Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012/13 Tropical Cyclone Season Underway - The 2012/2013 tropical cyclone season has been a busy one and has not yet reached the peak of the season.
Two strong depressions and two severe tropical cyclones have brought destruction and, sadly, some deaths to the South Pacific. A third cyclone has narrowly missed the Samoas. With average or slightly below average rainfall through the spring months of September and October, some countries and territories in the region were looking for rain to boost drinking supplies and help farmers with their crops.
Their prayers were answered in November, especially during the latter weeks, when rainfall picked up over Melanesia and the first tropical system developed west of Rotuma near northern Vanuatu around the 20th. This event coincided with a burst of weather across the western South Pacific that brought some welcome rains to Papua New Guinea, Solomons and Tuvalu, and parts of Fiji.
This system ultimately became Tropical Depression 02F and, while not quite making it to tropical cyclone status, it did move along the Vanuatu archipelago bringing locally heavy rain with only minor impacts, mostly flash flooding. After TD02F things went quiet again for a few weeks, however, by the end of the first week of December, it was evident there was going to be a flurry of activity as the first Madden Julian Oscillation wave passed into the Pacific and spawned Tropical Cyclones Evan and Freda.
Both of these systems reached Category 4 intensity, i.e. a Severe Tropical Cyclone, and both affected land areas. Of the two, Evan was the most destructive, as it moved across Samoa, Wallis and Futuna islands, and finally Fiji, causing millions of dollars damage and, sadly, in Samoa, the loss of several lives.
The impacts of Severe TC Evan will be felt for many years in Fiji and Samoa, with damage to houses, infrastructure, crops and businesses totaling many millions of dollars and several thousand people left homeless and without income or jobs. The economic impacts of cyclones can be long lasting and severe, and mitigating these losses is a major focus of attention right now in Pacific Island Countries.
With the season less than half over, there is still the prospect of much more activity. February is the month with the highest incidence of tropical cyclone formation in the Pacific region and signs of increased activity are evident for the second half of January. There are still three and a half months left of the season and they are likely to experience the 9 named cyclones predicted for this region in that time. It is also expected that, with two cyclones already reaching Category 4 intensity, the forecast of three severe cyclones is likely to be exceeded.
All Pacific islanders need to remain alert to the threat of heavy rain and destructive winds during tropical cyclones. Those most vulnerable to the impacts of cyclones, especially those in small craft such as fishermen or ferry operators between small islands, MUST take heed of warnings such as small boat advisories well before a cyclone is due to hit land. Regrettably many who lost their lives during TC Evan were operating small craft when warnings for hazardous weather had been issued.

**Every man must decide
whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism
or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.**
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Volcano activity of January 22

Philippines - 10 volcanic quakes rock Taal Volcano. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Tuesday the seismic activity of Taal Volcano in Batangas province had increased in the past 24 hours.

Papua New Guinea - Rabaul's volcano rumbles back into life. Mount Tavurvur is sending plumes of ash into the sky and forcing flights to be suspended. People living near Mount Tavurvur, in East New Britain province, heard the volcano on Saturday night. Daybreak revealed large plumes of white ash. Mt Tavurvur is the most well known volcano in Rabaul caldera. In 1937, Tavurvur and another nearby volcano, Vulcan, erupted, killing 507 people.
Papua New Guinea's Madang province ill-prepared for volcano threat - In Papua New Guinea there are concerns that the disaster office in Madang Province is ill-equipped to respond to emergency situations. The issue was raised after the Manam volcano began to spew ash, blanketing the island's south-eastern villages. Islanders remain on alert as fears are raised that a funding shortfall means the regional disaster office won't be able to respond quickly to an emergency if one occurs.

