Global Hazards - January 2002

Please note: Material provided in this report is chosen subjectively and included at the discretion of the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The ability to report on a given event is limited by the amount of information available to NCEI at the time of publication. Inclusion of a particular event does not constitute a greater importance in comparison with an event that has not been incorporated into the discussion. Data included in this report are preliminary unless otherwise stated. Links to supporting information are valid at the time of publication, but they are not maintained or changed after publication.

Top of Page Special Feature

The Nyiragongo Volcano is located near the town of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and is one of Africa's most active volcanoes. The volcano erupted on January 17 and displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and claimed many lives. Intense heat rising from the volcano produced thunderstorms overhead, as captured by satellite imagery around midday local time.

This is a break in the document

Top of Page Asia (Click for map)

Warmer than average weather prevailed across a large portion of Asia south of 60 degrees north latitude, as an upper level ridge of high pressure (depicted by positive anomalies at 500 millibars) dominated. Temperature anomalies locally exceeding 5°C (9°F) above the 1992-2002 mean were common from Kazakhstan eastward across much of Mongolia and northern China.

Asian blended temperature map
larger image

Unusually warm weather across southern Russia brought snowmelt and significant flooding along the Kuban River in the Krasnodar territory adjacent to the Black Sea. More than 3,000 residents were evacuated, and hundreds of houses were flooded in several villages along the river, with some of the worst flooding reported in the town of Temyruk (BBC).

Europe-Asia snow cover loop
larger image

An active storm track was displaced farther to the south across the eastern Mediterranean region and into parts of the Middle East. A rare winter storm brought heavy snow and strong winds to parts of Jordan and Lebanon on the 7th, resulting in scattered power outages and adversely impacting transportation. Across Syria, the Associated Press reported that in the mountainous areas near the city of Tartous, helicopters delivered food supplies to villages cut off by heavy snow accumulations. Rain and snow also affected parts of Iran, with flooding responsible for 11 deaths and around $59 million (USD) in damages in the southern provinces of the country (UN OCHA). CNN reported that the Russian Far East was hit by the worst winter storms in nearly 50 years, with widespread power outages and transportation delays caused by heavy snows.

Top of Page Europe (Click for map)

A series of winter storms in late December continued to impact much of southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region in early January. Above average snow cover was common across Germany and Poland, eastward into Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. Across Albania, the Albanian army made food deliveries to remote villages that had been cut off by snow, while in Bulgaria, snow depths of 1.8 meters (~ 6 feet) blocked roads and rail routes in the northern part of the country. In Greece, a state of emergency was declared in several provinces due to heavy snow, with damage to crops reported in the country’s agricultural areas. BBC news reported that more than three-quarters of all flights from the Athens International Airport were canceled during the height of the storm around the 4th and the Acropolis was closed to visitors.

European snow cover map
larger image
European precipitation anomaly map
larger image
Across the remainder of Europe, mainly dry and relatively mild weather prevailed during January, with temperatures near to or above average. England and Wales reported the mildest January since 1993, with below average precipitation over most of France, Germany and Italy. Bourges, France recorded less than half the normal January precipitation total

A powerful North Atlantic storm impacted northern Britain on the 28th, with wind gusts exceeding 45 meters/sec (100 mph) across Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. The minimum pressure in the storm dipped below 960 hPa (960 millibars or 28.35 inches of mercury) as it brushed northern Scotland during the morning of the 28th. The gales overturned vehicles, disrupted travel, left thousands without power and resulted in 7 deaths (Reuters). The UK Met Office recorded winds up to 63 meters/sec (141 mph) atop the Cairngorm mountains in central Scotland. In comparison, the highest wind speed ever recorded in the area is 77 meters/sec (172 mph).

Satellite image of a powerful storm affecting the British Isles
larger image

Top of Page Australia & Indonesia (Click for map)
Australian precipitation anomaly map for January
larger image
Rainfall was near to or below average across most of Australia during January, with far northern sections of the Northern Territory recording totals within the driest 10 percent of record. Wet season monsoonal activity was displaced to the west across the Indian Ocean, resulting in the notable dryness across northern areas of the country.

An exception to the dryness was the development of tropical cyclone Bernie in the Gulf of Carpentaria on the 3rd and 4th. Bernie crossed the coast southwest of Mornington Island with maximum sustained winds near 40 knots (~21 m/s or 45 mph). The cyclone caused localized flooding which isolated some communities, but no major damage was reported. Across New South Wales, locally heavy rains around mid-month in Sydney alleviated high wildfire danger that began in December.

