Global Hazards - January 2008

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.

Global Focus

Global Hazards and Significant Events

January 2008

A winter storm brought rare snow across parts of the Middle East. Additional information can be found below.

This is a break in the document This is a break in the document Drought conditions

Across the United States, moderate to exceptional drought conditions continued in the southeastern region, while much of the central and western U.S. experienced moderate to severe drought. On January 29, 45% of the western U.S., 73% of the Southeast, and 32% of the contiguous U.S. were in moderate to exceptional drought, according to the Federal U.S. Drought Monitor.

For a complete drought analysis across the United States, please see the U.S. drought page.

In Australia, temperatures were above average in January through much of the country. For the nation as a whole, it was the hottest January on record. According to reports, the January 2008 average temperature for the nation rose 1.3°C (2.3°F), while large areas in Western and Central Australia experienced temperatures 3-4°C (5-7°F) above average. The town of Pooncarie recorded its highest temperature of 44.5°C (112°F) (The Sidney Morning Herald).

During the first week of January, unseasonably warm conditions helped set new temperature records across southern Canada. Toronto, which has an average normal maximum temperature near -2°C (28°F) in mid-January, set two new daily maximum temperature records on the 7th and 8th. On January 7-8, temperatures soared to 14°C (57°F) surpassing the previous records set in 1998 and 1965 by 7.5°C (13.5°F) and by 2.3°C (4°F), respectively (BBC News).

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Heavy rainfall and flooding

Heavy rainfall during January 3-9 caused rivers to overflow and triggered flash floods (the worst in 20 years) across eastern Australia, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate the area (BBC News). According to reports, New South Wales received more than 305 mm (12 inches) overnight on the 4th (Reuters). Torrential rains continued during January 14-29, affecting over 2,500 residents in Queensland. The rains helped ease the ongoing drought in this region (BBC News).

In Bolivia, heavy rainfall, which began in November 2007, continued into January, prompting floods that affected around 25,000 people and caused 30 fatalities. More than 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of crops were damaged by the floods, causing an estimated $30 million in losses. Mudslides destroyed many homes in the capital city of La Paz (BBC News).

During January 12-18, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil experienced torrential rain that produced floods that affected around 50,000 people and caused 4 deaths (IFRC).

During the week of January 13, unexpected heavy rains triggered floods that affected southern Africa. In Mozambique, there were 16 flood-related deaths and nearly 60,000 people were affected. In neighboring Zimbabwe, torrential rains, described as the worst since colonial era records, caused 27 fatalities while in Malawi only 3 deaths were reported. In Zambia, the president declared a national disaster (Associated Press).

In the United Kingdom, persistent heavy rain fell across parts of the country on January 21, causing widespread floods. In the county of Yorkshire, nearly 60 homes were flooded (BBC News).

Heavy rains on January 30-31 caused floods and landslides across Indonesia. At least 12 fatalities were reported, over 10,000 homes flooded, and more than 40 flights delayed (Reuters).

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Severe Storms

Severe thunderstorms in the central United States on the 7-8th resulted in numerous reports of wind damage and as many as 75 tornadoes in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin. In Arkansas, the tornado destroyed over 50 homes. One fatality resulted from the extreme winds. According to reports, the wind was strong enough to transport a cow nearly a mile. Wisconsin had its first January tornado since 1967, while Illinois had its first in over 50 years (BBC News).

Strong winds affected parts of northern and central Europe on January 27, causing widespread power disruptions and damage to houses. Only one death was reported (Associated Press).

A series of storms pounded the western United States during the first week of January. The state of California received up to 254 mm (10 inches) of rain and over 800,000 homes were left without power. Meanwhile in neighboring Nevada, nearly 2 meters (6 feet) of snow fell across the state. On January 5, a levee burst near Reno, Nevada flooding about 800 homes. The governors from California, Nevada and Oregon were forced to declare a state of emergency in the affected regions (AFP/BBC News).