Copahue volcano (Chile / Argentina) - Seismic swarm increases likelihood of new eruptions. Seismic activity increased significantly on January 22. No eruptive activity at the surface has occurred so far, and the official alert level of the volcano remains at "Yellow", but with "Special Attention" (corresponding to "orange" in our classification).
Until 09:56 local time (12:56 GMT) on 22 Jan, seismic activity had remained at low levels, both in occurrence of earthquakes, the energy released and the signal intensity of tremor associated with fluid movements inside the volcano. Then, at that time, there was a significant long-period (LP) earthquake and 3 hours later, shallow lower amplitude events started to occur.
At 13:20 local time, another LP earthquake of relatively strong intensity occurred and was followed by a seismic swarm with mostly long period events that continued for 20 minutes. No surface changes, no glow, and no thermal hot spot on MODIS data accompany this process for the time being, but there is an elevated possibility of new eruptions, expected to be of small phreatic size and similar to the ones in the past months. Monitoring of the volcano will be increased.

New type of underwater volcano discovered - New Zealand and British scientists have discovered a new type of underwater volcano that emits lava that resembles a mass of foam and rises slowly to the surface of the sea. Geologists are now calling this entirely new kind of volcanic eruption wiith globs of floating molten foam a 'tangaroan' eruption.

In the Indian Ocean -
- Tropical Cyclone Garry was located approximately 210 nm east-northeast of Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Tropical Cyclone Peta was located approximately 180 nm east of Learmonth, Australia. Peta is forecast to track southwest and stay over land, weakening below warning threshold due to the land interaction. The remnants will continue to move west-southwestward tracking close to Learmonth, Australia but winds will be weak (15-20 knots) due to the continued land interaction and an increase in vertical wind shear. This is the final warning on this system. It will be closely watched for signs of regeneration.

Peta brings heavy rain to the Pilbara - ASTONISHING rainfall in the Pilbara region of Western Australia has doubled the water in one of the state's dams in just 24 hours. Ex-Tropical Cyclone Peta and associated weather have dumped more than 28 gigalitres of water into the Harding Dam since Wednesday morning, elevating the dam's storage level from under 40 per cent to 80 per cent in just one day.
The category one cyclone weakened rapidly after crossing the Pilbara coast to the east of Point Samson at around 4pm (WST) on Wednesday. But the weakening front still brought huge rains, with Coolawanyah received 178mm, Wittenoom 122mm, Mount Florance 200mm and Hooley an INCREDIBLE 262mm in 24 hours.
Ex-Tropical Cyclone Peta is now lying in the inland central parts of the Pilbara and will move slowly westwards as it weakens. Thunderstorms and heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, are still forecast for parts of the Pilbara. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned people in the Fortescue River catchment to prepare for possible minor flooding expected on Thursday and Friday. Sections of the Nanutarra-Munjina Road and the North West Coastal Highway are closed.
Very brief life of Tropical Cyclone Peta - Infrared data from NASA's Aqua satellite has shown that soon after a low pressure system in northwestern West Australia became Tropical Storm Peta, it made landfall and started to fall apart. Peta struck Australia at about 06:00 GMT on 23 January.

