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|Thursday 22 February 2018 Final
Snow, floods make for miserable winter in France
Sun 11 Feb 2018
France's weather has been bleaker, warmer, wetter and considerably snowier than usual this winter. Météo France reported† that the national average temperature for January was over 3° above average, the highest on record for the month, while for all except the far south and west of the country there were record, or close-to-record, low amounts of sunshine.
A procession of active fronts and storms moving across France has kept cloud and rainfall amounts high, but while that's brought flooding to lower areas, in the mountains it has meant very deep snow, though as this Météo France post explained† it's not quite that simple. Météo France also gave a good summary† of the meteorology behind the unusual winter.
While at lower levels, including on the Seine and in Paris, there has been widespread flooding, the rain that brought the flooding has fallen as snow higher up. In most of France's mountain areas, the snow now extends down to 400-900m while above 1,500m snow depths have been measured between 1.5 and 4.3m. However, different weather patterns in each area have resulted in considerable variations, as Météo France reported† on 16 February. Some depths have been close to the greatest on record. Heavy snow - and avalanche - problems continued, like this on 20 February in the Pyrénées† [La Dépêche]. You'll find some spectacular photos of the Pyrénées currently on the Météo Pyrénées Twitter site†.
On 5-7 February, heavy lowland snow fell in an area from the Loire Valley through Paris to the Aisne, NE of the capital as shown on Météo France radar†. Parisians would have been well prepared, having seen Météo France warnings like this†, carried on Actu.fr. Fifteen centimetres of snow lay on the ground at Orly Airport at 06.00 on 7 February, a depth only reached every 20 to 25 years, while 12cm was measured near central Paris at Montsouris, about a 1 in 10 year occurrence. Snow depths reportedly reached 20cm in some suburbs, and Charles de Gaulle Airport looked like this. [SWE]
Traffic was chaotic around and especially to the south of the city, with a record 740km of traffic jams on the night of 6 February. About 2,000 people were stranded in deep snow on the N118 south of Paris and had to be rescued. On the A1 Autoroute to the north, France's busiest autoroute, a 30km line of trucks were immobilised in the two left lanes heading towards Paris. Some rail and tram lines shut down and almost all bus services stopped, resulting in Montparnasse and Austerlitz railway stations and 46 other shelters being opened to stranded people. [Guardian, SWE, ABC News, Reuters]
Frigid conditions set in after the snow. Overnight 7/8 February, Orgerus, 50km W of Paris, recorded a minimum temperature of -13.7° while many other centres fell below -10°. The following night was even colder, the coldest in France so far this winter, with Paris recording -4°. Then snow once again moved in on 9 February with between 3 and 7cm new snow across the central northern half of France, including Paris.
It took until 11 February to clear streets of snow and ice, and restore normality to Paris. During the snow, the Eiffel Tower was closed, many Parisians enjoyed skiing the streets and photographers found a new beauty in a quiet city. [Jaakko Nuutinen]
Guatamala and Honduras badly hit by flooding
Fri 2 Feb 2018
The adjoining Central American countries of Guatemala and Honduras were hit by heavy rain and widespread flooding as a cold front crossed the area at the beginning of February. In Guatemala, where heavy rain has been causing problems since last September, national authorities reported that over 26,000 people were affected, with 510 evacuated and 2 missing. In Honduras, the cold airmass brought heavy rain to the Caribbean coast, mostly around the municipality of Omoa.
In Guatemala, 62 communities were flooded after tropical storm Selma delivered at least 250mm last October, causing over 1,000 evacuations, wiping out crops and contaminating artesian wells. Families in these communities were replanting crops on borrowed money when the latest heavy rain occurred. [Red Cross]
Major floods in Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay
Fri 2 Feb 2018
Heavy rain fell in central and southern Bolivia and northern Argentina in the week before 5 February. In Bolivia, six people died, over 100 homes and 120sq km of crops were damaged, hundreds of people were evacuated and over 50,000 affected by flooding of the Rocha, Ibare, Tupiza and Mamone Rivers. Yacuiba, on the Bolivia/Argentina border, recorded 24-hourly falls of 98.2mm to 26 January, 194.2 to 28 January (a record) and 48.2 to 31 January. This is the middle of the wet season, when Yacuiba normally receives 217mm for the whole month of January but not usually with such intensity. The rain and flooding were accompanied by storms, hail and landslides.
Neighbouring Argentina and Paraguay were also affected by rain, but mostly by floodwater moving down-river from Bolivia. In Argentina, there was one death and 10,000 people were evacuated when the Pilcomayo River flooded. ECHO's map shows the area affected, Floodlist gives a good summary of the event in Bolivia, while Al Jazeera ran a story on the event on 4 February with a video follow-up of the situation in Argentina on 9 February.
|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: