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|Saturday 17 February 2018 Final
Cyclones to Australia's east and NW as Broome swamped again
Sat 17 Feb 2018
The tropical depression that has been wandering westward across the WA Kimberley since last Wednesday 14 February stalled near Broome on Friday. This gave the town and nearby area a record day's rain less than three weeks after another record rainy period which was also provided by a slow-moving tropical depression. The low then continued to move slowly and erratically between W and SW, and reached cyclone status today, christened Kelvin.
Broome Airport's 370.6mm to 9am today was decidedly its highest 24-hour February rainfall in nearly 130 years. The previous Airport record, in a history going back to 1939, was a measly 181.6 on 22 February 1991, while the record at the old Post Office station at Broome, which ran from 1889 to 1953 was a healthier 302.5 on 03 February 1932. West Roebuck, 11km NE of the town, had a remarkably close 370.0mm, its all-time highest in a nearly 20-year history. Adding insult to injury on Friday, Broome Airport also had its coldest February day since records began with a maximum of 25.3, 0.1 below the record set at the Post Office in 1902.
This comes less than three weeks after Broome had its second-highest January one-day fall (412.2mm) and its highest five-day total (697.2mm) in the combined Airport/Post Office record going back to 1889. To 21.00 on Saturday evening, Broome Airport had recorded 1420.6mm since the beginning of the year, 76.0mm below their heaviest full year's rainfall in the 129-year history of 1496.6 in 2000, and with nearly 10½ months of 2018 still to go. Broome's average rain for January and February combined is only 368.5 and the median is 299.3.
The huge, 1 to 2m deep inland sea that was left on the Roebuck Plains to the S and E of Broome at the end of January has been slowly draining away. However, Main Roads Regional Manager, Andrew Pyke, told ABC News "The Roebuck plains have already got 100 to 200mm over them now, and certainly the events we've had in the past 24 hours isn't helping. From a flooding perspective, it's a bit of a perfect storm. We've got a lot of water sitting on the Roebuck plains area now and a lot of water happened in the last 24-48 hours in the Broome area, and there is more water coming down with the passing of this cyclone. It is quite difficult."
The same ABC News article gives details and photos of the problems now being experienced in and around Broome, while this later article gives details of preparation for Tropical Cyclone Kelvin, which is expected to cross the coast east of Sandfire on Sunday morning. This BoM WA tweet explains the high-tech method used to record the huge volume of rain in the manual gauge this morning.
On the other side of the continent, Tropical Cyclone Gita passed south of New Caledonia on Saturday. It prompted hazardous surf warnings for the SE QLD and whole NSW coasts for both Sat and Sun. Gita looks in a similar mould to Fehi three weeks ago, but moved south of New Caledonia rather than taking Fehi's route down the long west coast, and on current forecast will pass well west of Norfolk Island rather than Fehi's pass close to the east. Fehi then passed across the SI of NZ, with wind gusts to over 160km/h, much rain and damage, so Kiwis must be watching ex-TC Gita's expected impact on NZ around Cook Strait closely.
|Friday 16 February 2018 Final
TC Fehi brings rain, floods to New Caledonia: Mon 29 Jan 2018: Tropical Cyclone Fehi swept down the west coast of New Caledonia on Monday 29 January, giving Nouméa 432mm in 24 hours, just 50mm shy of the amount the nation's capital normally receives over the whole four wet-season months of January to April. Rainfall was a little lighter in surrounding areas, but flooding caused bridge and road damage, with the worst affected areas Kouaoua, Houailou, Ponerihouen, Canala, Poindimie and Noumea.
Ex Tropical Cyclone Fehi swipes NZ: Fri 2 Feb 2018: The remains of Tropical Cyclone Fehi brought heavy rain, strong wind and thunderstorms to the South Island and southern parts of the North Island of New Zealand between 31 January and 2 February. Thousands had to be evacuated from the West and North Coasts of the South Island and the Taranaki area of the North Island. Severe weather also extended to eastern parts of the South Island, where parts of Dunedin were flooded. Roads were damaged or blocked by landslides, particularly on the South Island West Coast, while 6,500 properties suffered blackouts, some long-lasting. Queenstown and Westport airports were closed for several days and parts of the West Coast were isolated until 3 February.
This animation from MetService New Zealand summarises the event, including some of the extreme rainfall and wind values recorded. From Andrew Miskelly, this shows Fehi's transition from a Tropical Cyclone near New Caledonia on 29 January via a path that took it close to Norfolk Island to when its remains made a rather messy crossing of the South Island during 1 and 2 February. This shows one of the cyclone's centres taking a wander up the West Coast during 2 February. Radio NZ gave this detailed report and an audio report on the morning of 2 February. Reuters gave a good general report on 2 February with a follow-up on 3 February.
|Thursday 8 February 2018 Final
Widespread flooding caps miserable winter in Europe
Thu 8 Feb 2018
The first two months of winter have seen little sun and copious rain and snow across large parts of Europe. Most widely reported in the Australian press in the past few days has been the flooding of the Seine in Paris, but most countries in Europe have experienced what in Australia would be termed moderate to major flooding. Snow also has been widespread, but see later story.