Quick Birth & Death of Tropical Cyclone Oswald - Oswald formed on Monday (Jan. 21) in the Gulf of Carpentaria off the west coast of Australia's Cape York Peninsula. By the following day, it had already made landfall over the southwestern portion of the peninsula.
Ex-cyclone Oswald heads south with heavy rain tipped for long weekend - Ex-Cyclone Oswald is sweeping down Australia's Queensland coast, bringing rain to parched cane fields but closing dozens of roads and national parks.
Torrential rain has lashed north Queensland, with Ingham, Halifax and Tully and parts of Townsville suffering some flooding. The Mackay to Gladstone region was copping the brunt of rain today, with Samuel Hill north of Yeppoon recording 148mm in six hours. Rockhampton had 79mm, Carmila to the north 73mm and Gladstone to the south, 58mm in the same period.
The monsoon low will start impacting on Brisbane tomorrow, with scattered showers and rain. The southeast could rack up about 300mm in the period running up to Monday, potentially causing flash flooding and wiping out Australia Day weekend events. "That's a cumulative total over four days and you'd have to get the full whammy to get that much."
There has been more than 600mm of rain in Tully in the last 48 hours, and the north is preparing for even more rain over the coming days from ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald. Showers will increase to rain on Saturday, with falls to 100mm in some parts. This will increase further on Sunday, with falls ranging from 100mm to 150mm.
The weather system was expected to swing offshore about Bundaberg and there was a low chance that it might re-form into a cyclone. "It's definitely given almost the entire east coast a good progressive soaking." Police have spotted at least two crocodiles walking on roads in flood-cut Ingham as ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald moves south producing torrential rain and a FREAK TORNADO (water spout) with up to 140km/hr winds whipped up off Hay Point, near Mackay. Police warn the croc sightings are a reminder the flood dangers are not just from flash flooding and fast-flowing waters on closed roads.
Homes across Cairns were left without power as the north was buffeted by MONSTER 4m seas and wild winds up to 90km/hr overnight. Some foolhardy surfers braved stingers and a pounding on-shore swell to try to catch some waves in the FREAK CONDITIONS.
Ingham is completely cut-off north and south while the Bruce Highway is also cut near Proserpine as Mackay and the Whitsundays recorded heavy rainfall under the tropical monsoon system. Up to 5pm yesterday, the township of Scherger on Cape York received nearly 370mm in 24 hours and the RECORD-BREAKING LOW has seen Weipa Airport collect its HIGHEST DAILY RAINFALL TOTAL IN 41 YEARS, with 327.8mm. Coastal towns and cities between Cooktown, on Cape York Peninsula, south to Mackay are on flood alert. The Bruce Highway has been cut in several places. The SES has fielded 75 calls for assistance with fallen trees and leaky roofs across central and north Queensland under the wild weather.
In a crazy week for Queensland weather, the bureau has issued warnings ranging from cyclones, to fire danger, extreme heat, floods and dangerous winds. Forecasters expect a severe to extreme fire danger in a huge slab of country running from the northwest of the state to the far southwest. The region is struggling with temperatures to 45C, humidity down to 10 per cent and winds to 50km/hr.
"Despite the heavy rain currently impacting parts of northern Queensland at this time, it is anticipated western areas of the state will experience high temperatures and strong winds in coming days, conditions that make it difficult to contain fires that flare up. Extreme to severe fire conditions are forecast." The news comes as the National Climate Centre's outlook for February to April is for as little as a 40 per cent chance of receiving above average rain for the southern and southeast-NSW border region but better odds for the north.
Meanwhile, north Queensland's big wet is being blamed for the death of a motorist, killed as wild weather lashed Proserpine. Queensland Rail has closed the rail link between Cairns and Townsville as authorities warn of flash flooding. Residents in flood-prone Ingham have been warned to stock up on supplies with the Herbert River rising rapidly and expected to peak at 11m, with nearly 200mm of rain dumped on the town in three hours.
Almost all of the state's reef-going tourist operators have cancelled trips, for the first time since category-five Cyclone Yasi two years ago, because of thunderstorms and gale-force winds up to 90km/hr with 4m-high seas. Cairns, Townsville and Whitsundays ports were a hive of activity as crews tied off cruise ships, dive boats and yachts yesterday.
The Bruce Highway remains cut north of Ingham and south of Tully with the road underwater in spots after huge combined fall totals of nearly 1000mm in three days with a 300m long convoy of trucks, cars and scores of stranded travellers at Cardwell. (map & photos)
Heavy rain set to hit New South Wales north coast. - Residents along NSW's north coast have been warned to prepare for heavy rain and potential flooding over the weekend, while big seas are forecast for the state's south. The Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday issued a flood watch as the tropical low moves south from Queensland, bringing with it severe wet weather.
The heavy rain is expected to hit areas between the Queensland border and Port Macquarie, including the northern rivers, mid north coast and eastern parts of the northern tablelands, on Sunday and Monday. Gale force winds and damaging surf are forecast. "Rivers, creeks and streams can rise quickly during storms so it's important, particularly for campers, to be aware of the conditions and move to higher ground if bad weather sets in."
The Bureau also issued a strong wind warning for the parts of the state's far south coast thanks to a strengthening high pressure system over the Tasman Sea. Winds of up to 55km/h are expected overnight, with combined sea and swell of up to three metres on waters between Green Cape and Gabo Island.

[TODAY'S UPDATE CONTINUES BELOW. Some kind of publishing glitch divided it into two sections.]