Global Hazards - February 2002

Please note: Material provided in this report is chosen subjectively and included at the discretion of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The ability to report on a given event is limited by the amount of information available to NCDC 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 Highlight

On February 19, strong thunderstorms brought torrential rains and hail to the Bolivian capital of La Paz. At least 63 people were killed and 100 injured as flash floods destroyed 50 homes and left more than 500 homeless. According to the Bolivian National Meteorological Service, the city has never received such heavy rainfall in the 50 years records have been kept. The mayor of La Paz estimated damages to the city of nearly $100 million (USD)(Associated Press).

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Top of Page Asia (Click for map)

A persistent upper level ridge of high pressure, depicted by positive 500 millibar height anomalies, was present across most of the mid-latitude areas of Asia during February. This promoted above average temperatures across a large region, from western Russia eastward across Mongolia and eastern China. Temperature departures were 2-4°C (3.6-7.2°F) above the 1992-2002 average across these areas.

Click here for the 500 millibar height anomalies across Asia for February
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Click here for the central Asian temperature anomalies
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Winter temperatures (December-February) were also 2-4°C (3.6-7.2°F) warmer than the 1968-1996 average across a large expanse of central Asia, with colder than average temperatures limited to parts of northern Siberia and the Magadan region of the Russian Far East. Unusually heavy snowfall during the winter season has threatened as many as 100,000 endangered leopards and Siberian tigers with starvation, as the harsh winter conditions resulted in a dwindling food supply (BBC News).

A significant winter storm affected the Hindu Kush mountains of northern Afghanistan during the first week of February. Heavy snows and a resulting avalanche caused 5 deaths north of Kabul and trapped around 400 people in the Salang area for more than 30 hours (COMTEX). Significant snow accumulations across the higher terrain cut off thousands of people from emergency food supplies. Persistent snow cover across the northern part of Afghanistan during February is depicted by the Asia snow cover loop.

Click here for the Asian snow cover loop
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Farther south, drought has affected the island nation of Sri Lanka as several months of dry weather prompted the implementation of mandatory water conservation measures. The government of Sri Lanka imposed a one-year ban on the use of light for advertising in shops, nightclubs and hotels because of a power crisis, as 71 percent of the electric power in the country originates from hydroelectric plants (Associated Press). Across Malaysia, dry conditions aggravated forest and peat fires as more than 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of land were scorched during February 2002. The prolonged water shortage has threatened the country’s palm oil industry (Reuters).

Top of Page Europe (Click for map)

Stormy conditions that began in January continued in February across the British Isles, as storm systems accompanied by heavy rains and strong wind affected the United Kingdom and caused flooding along the Ouse and Severn rivers (CNN). The UK Met Office reported that England and Wales experienced the wettest February since 1990, and many areas in Scotland received two to three times the normal February precipitation amount. Dry weather during December-February was conducive to wildfires across the Pyrenees mountains in southern France, charring more than 8,100 hectares (20,000 acres) in early February.

Click here for the European Precipitation map
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Click Here for the European blended temperature map for winter
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Despite a much milder than average February with below average snow cover, temperatures averaged over the winter season were only near to or slightly above the 1992-2002 mean across much of Europe.

Top of Page Australia (Click for map)

Click Here for the Australian blended temperature for February
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A trough of low pressure aloft (depicted by negative 500 millibar height anomalies) was largely responsible for cooler than average weather across much of central and southern Australia in February, where temperatures were 1-4°C (1.8-7.2°F) below the long-term mean. Warmer temperatures relative to average were restricted to much of Queensland and New South Wales. A similar temperature distribution is evident in the austral summer (December-February) mean, as South Australia had the coolest summer season since at least 1950.

Tropical Cyclone Chris developed in the Indian Ocean on the 3rd and made landfall in the Northern Territory on the 6th about 100 km (62 miles) east of Port Hedland with maximum sustained winds near 65 m/s (~125 knots or 145 mph). The cyclone brought heavy rains to much of northern and central portions of Western Australia and February precipitation surpluses exceeded 150 mm (5.91 inches) locally. February rainfall records were broken across parts of central Western Australia as Chris dissipated over the interior.

