expected over a wide area. The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System estimates 8.4m people are exposed to the cyclone as it crosses the country and heads into the Arabian Sea. [AFP, Reuters]
Fri 16 Nov 2018 USA: Snow causes chaos in New York. A winter storm was forecast to bring up to 30cm of snow across a wide area of NE USA on Thursday 15 and Friday 16, extending from Pennsylvania to Maine, but was expected to remain inland with only light snow in the Big Apple [NWS]. Instead, around 15cm of snow and freezing rain descended on New York. [Severe Weather World]
The upper level of Manhattan's George Washington bridge, one of the busiest in the world, was totally blocked by a 20-car pile-up on snow and ice bringing traffic gridlock to large parts of the city. Snow piled up unploughed, bringing buses to a halt while subways and trains suffered long delays. Some school buses were unable to take students home, so they spent the night at school.
15cm of snow in New York is no big deal, so New Yorkers are still trying to work out what went wrong. The New York Times had this stab at it. [Also Al Jazeera]
Sun 11 Nov 2018 WA: Active thunderstorms bring heavy rain from central to southern WA. As can be seen for the rainfall map, there were heavy and widespread thunderstorm rainfalls in a large area of central and southern WA for the 24 hours to 0900 AWST on Sunday 11th.
This radar animation loop centred on South Doodlakine and covering most of southwestern WA shows vast storm clusters moving from NW to SE down a trough line which itself was moving slowly eastwards. The time in AEDT is given below right of the radar imagery. The animation begins at 2306 AEDT (2006 AWST) on Friday 9th when storms in the mid-north were still in progress from earlier Friday. They continue, losing only a little strength overnight and by 1200 AEDT (0900 AWST) Saturday 10th are widespread with many of them dumping heavy rain. It is only towards the end of this 33-hour loop at 0754 AEDT (0454 AWST) on Sunday 11th that they are weakening and exiting stage right towards SA. [The Weather Chaser]
The heaviest falls were widely spread, with 24-hour records set from the Murchison south through the Central West, Central Wheat Belt and Great Southern across to the Goldfields. Many long-standing November records fell by considerable margins in this area that typically receives between 10 and 25mm for the whole of November. They included Cue, 75km N of Mt Magnet, with 53.8mm (124 years of observations, previous November record 39.9mm), Pullagaroo, 115km S of Mt Magnet, 38.6 (86 years, previous 28.7), Allan Rocks (Little Italy), 85km NE of Lake Grace, 107.0 (48 years, previous 87.6) and Gindalbie, 60km NNE of Kalgoorlie, 32.0mm equalling a fall four years ago in an 86-year history. The 107.0 at Allan Rocks was the highest in the nation.
Sun 11 Nov 2018 QLD: Heavy rain on the Tropical Coast. While on rain, Far North QLD produced some large early wet season totals in the 24 hours to 0900 AEST thanks to a slow-moving trough. There were a number of falls between 50 and 100mm between Townsville and Innisfail, with Paradise Lagoon, 60km up the coast from Townsville, top on 102mm.
Sat 10 Nov 2018 WA: Cold snap decimates wine region. The record low temperatures overnight 6/7 November reported by AWN have been disastrous for a number of winegrowers in the Frankland River wine region. The region's Growers and Winemakers Association president Hunter Smith told ABC Rural it was one of the worst frost events the region had ever experienced. Well known vineyard Alkoomi has had about 80% of its crop damaged.
Sun 11 Nov 2018 France: The weather of the Great War. The guns fell silent in World War I one hundred years ago today. An estimated 10 million men lost their lives on the battlefield with twice that many wounded.
While we have images in our minds of countless troops in muddy trenches, we know less about how the weather influenced the course of World War I, or the science available then and how forecasts were made and spread. Météo France has put together this history of what the weather was like† during a number of the War's major episodes, such as the Battle of the Somme and the bitter winter of 1916-17. The War produced progress in the already rapidly developing field of meteorological science, especially its importance in aeronautics. This separate gallery shows how it was the dawn of a new meteorological era†.
Related to this was the work done in France by the then Public Works Department. Now the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, it has put out this set of galleries† to commemorate its efforts in and after the war to end all wars.
These are, of course, all in French. If yours is a bit rusty, your browser can probably give a good translation - if you have difficulty, read the † explanation here.
|Saturday 10 November 2018
It's been a long time between drinks in the news department while my attention has been on the mundane but more important background tasks of keeping the site running smoothly. Now that I have time to record noteworthy weather events again, expect some detailed reports like the one below, but also a flurry of brief reports on events well in the past, written to find their place as a record of events in the relevant day's Daily Weather Summary.
Strong front brings temperature extremes, violent weather and welcome rain
Fri 9 Nov 2018
Heatwaves, snow, storms with high wind gusts and large hail, a massive dust storm, abnormally hot and cold November temperatures and some drought-relieving rain were all in the weather mix in the week to Friday 9 November.
Heat built in a sultry trough that moved across the country during the week, bringing a wave of heatwave-strength night and daytime temperatures as it advanced. Maximum temperatures reached over 42° in northern WA, large areas of the NT and QLD, and northern NSW. Moisture from NW Australia streamed into the country producing some cracker thunderstorms in the unstable air in the trough.
From Monday 5th, a strong cold front began pushing across the south of the continent, undercutting and lifting the moisture and producing some worthwhile rain across large parts of SA, NSW and VIC as well as the south of the NT and QLD. However, because much of the rain came from thunderstorms, results were mixed in pastoral and cropping areas. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) said "In cropping regions, rainfall totals were highly variable. Falls of between 10 and 50 millimetres were recorded in southern New South Wales and South Australia. Falls of between 10 and 25 millimetres were recorded in parts of southern Victoria and Western Australia. For remaining cropping regions, little or no rainfall was recorded."
