Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

Ocean Temperatures and Typhoon Haiyan

A remarkable warming of the sub-surface Pacific waters east of the Philippines in recent decades, due to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns and ocean currents that began in the early 1990s, could be responsible for the rapid intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Hurricanes are heat engines, which means they take heat energy out of the ocean, and convert it to kinetic energy in the form of wind.

It’s well-known that tropical cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) to maintain themselves, and that the warmer the water, and the deeper the warm water is, the stronger the storm can get. Deep warm water is important, since as a tropical cyclone tracks over the ocean, it stirs up cooler water from the depths, potentially reducing the intensity of the storm.

When both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita exploded into Category 5 hurricanes as they crossed over a warm eddy in the Gulf of Mexico with a lot of deep, warm water, the concept of the total heat energy available to fuel a hurricane – the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP) – became one that gained wide recognition. The Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines has the largest area of deep, warm water of anywhere on Earth, and these waters have historically fueled the highest incidence of Category 5 storms of anywhere on the planet.

Super Typhoon Haiyan tracked over surface waters that were of near-average warmth, 29.5 – 30.5°C (85 – 87°F.) However, the waters at a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) beneath Haiyan during its rapid intensification phase were a huge 4 – 5°C (7 – 9°F) above average. As the typhoon stirred this UNUSUALLY WARM WATER to the surface, the storm was able to feed off the heat, allowing Haiyan to intensify into one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed.

The warm-up is due to an increase in the surface winds blowing across the region – the trade winds – which have caused a southward migration and strengthening of the North Equatorial Current (NEC) and the North Equatorial Counter Current (NECC). The strong trade winds have pushed a large amount of water up against the east coast of the Philippines in the past twenty years, resulting in a rate of sea level rise of 10 mm per year – more than triple the global average of 3.1 mm/yr.

This extra sea level rise contributed to the storm surge damage from Super Typhoon Haiyan. Sea level rise data from Legaspi in the Eastern Philippines shows a rise of about 305 mm (12 inches) since 1949. For comparison, global average sea level rose 7.5″ (190 mm) since 1901. Part of the rise along the eastern Philippine coast is from tectonic processes – the subsidence of the Philippine plate under the Eurasian plate – but most of it is due to the stronger trade winds piling up warm water along the coast, and the fact that warmer waters expand, raising sea level.

There may also be a greater chance of super typhoons and higher storm surges affecting the Philippines, due to the warmer sub-surface waters and re-arranged ocean currents.

Drought

Drought – Indonesia

Drought damages rice crops. This year’s drought has taken a toll on rice crops as hundreds of hectares of paddy fields in 13 districts in Cirebon regency, West Java, have been damaged.

Australia

The continuing drought is making the planting of sorghum a struggle. Continued dry conditions in cropping areas of Queensland and northern New South Wales have prevented farmers getting sorghum crops planted.

Texas, USA

Experts fear the drought in Texas is hurting monarch butterfly migration – Fewer monarch butterflies could be flying through Texas while migrating to Mexico due to the lingering drought and lack of food along their migration path.

Disease

Cholera in Mexico – update

The Ministry of Health in Mexico has reported an additional four cases of infection with Vibrio cholerae O1 Ogawa. Of these, two are from the state of Hidalgo and two from the state of Veracruz.

New ‘H6N1’ Bird Flu Reported in Taiwan

nA 20-year-old woman in Taiwan is the first person known to be infected with a strain of bird flu called H6N1, according to a latest report.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity:

Santa María / Santiaguito (Guatemala): Activity has been elevated. The effusion rate of the Caliente dome is high enough to produce constant block avalanches from the eastern rim. Explosive activity has been weak with ash plumes reaching 500-700 m height drifting into southerly directions.

Pacaya (Guatemala): Strombolian activity from the Mackenney crater continued during the past days with fluctuating intensity. Ejections of bombs reached about 50 m above the crater yesterday, INSIVUMEH reports.

Fuego (Guatemala): A new lava flow towards the Taniluya canyon (S side) started on 11 Nov and reached a length of 500 m this morning. Explosive activity at the summit has remained stable with occasional weak to moderate explosions ejecting ash plumes to up to 700 m height and producing sometimes loud shock waves.