Global Hazards - January 2003

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.

Global Focus
Click here for a photograph depicting smoke in Melbourne on January 20, 2003, followed by a clearer skies on the 21st
Shifting Winds Bring Wildfire Smoke Into Melbourne
Global Hazards and Significant Events January 2003
In Australia, wildfires and shifting winds periodically brought a thick blanket of smoke into Melbourne. Additional information on drought and wildfires in Australia can be found below.

Drought conditions

Severe to exceptional drought continued throughout much of the western United States, especially the Intermountain West. A series of storm systems eradicated most of the persistent drought in the eastern U.S., as a turn to wetter weather continued during September-December 2002. Click Here for the drought depiction on January 21, 2003
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Drought conditions expanded into the plains and lower Great Lakes region, as dry weather continued. In Iowa, Des Moines experienced a record 53-day long dry spell that ended on the 4th, along with the warmest temperature ever recorded in January on the 8th (67°F or 19.4°C).

Click Here for the satellite image depicting wildfires over parts of Queensland in Australia in early January 2003
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Drought continued throughout much of Australia during early January 2003. Drought lowered milk production, the amount of cheese manufactured and the value of dairy exports (Sydney Morning Herald). Wool yields were down between 40-60 percent (ABC News) and the state of Victoria cancelled its 2003 duck-hunting season due to the severity of the nine-month long drought (Reuters). Dry conditions promoted wildfires across areas of Queensland and Victoria in southeast Australia in January.

Hot temperatures exacerbated drought and wildfire conditions in southeast Australia, as Melbourne recorded the 4th warmest day on record on the 25th, with a maximum temperature of 44.1°C (111°F)(Australian Bureau of Meteorology).

In Africa, severe drought affected 900,000 people in Zimbabwe's southwestern province of Matabeleland. In one of Zimbabwe's worst droughts in the last 50 years, up to 20,000 head of cattle were in danger of dying (World Vision). Across the country, aid agencies estimated that almost 7 million people in the country would require food aid until the next harvest around March 2003. Across Ethiopia, drought was expected to cause up to a 30 percent reduction in coffee production, undermining the country's main cash crop (BBC News). In Mauritania, 420,000 people were in need of food aid due to one of the worst droughts in the last 20 years (CIP report, WFP).

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Heavy rainfall and flooding

Click Here for the satellite derived wetness anomalies over Europe
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Heavy rainfall which began over the weekend of December 28-29th across Belgium and the Netherlands brought significant flooding to parts of the region. In Belgium, flooding occurred along the Dender and Meuse rivers, and in the southern Netherlands, the Maas river was above the flood stage on the 2nd (Associated Press). Flooding affected areas of Germany and the Czech Republic, with numerous rivers above flood stage during the 2nd-3rd.

A series of storm systems brought flooding to areas of the United Kingdom, where numerous flood warnings had been issued across southern England during the latter days of December into early January 2003 (UK Met Office).

Click Here for the satellite derived wetness anomalies over North Africa
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In north Africa, unseasonably heavy rain fell across northern Algeria and Tunisia during the 22nd-28th. Flooding closed roads and caused 10 fatalities in Tunisia.
The nearly stationary remnants of Tropical Cyclone Delfina brought flooding to Malawi during January 1-7 and displaced more than 30,000 people, washed away crops and roads, and was blamed for 7 deaths (Associated Press). The President of Malawi declared a state of disaster on the 11th, describing the flooding as "a disaster of the highest proportion." In neighboring Mozambique, floods washed away an estimated 400 homes and disrupted power supplies in one northern province (Reuters). Click here for the satellite derived wetness anomaly map for southeast Africa during January 1-7, 2003
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Click Here for an infrared satellite image of showers and thunderstorms affecting Indonesia
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Heavy rainfall in early January caused flooding and landslides on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sulawesi. Three people were killed and 2,000 homes destroyed in West Java (CIP report).

In Bolivia, heavy rains brought the San Julian and Chutacagua Rivers above flood stage, affecting several towns in the departments of Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Around 6,500 people were affected and up to 80 percent of the crops were damaged in the region affected by the flood (OCHA). Flash flooding affected the Bolivian capital of La Paz on the 21st, causing two deaths (Associated Press). In neighboring Peru, flooding displaced 5,000 families and caused 6 deaths (Reuters). Around 74,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of agricultural land were affected and nearly 7,000 head of cattle were lost due to the flooding in Peru.

Flooding rains brought mudslides to the mountainous Brazilian city of Petropolis, outside of Rio de Janeiro, on the 11th. Eleven people were killed as mudslides buried three houses and flooded the nearby Piabanaha River (Associated Press). Up to 180 mm (7 inches) of rain fell in only an hour, which produced flash flooding in the city. Additional mudslides produced 5 deaths in the greater Rio de Janeiro area on the 29th while 8 people died outside of Sao Paulo on the 28th. Click here for the satellite derived wetness anomaly map for southeast Africa during January 1-7, 2003
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Click Here for precipitation anomaly estimates over Australia during January 2003
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A low pressure system brought torrential rains to northern Australia during January 10-13, 2003. Along the border of Queensland and the Northern Territory, adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria, up to 800 mm (31.5 inches) of rain fell.

For an archive of flood events worldwide, see the Dartmouth Flood Observatory.

