In our last article I finished our global look back at 2012 weather worldwide by discussing the record-low Arctic sea ice extent last September. Moving on to October, far and away the biggest weather story of that month was Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, which ended up causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Tropical depression 18 formed on Oct. 22 over the Caribbean Sea. Conditions were favourable for the development of this tropical depression and by Oct. 23 the storm was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy. By Oct. 24 the storm had intensified further and was now a hurricane. As the hurricane moved northward over Jamaica, forecasters were already talking about the possible impacts it might have on the eastern seaboard in about a week’s time.
On Oct. 25 Sandy crossed over Cuba, losing some of her strength before intensifying back into a Category 2 hurricane. By Oct. 26 Sandy was feeling the effects of strong wind shear, which was trying to pull the storm apart. While the wind shear did weaken the storm it also helped to stretch out its wind field, resulting in a much larger storm. Forecasters were no longer wondering if the storm would hit the U.S. East Coast, but were now trying to figure out where it would hit. By Oct. 28 Sandy had grown to record size, with 12-foot-high seas covering an area of over 1,600 kilometres in diameter. By the 29th that area had grown to over 2,500 km in diameter. High wind warnings directly tied to Sandy were issued as far north as northern Michigan and as far south as Lake Okeechobee in Florida. By late in the day, all-time record-low air pressure readings were recorded at seven different locations, with five more cities coming within a couple of millibars of their records. Overnight, from Oct. 29 to 30, Superstorm Sandy came ashore in New Jersey, bringing a devastating storm surge resulting in tens of billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
It seems as though after all the weather that happened during October, the Earth’s atmosphere took a bit of a break during November. Looking through dozens of weather articles I was not able to find any significant weather events during that month.
December was a little more active, as Super Typhoon Bopha (equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane) hit the Philippine island of Mindanao on Dec. 4. This was the strongest typhoon to ever hit the island, as it rarely sees strong storms since it’s close to the equator. Official death tolls are still not in, but over 1,000 deaths are now being blamed on Bopha. This makes Typhoon Bopha the most deadly weather event of 2012.
Also in December, Tropical Cyclone Evan made landfall on the north shore of Samoa near the capital of Apia. On Dec. 13, Evan was classified as a Category 1 cyclone with 145-km/h winds, and intensified into a Category 3 storm with 185-km/h winds after the eye wandered back offshore. The storm ended up killing four and left over 4,000 people homeless. Evan then continued on to Fiji, making landfall on Dec. 16 as a Category 4 storm. Luckily there was no loss of life, but damage was heavy. Evan ended up being the strongest tropical storm to ever hit Fiji’s main island, with records going back to 1941.
Outlook for 2013
So now the question is, will we continue to see record-setting weather events around the world in 2013, or was 2012 just one of those unusual years? If the first part of January is any indication, it looks as though the records will continue. The central and southwestern U.S. drought continues and as a result, record-setting low water levels are now or will soon be occurring on the Mississippi River, and on both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Current forecasts show the drought continuing at least through to the end of April.
South Africa came close to setting an all-time temperature record for the Southern Hemisphere part of Africa, when on Jan. 16, the temperature topped out at 48.4 C in Vioolsdrif, just inside the country’s northwestern border with Namibia. This was the third-hottest temperature ever recorded for this region, just missing the record by 0.4 C.
The heat has also been turned up in Australia this month. Moomba airport in South Australia recorded a high temperature of 49.6 C on Jan. 12, which was 1° shy of the all-time record high. Australia has also recorded seven days in a row in which the national average temperature was warmer than 39 C, which is the first time this has ever happened, according to records going back to 1910. The previous longest streak was four days in a row back in 1973.
Next issue we’ll take a look at the top 2012 weather stories that occurred right here in Canada.