Among significant events during the week:
- Heatwave conditions began building across SE Australia late in October with Ceduna, Whyalla and Mt Lofty all reporting top temperatures 15° or more above average on Wednesday 31st. Record-breaking high daytime temperatures appeared from the beginning of November. On Thursday 1st Darwin reported its equal highest November maximum in 77 years of observations with 37.3° while on Friday 2nd Green Cape, which juts well out into the Tasman Sea near the far southeastern tip of the continent, utterly demolished its previous November high temperature record of 28.0° with a reading of 34.7°. The highest temperatures during the build-up of heat were in NE SA, SW QLD and NW NSW, and were not record-breakers but still very high for November. They included Urandangie QLD 44.0° and White Cliffs NSW 43.3 on the 2nd, Birdsville QLD 44.3 on the 4th, Windorah QLD 44.0 on the 5th, and St George QLD 43.1 and Moree 43.0 on the 6th. Sydney Airport with a maximum of 38.9 and Wollongong Airport at 38.2 were close to 15° above the November average on the 2nd.
- High overnight temperatures were a feature over a much broader area and more records fell than daytime maxima. The Newcastle NSW area had their warmest November night in around 70 years on Saturday 3rd with minima of 23.1° recorded at both Nobbys Signal Station and Williamtown RAAF Base which have 61 and 69 year histories. Sydney's Observatory Hill reached 22.5, not quite matching its most sleepless November night since 1857 of 24.8. On Tuesday 6th, it was Brisbane's turn to sweat through the night with the Amberley RAAF Base minimum of 23.8° its highest in 77 years; Brisbane City's low of 23.5 felt worse with high humidity brought in on the previous day's sea breeze..
- Storms were active across a large area of WA on Sunday 4th, and a very active area of thunderstorms worked its way across central and eastern SA during the late afternoon and evening of Monday 5th. At Tarcoola on the Trans-Australian Railway, 360km NW of Port Augusta, one storm hit just after 18.00 with a 117km/h wind gust, the highest on record for the settlement. At the same time, 12.8mm fell in less than 15 minutes. Two and a half hours later, a second storm dumped 32.0mm on Tarcoola in one hour, 13.6mm falling in just 10 minutes. When rain eased off, there was 48.2mm in the gauge, the heaviest November one-day total in 115 years of observations.
- As a trough and wind change ahead of the cold front pushed storms into northwestern NSW late afternoon on Tuesday 6th, it raised a large dust storm. An SMH story gathered these images and a dramatic video showing what it was like to meet the dust storm while driving - in a word, black. Much of the area had recorded less than 50mm rain since the start of the year and, as the video shows, the 5 to 15mm that fell in the region from the storms immediately following the dust storm turned everything to mud.
- The Melbourne Cup only just missed the wrath of thunderstorms as they swept across Melbourne on the first Tuesday in November, the 6th. Between 35 and 61mm were unloaded on all but the outer southern and outer NE suburbs in a few hours as the trough and thunderstorms crossed the city. While it stayed dry for the main event, it was the second wettest Cup Day on record giving Melbourne more rain in two hours than it had had in the previous two months. City streets flooded, fourteen people had to be rescued from flooded vehicles and the SES received 400 calls for help. A minor flood warning was issued for the Lower Yarra. A helpful graph tweeted the day before by VIC BoM shows you definitely need a versatile wardrobe to go to Flemington.
- A supercell thunderstorm with giant hail, up to 9cm in diameter, moved ENE from Rollands Plains to Kundabung, 25km NW of Port Macquarie NSW, on the afternoon of Wednesday 7th. In another thunderstorm, a man driving a 4WD 10km NW of Taree narrowly missed impalement when lightning hit a tree by the road causing it to explode and spear a branch through his windscreen. ABC carried a more detailed description and photos of this unusual event as well as video of the giant hail.
- By Wednesday 7th, the cold front moving into NSW set up a sharp contrast between hot temperatures in the mid 30s to low 40s across northern NSW and southern QLD and much colder air in the low to mid teens farther south. The density contrast between the two airmasses caused a strong jet stream to develop near their boundary reaching over 340km/h at times.
- Cold day and night temperatures in the wake of the cold front reached record levels in places, especially in WA on Wednesday 7th. Salmon Gums (half way between Norseman and Esperance) had its coldest November morning in 79 years of observations with -1.2°, the old record having stood since 1958. Ongerup had a record November low in 51 years of observations, and six other stations in the South West with shorter histories set new lows, all breaking records set on 2 November 2005. Perth's temperature got down to 8.0°, its coldest for November in eight years. The cold nights were not as severe in eastern states, but West Wyalong recorded an unusually low November maximum of 12.3° on the 7th, knocking 3.6° off the record, as rain and thick cloud behind the front kept the temperature down.
- In TAS, it was as if winter had returned with snow reported on the Central Highlands on Wednesday 7th and the temperature dropping to -2.9 at Liawenee the next morning. On Thursday, Scottsdale in the northeast recorded -0.5, its coldest November morning in 35 years while Launceston City's 0.4 was its coldest in 15 years. Farther north, wintry hail showers fell over southern VIC and Melbourne on Wednesday night and snow returned briefly to the Alps in both VIC and NSW. The Thursday Alpine minima were decidedly wintry with -5.9 at Thredbo Top Station, -5.4 at Mt Hotham and -5.0 at Falls Creek. A number of places across VIC and NSW had their coldest November morning in 12 years.
[BoM, Andrew Miskelly, ABC, SMH, Weatherzone]
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