Global Hazards - December 2012
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.
Updated 29 January 2013
Drought and Wildfires
The advent of the summer season for the Southern Hemisphere brought an increase of wildfires across central and southern Chile. Over 70 acres of meadow, brush, and eucalyptus near Casablanca were ablaze on December 14th, while forest fires burned in other areas of the Valparaiso region. Aerial support boosted the Chilean firefighting efforts to prevent loss of the threatened homes, according to media reports.
Eastern Australian Bushfires
on 06 December 2012
During December, numerous bushfires sparked in the dry and hot conditions of Queensland as rainfall deficits expanded along the eastern Australian coast. Queensland's monthly maximum temperature anomaly of 1.70°C (3.06°F) was its fifth highest for any month in the 103-year period of record. Overall, the country's average December maximum temperature was the fourth highest on record. More than 50 fires raged in Queensland early in the month. Of four fires were burning in the western region of Darling Down, a massive blaze near Halliford consumed almost 52,000 acres and threatened around a dozen properties. A large fire erupted on North Stradbroke Island, which resulted in the evacuation of residents, and the loss of some structures as well as a recreational vehicle. Heavy smoke was produced by the burning grass and scrub. Large losses of grazing land due to bushfires in northern Queensland posed the threat of starvation for thousands of cattle, according to media reports. In central Victoria, winds drove a large bushfire across more than 4,400 acres, destroying a blue gum plantation and threatening about 20 homes near Seymour. Twenty sheep perished and 100 livestock were injured in the flames. Later in the month, a New South Wales bushfire near Murringo, which burned over 11,000 acres, resulted in the overnight closure of a roadway due to fallen trees and smoke.
Drought conditions worsened in northeastern Brazil where some areas had received almost no rainfall in two years. In the state of Pernambuco, the town reservoir in Sao Jose do Egito ran dry. Annual sugar cane production in the region decreased nearly 30 percent, according to media accounts. In the state of Bahia, officials sought federal resources for close to 20 million residents during December. Farming communities suffered devastating losses of livestock (cattle, goats) and crops (corn, cotton). Reduced water levels resulted in lowered hydro-power generation of electricity as dams contained only 32 percent of their capacity. During 2012, black-outs adversely impacted the region's petrochemical industry, which was forced to import liquefied natural gas for its operations.
Bitter cold gripped the South Asian countries of India and Nepal as well as western China in late December. Northern India experienced some of its coldest weather in four decades. Nighttime temperatures hovered near 4.0°C (39.0°F) or lower in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab, accompanied by harsh northwesterly winds. Emergency shelters were established as daily maximum temperatures dropped to below-normal levels by as much as 4.0°C to 10.0°C (7.2°F to 18.0°F). Dense fog disrupted airlines and railway travel on several days. Fatalities among the homeless and the elderly reached 83 persons as of December 31st, which was New Delhi's coldest day of winter through 2012, while colder temperatures continued into January 2013. The death toll tripled by January 10th, according to media reports. Meanwhile, the Red Cross began relief efforts with the distribution of 10,000 blankets.
Thick fog and low temperatures across southern Nepal resulted in at least 13 fatalities from hypothermia by month's end. Distribution of firewood and blankets to residents were the initial assistance as the country's government secured humanitarian aid from UNICEF in early January 2013. Under a five-year program, health care and education support to Nepal's Terai districts will be funded at a value of $144 million U.S. dollars. At least 48 deaths from freezing were reported by Relief Web through January 10th in Nepal.
Snow-covered Chinese Desert
on 02 January 2013
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
A rare snow fell over the Taklimakan Desert in western China in late December. Heavy snow and strong winds ushered in lower temperatures by up to 8.0°C (14.0°F) across Xinjiang Province. Fog shrouded the cities of Inner Mongolia, lowering visibility to less than 10 meters (33 feet) and temperatures plummeted to near -40.0°C (-40.0°F). Across northern China the extreme cold and snow resulted in increased prices for farm produce and meat. Over 2 million residents were affected by the blizzard conditions, according to media reports.
Central America Hazards Outlook
during Nov 28–Dec 5, 2012
Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center
Copious amounts of rain saturated southern Central America during November and December. In northern Honduras, three fatalities occurred due to flooding in the Cortez province in late November. At least seven deaths resulted from flooding in eastern Honduras in early December, according to media reports. In the city of Danli, three people were swept into rising river waters while 14 vehicles and 7 bridges were washed away. Around 150 persons were evacuated and 80 homes were damaged. Torrential rains caused flooding and mudslides in Tegucigalpa, where four persons perished.
Heavy rains, which began in mid-November, continued over the United Kingdom and Ireland during December. Flooding occurred along Ireland's southeastern coastal regions from Cork to Dublin at mid-month. A massive storm battered eastern Scotland, as southeasterly winds, low pressure, and high tides combined to create conditions deemed as the worst in more than 100 years, according to media reports. The 150-year old seawall at North Berwick was swept away during the overnight hours of December 14th–15th and at least 55 residents were evacuated across Aberdeenshire. In northern Scotland, large sections of the harbor walls in Lossiemouth and Balintore. A crew member from an oil vessel in the North Sea perished in towering waves of nearly 6 m (20 ft) and 11 others were rescued. The following week, up to 55 mm (2.2 inches) of additional precipitation fell over the country's north and east. Cancellations of the ferry services in the North Isles resulted and roads were flooded as rivers rose. Scottish rail services were disrupted between Dundee and Aberdeen. Parts of southern England and Wales experienced severe flooding in late December as more than 40 mm (1.6 inches) dropped within 24 hours on December 20th. England's rail services in Devon and Berkshire were suspended. At least 30 properties were flooded when the River Exe overflowed its banks. In Wales, at least four homes were damaged by flooding from heavy rains.