The countries of Europe do not have a unified system of classifying floods, but it's possible to gauge their severity by comparing a river's current and possible maximum alert levels. So, for example, the Seine has only reached an alert level of 2 in the recent flooding, while the maximum alert level is 3. I'll call this 2 out of 3, or 2/3.
Using this shorthand, the countries affected by flooding or flash flooding in at least one river basin over the past three weeks have been: Belarus 2/2, Belgium 2/3, Bulgaria 1/3 and 1/2, Finland 3/3, France 2/3, Germany 3/3 and 4/4, Italy 2/3, Latvia 2/3, Lithuania 2/3, Poland 3/3, Slovenia 2/2, Switzerland 3/5 and 1/2, Ukraine 3/3, and the United Kingdom (Wales, parts of Scotland and SW, Central and E England) 2/3. The most widespread flooding has been in Bulgaria, France, Germany and Poland. Apart from Bulgaria, northern Poland and the Latorica River in Slovakia and Ukraine, river levels are now generally falling.
Seine rises 4m above normal as winter rain reaches Paris
Thu 8 Feb 2018
With France's mean January temperature over 3° above the norm (a record since readings started in 1900) and a procession of unstable weather fronts marching across the country, it was little surprise that rainfall totals for winter so far were pushed well above the norm. It was the highest national average for these two months in the 1959-2018 period. The winter gloom impressed itself on the citizens, too, with negligible sunshine† - Rouen, 110km NW of Paris recorded only 18 hours of it, a January record. [MétéoFrance]
The heaviest December-January rain across France fell in the Massif Central, the southeastern Alps and the NE with some totals exceeding 500mm. Paris itself had 95mm in December and 117mm in January, a two-month total of 212mm. This is about twice as much as normal and comes second only to the January 1935-36 total of 213mm. The heaviest flooding was on the Seine, Loing, Yonne, Marne, Meuse, Moselle, Rhône/Saône, and the Garonne Rivers and its tributaries in the SW as well as many smaller streams. What MétéoFrance described as "remarkable levels" were attained at Bergerac on the Dordogne on 22 January, the Loue in Ornans (Doubs) 23rd , the Saone in Macon (Saone-et-Loire) 30th and the Seine in Rouen (Seine-Maritime) on the 31st.
Heavy rain around and upstream of Paris during the last two weeks of January saw the Seine peak on the Paris-Austerlitz gauge at 5.85m on Monday 29 January, just below the 6.00m mark at which a flood in Paris is deemed major. This put water levels about 4m above normal and caused considerable disruption. Apart from the June 2016 flood, which reached 6.10m, it was the highest inundation since the notable January 1982 flood (6.18). However, these all seem insignificant compared to the damaging proportions of the major January 1924 flood (7.32m) and the great flood of January 1910† (and here†), which peaked at 8.62m. [MétéoFrance†]
The swollen Seine flooded streets and some buildings along its banks, caused almost 1,500 evacuations, inundated some Métro stations and caused damage in about 240 towns or suburbs. Here is a selection of media and blog coverage and comment on the event:
|Wednesday 7 February 2018 Final
FNQ rain eases Wed 7 Feb 2018 Updated Wed 7 Jan 2018 - Rain on the tropical Far North QLD coast eased and moved north in the 24 hours to 09.00 Wednesday, following the slow northward movement of the monsoon trough with its embedded low off the coast. The heaviest falls were around Mossman and in the Daintree with Reef Park, just south of Port Douglas, the highest on 175mm. This was its heaviest February fall in over 15 years' reporting.
With so much cloud and rain about, the FNQ coast north of Cairns was uncharacteristically cool today. Cooktown and Cape Flattery to its south both recorded top temperatures of 27.0, only two or three degrees above maxima recorded on the Granite Belt of SE QLD. The top of 27 at Cape Flattery was its lowest February maximum in a 15-year history.
|Tuesday 6 February 2018 Final
Heavy rain and floods in FNQ, but Townsville misses out
Tue 6 Feb 2018 Updated Updated Wed 7 Feb 2018
A southeasterly wind surge pushing slowly up the Far North QLD coast over the past two days has brought heavy rain and flooding between Tully and Cairns.
The surge, related to a small low that developed in the monsoon trough off the Far North QLD coast on Tuesday, brought showers that were slow-moving and at times stationary, dumping their moisture in the one area for hours at a time. For example, between 150-220mm was recorded in a number of gauges in 6 hours to 05.00 Monday. Rainfall maps for the 24 hours to 09.00 Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from the BoM show the gradual northward movement of the system.