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Tropical Cyclones

Tropical cyclone Helen developed in the Timor Sea as a depression on the 3rd and intensified into a tropical cyclone on the 4th. Later that day, Helen reached its peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 83 km/hr (52 mph or 45 knots). The tropical cyclone produced strong winds and heavy rain that caused floods in the city of Darwin. Helen immediately weakened after moving inland (BBC News).

Tropical cyclone Fame developed in the Mozambique Channel on January 25, reaching the western coast of Madagascar on the 27th with maximum sustained winds of 148 km/hr (92 mph or 80 knots). Fame dissipated over Madagascar on the 28th but regenerated into a depression on the 29th once it moved over water again.

Tropical cyclone Gene developed as a depression northeast of Fiji on the 26th. Gene strengthened to tropical cyclone intensity on the 28th just before making landfall on Fiji's north island of Vanua Levu. The tropical cyclone brought strong winds and heavy rain to the island causing houses and power lines to collapse. Gene claimed two victims and left many without power (BBC News). The storm reached peak intensity on the 31st with maximum sustained winds near 185 km/hr (115 mph or 100 knots).

For 2007/2008 basin tropical cyclone statistics, please refer to the following:
Australian Basin
North Indian Ocean Basin
Western North Pacific Basin
South Pacific Basin
South Indian Ocean Basin
Northeast Pacific Ocean Basin
Atlantic Basin

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Extratropical Cyclones

No reports of significant extratropical cyclones were received during January 2008.

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Severe winter weather

Cold temperatures affected areas of Mexico during the first week of January. Temperatures plummeted to -5 to 0°C (23-32°F) as snow fell in parts of Mexico which normally don't experience this type of winter weather. Four fatalities were associated with the cold temperatures (Associated Press).

On January 3, an intense winter storm swept across Europe, leaving the southeastern countries under a blanket of snow. The heavy snowfall prompted authorities in northeastern Bulgaria to declare a state of emergency, while in Romania, thousands of people were stranded when the capital's two main airports were closed (BBC News).

Severe winter weather, the worst in 50 years, affected much of China since January 10. Freezing temperatures and heavy snow affected over 78 million people, caused 60 fatalities, including 25 that were killed on a bus crash on an icy road on January 29, and prompted many counties and cities to experience power and water shortages. The adverse winter conditions affected more than 4.2 million hectares (10.4 million acres) of farmland, destroyed about 107,000 homes, and damaged about 400,000 others. Highways, railways, and airports were paralyzed, stranding hundreds of thousands of workers. Many were unable to return home for the Chinese New Year, which for some is their only chance to see family all year (BBC News/Reuters).

Extremely cold temperatures affected much of the Middle East region and the central Asian countries during the first weeks of January. The severe cold conditions brought below freezing temperatures, with Kazakhstan experiencing low temperatures of -25°C (-13°F) and neighboring Uzbekistan, having its lowest temperatures in nearly 4 decades (BBC News). Meanwhile, heavy snow fell in parts of the Middle East. Iran had its heaviest snowfall in more than a decade, prompting numerous avalanches and causing multiple traffic accidents. According to reports, parts of Iran had almost 550 mm (22 inches) of snow from January 4-6. In Baghdad, Iraq, snow fell for the first time in living memory on January 11. About 50 people died and over 15,000 animals perished due to the cold and snow (BBC News/Reuters/Associated Press). Another series of winter storms affected the Middle East on January 30, covering Jerusalem in a blanket of snow. According to reports, Jerusalem had up to 203 mm (8 inches) of snow while the capital city of Jordan, Amman, received up to a foot (305 mm or 12 inches) of snow. The cold weather prompted power disruptions to parts of Lebanon (Associated Press).

In India, cold conditions were experienced during the last week of January. Delhi, India recorded its coldest January 28 in 5 years when temperatures plummeted as low as 2.3°C (36°F). More than 150 fatalities resulted from the cold weather (BBC News).

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Global Hazards for January 2008, published online February 2008, retrieved on September 20, 2017 from