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Dozens dead in at least six separate billion-dollar disasters as weather runs riot in North America
The United States has had abominable weather since late last year, with waves of flooding rain in California, very heavy snowfalls in western and central areas through winter and well into spring, floods to record levels in the Mississippi River basin as well as widespreading flooding elsewhere, storms producing a record number of early-season tornadoes, heavy spring snow in the northeast, and heat and wildfires in the south. Final figures are not yet known, but it is likely there have been at least six weather events that will result in insurance bills over $1US billion dollars apiece [Weather Underground].
Bob Henson and Jeff Masters at Category 6 write consistently detailed, straightforward accounts of weather events. For a taste of the wild weather the US has been experiencing, have a look at their blogs so far in May:
Sprawling Central US storm takes at least 15 lives over 5 states, producing torrential rain and flooding, deadly lightning, downburst winds, and at least two strong tornadoes.
Billion-dollar cyclone: the human element in this week's US floods gives a follow-up to this storm, and tracks it through the NE US and into Canada. The "human element" in the title is not about the thousands of wrecked lives, but about the changes brought about by humans that have intensified already dangerous events. The flooding in the Mississippi, for example, has been strangely abnormal with higher flood levels being produced by less rain, a likely result of changes to river shapes and more extreme rainfall events brought on by climate change.
US sloshes through a rain-drenched April looks at the extraordinary climatic extremes produced in April alone across the 48 contiguous United States. Only one April has been wetter, nationwide, since 1895 yet only one state, North Carolina, had its wettest on record. Only one January to April period has been hotter than 1895 and, while April was a record hot month in ten eastern states, it has brought massive flooding to some and drought and devastating wildfires to others.
Huge hail pummels Denver describes just one of many large hail events that have accompanied storms and puts it into context. Tornadoes get all the news, but hail can be more destructive - and expensive. Texas has had more than double the number of insurance claims for hail than any other US state, with nearly 400,000 in 2013 - 2015. The Denver hailstorm on Monday 8 May produced hail up to 7cm in diameter and turned the ground white, so a large bill is expected. Weather Underground and Accuweather accompany their stories with good video and photos, while this resident could only watch from the safety of his house as golfball-sized hail shredded his tree, left divots in his lawn and smashed his car windscreen.
In a lengthening list of early, late, record or downright odd out-of-season weather events this year [Weather Underground], Adrian became the Earliest Eastern Pacific Tropical Storm on record when it formed on Tuesday 9 May. Dr Jeff Masters suspects that the "hurricane season will start earlier and end later in coming decades, due to warming of the oceans allowing more storms to form when ocean temperatures are marginal for tropical cyclone formation." At the same time, a severe blizzard in Kansas was covering wheat farms with 15 to 60cm of snow during a crucial boot period when wheat can't handle cold conditions. [ABC Rural]
And in case you think Canada has been left out, widespread flooding has followed heavy rain in Ontario and Quebec, the second-most populated province, lasting over a week in some areas. A man has died and a 2-year-old child is missing and nearly 1,900 residents across 126 municipalities have had to leave their homes. A report on 6 May said 2,429 homes were flooded, 1,520 people evacuated and 427 roads closed, but the situation has grown worse since then. Over 1,600 troops and 250,000 sandbags are working on rescues and trying to keep water from entering houses. Quebec's Environmental Minister, David Heurtel, said officials haven't seen water levels this high in 55 years. [Al Jazeera, video] [FloodList] [WeatherNation] [Reuters] [Accuweather].
On the other side of Canada, heavy rain has combined with warm temperatures and strong snow melt to cause flooding and mudslides in the south of British Columbia. [FloodList].
Australian weather briefs
- Brisbane had its coolest May day since 1980 yesterday with the mercury only rising to 17.9°. An upper level trough brought cloud into central and southeastern parts of Queensland, keeping temperatures low and also bringing heavy rain for May into an area from Bundaberg to north of Rockhampton and west into the Central Highlands. There were many 24-hour totals to 09.00 yesterday between 30 and 50mm and some in the 50 to 85mm range.
- Speaking of wet, the BoM gives a good summary of the northern wet season just finished in its Weekly Tropical Climate Note just issed. The main points are here. Meanwhile, the dry season is in full swing, with Darwin's humidity sitting in the region of 20% in the past two days thanks to dry southeasterlies blowing off the interior.