Minor flooding occurred from the Tully to the Barron catchments, with some streams between Innisfail and Gordonvale briefly peaking into moderate range. The heaviest rain over the two days ended 09.00 Tuesday fell SW of Innisfail, where Menavale Alert gauge recorded 527mm and nearby Japoonvale Alert 576. However, 503mm of Japoonvale's rain fell in 24 hours to 21.00 on Monday, neatly straddling the BoM's standard 24-hour daily reading period of 09.00 to 09.00. No wonder the nearby Paronella Park falls and river were in full spate.
Sadly, only 200km down the coast from this aquatic bounty, the unofficial capital of north QLD, Townsville, missed out almost completely with only 18.2mm to clean out the dust in the airport raingauge. The city has recorded only 166.6mm in the first half (November to January) of its wet season compared to its average of 466.1. By a quirk of coastal geography, the city of nearly 200,000 suffers almost uniquely wide swings in its rainfall for a tropical wet climate.
|Sunday 4 February 2018 Final
Floods and record rain in WA Kimberley and NT Top End
Thu 1 Feb 2018
A particularly active phase of the Australian Monsoon in late January has flooded and isolated an area of the WA Kimberley twice the size of Victoria and brought flooding, evacuations and damage across the NT Top End.
In the last week of January, the Australian Monsoon trough lay from the WA Kimberley though the NT Top End to Cape York. From late Friday 26 January, tropical depressions began to form in the East and West Kimberley, and by late on Sunday 28th had coalesced into a deepening depression near Broome WA. This depression remained near Broome with a central pressure dropping as low as 985hPa until late Tuesday 30th , when it moved away to the SW and weakened.
|Rainfall for the week to 9am Wednesday 31 January. There were falls over 700mm in both the WA Kimberley and the NW Top End of the NT, with some amounts over 600mm on Cape York Peninsula, QLD, thanks to the presence of the active monsoon trough. BoM
In Western Australia, Broome and its immediate vicinity had the worst of the weather, with 412.2mm falling steadily over the 24 hours to 9am on the Tuesday 30th as the nearby low pulled abundant moisture in from the Indian Ocean. As a daily total, this came second only to the 476.6mm on 30 January 1997 in a rainfall record going back to 1889. However, the WA BoM noted on Facebook that "Broome has recorded 697.2mm in the past 5 days which is the highest 5-day total on record going back to 1889. The previous highest 5-day total was 667.4mm in 1978. Broome also received their highest monthly rainfall on record with 942.2mm!"
This extraordinary ABC video taken from a high-range 4WD on the Great Northern Highway south of Broome gives a good feel for conditions after the torrential rain of 29/30 January. This YouTube compilation* by Posty Broome gives an idea of conditions in Broome. Despite the rain, barometer readings down to 985hPa and wind gusting to 102km/h at Broome Airport late Monday evening, the Bureau did not issue a Cyclone Warning because, although it had all the appearance of a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone, it actually wasn't one. It was a tropical low, over land in the monsoon trough, and didn't have the sustained winds of at least 120km/h required to reach cyclone status. The BoM's Steph Bond explained the distinction in this ABC article, which also detailed the damage wrought in Broome, and pointed out politely that perhaps people should listen to the Bureau's Severe Weather Warnings more closely.
The rain in WA's north follows hard on the heels of heavy falls from Tropical Cyclone Joyce around 11 January and TC Hilda just after Christmas. These three events, with other good falls from monsoonal showers and thunderstorms, are making life difficult for pastoralists at present. But they follow on from a poor wet season so far, and set up the country for continued good conditions, as described by ABC Rural WA.
Meanwhile, in the Northern Territory, the heaviest rainfall and worst flooding was in the NW of the Top End and particularly in the Daly River catchment. By early Wednesday 31 January, the river in Daly River township had reached 3.5m above major flood level after 252mm was recorded there in the 24 hours to 09.00 Tuesday 30th . Some 380 residents, more than half the population, either self-evacuated or were evacuated by helicopter and bus.
Coming after a half-hearted start to the wet season, the heavy rain was welcomed by pastoralists [ABC Rural NT], with a number of cattle stations getting record January falls, including Wave Hill with 445mm, Tanumbirini 597mm and Labelle Downs 1,138.0mm (January average 390.9). The Darwin area also had heavy January totals, helped by fierce storms on Monday 29 January. Some of the highest were Darwin River Dam 955.8 (average 364.8), Edith Valley, 30km SE of Darwin, 991.2 (388.1), nearby Humpty Doo 1204.8 (446.6), and other locations near Darwin and Batchelor that exceeded 900mm.
As often happens, there were a number of very readable stories to come out of the event:
Most Australians never experience the intrigue, drama and majesty that is the Australian Monsoon. This is it, encapsulated in one stunning photo by Jacci Ingham.
[Thanks also to Floodlist, Oz Cyclone Chasers.]