By Andrew Freedman
(Originally published on Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang)
In a year marked by a relentless assault of extreme weather, several events stand out. Some, like the tornado that leveled Joplin, Missouri on May 22. were extraordinarily devastating and deadly. Others — such as the “Snowtober” storm that buried the Northeast under a crushing load of heavy, wet snow — were downright freakish. In a typical weather year, one might expect a few extreme events like these.
But this was no ordinary year. At times it seemed as if Mother Nature was on steroids, slamming Americans with one deadly event after another (a good case can be made that Mother Nature is, in fact, on steroids, thanks to global warming). Consider this: according to NOAA, there were at least 12 events that cost a billion dollars or more, an all-time record (there were 14 such events by other measures). More than 1,000 people died from weather-related causes this year, most of them from tornadoes, and more than 8,000 people were injured, according to the National Weather Service.
Here are the top 5 extreme weather events of 2011 . . . (read more at Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog)
And for a look at the Top 10 hardest-hit states — topped by Texas, Alabama and Missouri — read Climate Central’s report from earlier this month.
With the end of the year less than a week away, some noteworthy climate statistics are trickling in to the Climate Central newsroom. First up, the worst one-year drought in the history of Texas may help the Lone Star State set a milestone for the warmest and driest year on record there. Through the end of November, the state was on track to set both those marks, so we'll see if recent rain and snow have put these records just out of reach when the final numbers are calculated.
Precipitation departures from normal during 2011 (through December 27). Credit: NOAA.
Climate change projections show that droughts may become more frequent and intense in the Southwest U.S., although this year's drought is thought to have been triggered mainly by La Nina. Some scientists, including the Texas state climatologist, have said the record warmth is likely partly due to global warming.
While Texas and other parts of the Southwest and Southern Plains were parched this year, other areas of the country suffered from a surplus of water. In fact, this year the U.S. saw an unprecedented area affected by extreme drought and unusually wet extremes. For example, in Vermont, Montpelier and Saint Johnsbury have broken their yearly precipitation records, and Burlington only needs 0.15 more inches of precipitation to set a record.
Thanks to a combination of La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean and the positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation, the big cities in the Northeast have had a remarkably snowless and mild start to the 2011/12 winter. No snow fell this m...
A deadly blizzard is winding down today in the Plains states after dropping up to two feet of snow, with drifts several feet higher than that, in portions of New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas. Drought-busting precipitation fell in Texas and Oklahoma, two states that have been stricken with the worst one-year drought on record.
According to the National Weather Service, the storm is being blamed for at least six deaths, and motorists had to be rescued from their cars in the Texas panhandle after they became stuck in the wind-driven snow.
The Weather Channel has an online gallery that shows just what a wind-driven snowstorm in this part of the country looks like (hint: snow drifts upwards of 10 feet tall). You can graphically explore snow and wind reports by going to this handy National Weather Service site. Some reported snow totals include 12 inches in Scott City, Kansas, 15 inches in Springfield, Colorado, and two feet in Pietown, New Mexico (yes, that is a real town).
Tropical Storm Washi Becomes 2011's Deadliest Storm
Tropical Storm Washi, which caused flash flooding on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines over the weekend, has become the deadliest weather event of 2011, with a death toll at 1,000 and rising, according to news reports. As I wrote yesterday, although the Philippines are frequently struck by tropical storms and hurricanes (known as typhoons there), Mindanao is far enough south to escape most of the destructive...
The death toll from Tropical Storm Washi, which struck the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines over the weekend, has reached at least 900 and climbing. The storm may soon become the deadliest storm of 2011, beating out flash floods in Brazil in January.
Although the Philippines overall is a country that is no stranger to tropical cyclones, these storms typically bypass the southernmost areas, which means that Washi struck a relatively unprepared population.
Washi made landfall on Saturday night as a minimal tropical storm with 45 mph winds, but it was embedded within a massive plume of tropical moisture that contributed to heavy rainfall on the island that lasted for as long as 100 hours. The flash flooding that resulted swept people from their homes, leaving destroyed communities in their wake. As the New York Times reports:
In neighborhoods throughout the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, similar stories could be heard: Flash floods caused by Tropical Storm Washi surged into the homes of sleeping families, and hundreds were drowned or dragged to their deaths by the currents.
The storm hit an area in the Philippines that is not accustomed to tropical storms and typhoons, since such storms typically form and make landfall to the north of the island of Mindanao. This unfamiliarity with such storms heightened the risks of a mass casualty event.
Over at Weather Underground, Jeff M...
If a new PC or hard drive is on your holiday wish list, you may be in for a rude surprise: supplies are running low and prices have skyrocketed, all because of an extreme weather event that took place halfway around the world.
One wouldn’t normally think of the weather as a key factor governing supplies of electronic equipment. This isn’t cotton or rice that we’re talking about; it’s high-tech equipment that’s manufactured indoors, in climate-controlled facilities. Nevertheless, even typically non-weather sensitive businesses can become victims of extreme events like heavy rainfall, which is becoming more frequent and intense due to global warming.
The flooded Pakkret area in Bangkok, Thailand on October 13, 2011. Flickr/Philip Roeland.
During the fall, massive flooding in Thailand inundated the factories of some of the world’s leading hard-drive manufacturers, such as Western Digital. According to the Wall Street Journal, 40 percent of all hard drives on the market are built in Thailand. And as the Global Post reports today, many of the factories are situated in the same industrial zone that sits in a floodplain north of Bangkok. "The pungent waters, which shut down more than 800 factories employing roughly 450,000 workers, are now struggling to repair or replace equipment left soaking for weeks,” the Post reports, quoting the CEO of Hana Electronics as saying:
“Frankly speaking, we’ve realized with hindsight that we’re in the wrong place... We’re in a flood zone."
The flooding, which forced the evacuation of large parts of densel...