Click here for a satellite image of tropical cyclone Chris
Click Here for the Australian CAMS precipitation for December-January
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A lack of rainfall during December-February exacerbated dry conditions across much of Queensland and New South Wales, where seasonal precipitation deficiencies ranged from 50 to 200 mm (1.97-7.87 inches) above a 1979-1995 CAMS average.
Heavy monsoon rains that brought serious flooding to parts of Java and the greater Jakarta area during the month of January continued in February. Damage to agriculture and infrastructure is estimated at $200 million (USD) across Indonesia, where at least 150 people lost their lives in the Java and Jakarta provinces (CIP report).

Top of Page Africa (Click for map)

After a week of heavy rains at the beginning of February, flooding along the Dzongwe River forced thousands of people in northern and central Malawi to leave their homes and worsened food shortages in that country. More than 1,500 homes were destroyed in the town of Salima, with bridges and railways also damaged (AP, BBC). Farther north across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), flooding in the town of Uvira was responsible for 25 deaths (IRIN).

CAMS precipitation anomaly estimates for Africa
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Relatively dry weather continued across most of southern Africa during the December 2001-February 2002 period, with damage to crops reported across much of Zimbabwe. Wetter conditions extended from Angola through the DRC, where seasonal precipitation surpluses exceeding 100 mm (3.94 inches) were common.

Click Here for a satellite image of tropical cyclone Guillaume
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Tropical Cyclone Guillaume developed off the northeast coast of Madagascar on the 15th and brought significant rainfall to northern portions of the island during its developmental stages. The city of Toamasina along the northeast coast of the Malagasy Republic received over 800 mm (31.5 inches) of rain during the 1st-16th. Guillaume moved southeast and strengthened, passing east of the Mascarene Islands on the 19th.

February temperatures were 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) cooler than the 1992-2002 average across South Africa and parts of Botswana, with warm anomalies of 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) acrosss Zimbabwe as well as Morocco, Western Sahara and northeastern Sudan.

African blended temperatures for February
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Top of Page North and Central America (Click for map)

CAMS precipitation anomaly estimates for North America
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Drought conditions intensified along the eastern seaboard of the United States during February, where winter precipitation deficits exceeding 100 mm (3.94 inches) were observed over most areas from the Gulf Coast into the Northeast. In Canada, dry weather also prevailed across most of Alberta and Saskatchewan where winter precipitation was less than 60 percent of average across many areas.
Click here for the blended temperatures across North America
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Temperatures in February were 2-4°C (3.6-7.2°F) above average from the U.S. Northern Plains eastward into the Northeast where snow cover was notably absent. A series of strong Canadian high pressure systems which moved into the Intermountain West and southern High Plains brought temperatures that were 2-4°C (3.6-7.2°F) colder than usual. Across Mexico, abnormally cold weather which penetrated deep into central sections of the country caused around 250 million overwintering Monarch butterflies to freeze to death during late January (BBC).

Top of Page South America (Click for map)

Click here for the CAMS precipitation anomaly estimates for South America
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Thunderstorms with torrential rains affected much of central and southern Peru during the first two weeks of February. Flooding and mudslides were responsible for 8 deaths and left around 8,300 people homeless (COMTEX). Monthly precipitation was 50-100 mm (1.97 to 3.94 inches) above average across southern Brazil, much of Bolivia and southern Peru, and into the western Amazon basin.
Temperatures during December-February were 1-2°C (1.8-3.6°F) warmer than average across much of southern Argentina, where prominent upper level high pressure ridging (depicted by positive 500 millibar height anomalies) was present. Elsewhere, seasonal temperatures across South America were generally within 1°C (1.8°F) of the 1992-2002 mean. Click here for the South American blended temperature map
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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 February 2002, published online March 2002, retrieved on July 24, 2017 from