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Severe Storms

A tornado struck the port area of Limassol in Cyprus on the 27th, injuring 28 people and producing damage to shops and property. Another tornado affected the coastal area of Larnaca where damage was reported to homes and property. (Associated Press)

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Tropical Cyclones
Click here a satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Fari over Madagascar on January 29, 2002
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Tropical Cyclone Fari moved across Madagascar during the 28th-29th before emerging over the Mozambique Channel on the 30th. The storm produced heavy rains and localized flooding, along with maximum sustained winds near 100 km/hr (~55 knots or 60 mph) at the time of landfall.
Tropical Cyclone Beni developed in the south Pacific Ocean on the 26th and passed within 90 km (56 miles) of the eastern tip of Rennell in the Solomon islands on the 26th. Winds gusted to between 90-110 km/hr (50-60 knots or 55-70 mph) at the town of Bellona as the cyclone passed by, along with a 48-hour period of heavy rains. Property and agricultural damage was reported on the island, with tree crops such as coconuts, papaya and banana affected (OCHA). Click here for a satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Beni on January 29, 2003.
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Click here a satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Ami after passing the islands of Fiji during January 13-14, 2002
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Tropical Cyclone Ami developed in the South Pacific Ocean on the 11th, and crossed Fiji and surrounding islands during the 13th-14th with maximum sustained winds near 185 km/hr (100 knots or 115 mph). The storm produced wind damage and flooding to Fiji's Vanua Levu and surrounding islands, where a state of emergency was declared by government officials. The cyclone was blamed for 15 deaths on Fiji, and caused millions of dollars in damage (USD) (Reuters).
Tropical Cyclone Delfina developed in the Mozambique Channel on December 30, 2002 and made landfall in northern Mozambique late on the 31st with maximum sustained winds near 100 km/hr (~55 knots or 65 mph). The storm weakened as it moved slowly westward across Mozambique and southern Malawi during January 1-2, 2003, bringing very heavy rainfall. Click here for a infrared satellite animation of Tropical Cyclone Delfina as it tracked across Mozambique during January 1-2, 2003.
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Extratropical Cyclones
Click Here for an infrared satellite image of a storm system that brought snow and rain to the eastern United States during January 2-4, 2003
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A winter storm affected the Northeast U.S. during January 2-4, bringing heavy snows to much of central New York and northeast Pennsylvania and into parts of New England. A mix of rain and snow fell along the immediate coastal areas.

Strong Santa Ana winds resulted in scattered power outages throughout southern California, with 30,000-40,000 customers losing power late on the 6th. Very warm temperatures accompanied the strong winds, with some daily maximum temperatures reaching between 26-30°C (80-85°F).

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Severe winter weather

Across Bangladesh, unseasonably cold weather during the last week of December 2002 into late-January 2003 was responsible for the deaths of 530 people (Reuters). Most fatalities were reported from the country's northern regions where temperatures fell to between 2-4°C (36-39°F). Average minimum temperatures in this region are generally between 12-14°C (54-57°F) in early January.

Unseasonably cold temperatures also affected areas of Pakistan, northern India and Nepal. In northern India, a total of 670 deaths were reported in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, with at least a dozen deaths in Nepal blamed on the cold outbreak. (Deutsche Presse Agentur, Bangkok Post, Reuters). Click here for the satellite derived temperature anomalies during January 1-7, 2003
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Much of Asia experienced colder than average temperatures during early to mid January. In northwestern Russia, temperatures in early January dropped as low as -45°C (-49°F), and parts of the Baltic Sea had begun to freeze over (BBC News). Click here for the surface temperatures across southern Asia on January 8, 2003 at 0000 UTC
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In Mongolia, the State Emergency Commission reported that 24,000 animals were reported dead during the first two weeks of January 2003, due to extreme winter conditions.

Click Here for an animation of snow cover across Europe and Asia during January 2003
Europe/Asia Snow Cover
Heavy snow affected parts of Europe during the first week of January. In the United Kingdom, London reported its largest snowfall since February 1991 with up to 12 cm (5 inches) of accumulation (The Sentinel/UK Met Office). Farther south, a rare significant snowfall fell in parts of southern France, resulting in the temporary closure of two airports in the region. To the east, heavy snow in Hungary and Croatia halted most transportation and prompted the closing of the border crossing between the two countries (ABC News).

In China, a rare snowfall in southwest China's Yunnan province early in January caused traffic delays and flight cancellations out of the Kunming city airport.

A winter storm brought significant accumulations of snow to parts of the U.S. Deep South, including the Carolinas, on the 23rd. Snowfall accumulations of 10-30 cm (4 to 12 inches) were common across areas of western and central North Carolina, as well as the Outer Banks. Click here for a colorized infrared satellite image of the storm system that dumped snow on the U.S. Deep South on January 23, 2003
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Click Here for temperatures across Florida on January 24, 2003 at 1200 UTC (7AM EST)
Subfreezing Temperatures Across Florida
Cold temperatures throughout much of the eastern United States penetrated into Florida, with record temperatures observed in many areas on the 24th. Despite the subfreezing temperatures, significant damage to citrus crops was avoided (Reuters).
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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 2003, published online February 2003, retrieved on March 18, 2019 from