Satellite image of tropical cyclone Bernie
larger image

Blended temperature map for Australia
larger image
Temperatures were 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) below average across a large part of Western Australia and the central Northern Territory. Warmer than average temperatures, with positive anomalies between 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F), were recorded across parts of Queensland. For more information regarding Australian weather and climate, see the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website.

Heavy monsoon rains brought significant flooding to parts of Indonesia during late January. There were 19 deaths in the capital city of Jakarta, with 33 deaths reported nationwide (UN OCHA). Around 400,000 people were affected, with 250,000 forced to evacuate their homes in the greater Jakarta area.

Satellite image of heavy thunderstorms affecting Indonesia
larger image

Top of Page Africa (Click for map)

A storm system which developed north of the Cape Verde Islands around the 10th brought unseasonably heavy rains and cool temperatures to much of Senegal, Gambia and southwestern Mauritania. In Senegal, flooding was responsible for 28 deaths and affected nearly 180,000 people (UN OCHA). There were significant agricultural losses, with an estimated 470,000 head of livestock lost. Despite favorable January rains in southwestern Kenya, drought conditions continue across the country with food insecurity expected to persist throughout much of 2002.

Precipitation anomaly map across Africa
larger image
Satellite image of tropical cyclone Cyprien
larger image
Tropical cyclone Cyprien developed just off the southwestern coast of Madagascar in the Mozambique Channel on the 1st and moved inland into the Malagasy Republic and dissipated by the 3rd. The cyclone made landfall with maximum sustained winds near 50 knots (~26 meters/sec or 60 mph) along with locally heavy rain across the southern half of the island. Rainfall from Cyprien interrupted an otherwise dry month, with negative precipitation anomalies elsewhere in Madagascar westward across Botswana and southern Mozambique.

Tropical cyclone Dina developed in the Indian Ocean around the 17th and passed just north of Mauritius on the 22nd before recurving away from land areas. The most significant damage was in the northern part of the country, with around 1,000 people displaced from their homes and an estimated $40 million (USD) in agricultural losses (UN OCHA).

Cold fronts which penetrated unusually far south into subtropical regions brought significant cold temperature anomalies into much of Libya, Egypt, Chad and the Sudan. Monthly temperatures were 2-4°C (3.6-7.2°F) below the 1992-2002 average in these areas. Notably warm areas were confined to parts of Namibia, Zambia and Botswana, with January temperatures between 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) above average.

Blended temperature map for Africa
larger image

Top of Page North America (Click for map)

United States blended temperature map
larger image
A prominent upper level ridge of high pressure anchored over the eastern half of the United States during January promoted unseasonably mild weather across the country east of the Rockies, with monthly temperatures exceeding 4°C (7.2°F) above average in the northern Plains along with a distinct absence of snow cover. Seasonably cool temperatures, with monthly departures of -1 to -2°C (-1.8 to -3.6°F) were common across the Inter-Mountain West.
Precipitation anomaly map for North America
larger image
Dry weather exacerbated drought conditions in the eastern U.S., and extended northward into the maritime provinces of Canada. An active Pacific storm track continued to provide wetter than average weather into the Pacific Northwest, with low elevation rains and heavy mountain snows. In contrast, coastal areas of British Columbia northward into the coastal mountains of Alaska experienced much drier conditions, with monthly precipitation departures locally exceeding 100 mm (3.9 inches).

Top of Page South America (Click for map)

Precipitation anomaly map for South America
larger image
A drought which persisted in eastern Brazil throughout much of 2001 was alleviated by significant rainfall during January. Precipitation amounts were 100-200 mm (3.9-7.9 inches) above the 1979-1995 average.
Along the northeast coast of Brazil, nearly 200 mm (7.9 inches) was observed at Fortaleza. Comparatively, January was much drier across areas of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, where monthly precipitation deficiencies were between 50 and 100 mm (2-3.9 inches). Precipitation timeseries for Fortaleza, Brazil
larger image
Blended temperature map for South America
larger image
Temperatures were 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) cooler than average in eastern Brazil, where clouds and rainfall held temperatures down. Meanwhile, dry weather in Bolivia and Peru was also accompanied by above average temperatures, with monthly departures of 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F).

Top of Page References:

Basist, A., N.C. Grody, T.C. Peterson and C.N. Williams, 1998: Using the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager to Monitor Land Surface Temperatures, Wetness, and Snow Cover. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 37, 888-911.

Peterson, Thomas C. and Russell S. Vose, 1997: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network temperature data base. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 78, 2837-2849.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Hazards for January 2002, published online February 2002, retrieved on January 21, 2018 from