Severe flooding impacted over 93,000 people in northern Sri Lanka during December and the heavy rains continued into January 2013. Flooding and landslides resulted in at least 42 fatalities with injuries to 22 persons, while 9 persons were missing at month's end, according to humanitarian agency reports. More than 24,500 Sri Lankans received shelter in about 150 evacuation centers when nearly 15,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged. Drinking water and non-food items (blankets, sheets, towels, soap) were donated to the districts of Mannar and Anuradhapura by Canada as part of relief assistance valued at $18,700 U.S. dollars. Flooding, which inundated the cultivated paddy land, rendered losses of the rice harvest by as much as 30 percent in Mannar.
Three fatalities resulted as the deadliest tornado in more than 60 years hit in New Zealand's North Island on December 6th, according to media reports. Seven people were injured. The storm uprooted trees, damaged buildings, and flooded roads while leaving 1,300 homes without power in the suburbs of Auckland. At least 150 homes were destroyed and about 250 residents were evacuated to emergency shelters. A second tornado touched down several hours later in Rotorua, inflicting injuries on livestock. The country experiences an average of seven tornadoes each year that typically produce minor damage. Three people died in a tornado hitting the city of Hamilton in 1948.
Heavy rainfall neared Philippines
on 25 December 2012
In the Western Pacific Ocean, two tropical cyclones took a deadly toll in the Philippines during December. The month began with Super Typhoon Bopha's strike in Mindanao on December 4th, leaving more than 1,000 persons dead and over 800 missing in its wake. At the month's end, Tropical Storm Wukong (a.k.a. Quinta, Dec 24th–28th) became the 17th tropical cyclone to lash the islands during 2012. Over 240,000 people were affected by heavy rains and rough seas as Wukong made multiple landfalls across the Visayas Islands in the Philippines on December 25th–26th. The storm resulted in 20 fatalities with three people injured and four persons missing, according to humanitarian reports. Almost 58,000 people received shelter in 60 evacuation centers as over 5,000 homes were damaged in flash floods and landslides. Close to 6,000 passengers were stranded in port cities when sailing across the region was suspended as waves topped 5 meters (15 feet). The cancellation of 45 airline flights impacted thousands of travelers in Manila as Luzon received some of the storm's heaviest precipitation, according to media reports. Please visit NOAA's Hurricanes and Tropical Storms page for detailed information.
Tropical Cyclone Evan neared Fiji
on 16 December 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
In the South Pacific Ocean,Tropical Cyclone Evan (Dec 9th–19th) formed northeast of Samoa, where the storm made landfall near Apia on December 13th, leaving at least five persons dead and 11 missing, including nine fishermen, according to media accounts. Damages inflicted to the Samoan Islands from the strong, slow-moving storm were considered the worst in two decades. In 1993 the region experienced Cyclone Kina, which killed 23 people, and Cyclone Bebe caused 18 deaths in 1972. High winds and heavy rain resulted in flash floods and power outages, while nearly 800 residents remained in evacuation shelters at the month's end. Humanitarian reports indicated widespread disruption in water and utilities. NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) detected an extremely tall thunderstorm reaching 17.0 km (10.5 miles) high at the start of Evan's crossing along Fiji's northern coast on December 16th–17th, where the storm rendered further destruction, but no additional fatalities. High winds and flooding damaged homes while landslides and debris necessitated the closure of roads. Meanwhile, Fiji's air travel was grounded. Clean-up efforts and the distribution of relief items (food, water, blankets, and clothing) ensued.
Tropical Storm Freda neared New
Caledonia on 30 December 2012
Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Later in December, another storm formed in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of the Solomon Islands. Tracking to the southwest, Tropical Cyclone Freda (Dec 26th–Jan 4th) battered Rennell Island and Makira with high winds and heavy thunderstorms. The storm continued south then east, to make landfall in New Caledonia on Jan 2nd resulting in one fatality, according to media reports. Flooding and landslides blocked roads and over 3,200 residents lost power.
Severe Winter Weather
As heavy snows fell over eastern Europe and Russia during the month, the resulting blizzard conditions paralyzed transportation in much of the region. At least 270 people perished in the bitter December cold, according to media reports. Fatalities exceeded 120 lives in Russia, more than 80 deaths in the Ukraine, nearly 50 deaths in Poland, and numerous deaths in the Balkans with an additional few in the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands. As much as 40 cm (nearing 16 inches) of snow dropped on December 8th in Zagreb, Croatia, forcing closure of the airport and halting tram and bus services. Strong winds caused delays for ferry and catamaran services with the islands along the Adriatic coast. Hundreds of vehicles were stranded in Serbia's deep snowfall, which topped 20 cm (8 inches). During December 11th–12th, the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev received the largest snowfall in its 130-year period of record with a depth of 45 cm (nearing 18 inches). Over 500 Ukrainians were treated for hypothermia as temperatures plunged to -47.0°C (-52.6°F). In Germany, heavy snow and ice forced a brief closure of the Frankfurt airport (270 flight cancelations) and caused delays for the country's high speed trains. Ice-filled pipes in the Saratov region of Russia left residents without water. In the Tyva region, 3,000 residents were evacuated due to burst heating pipes as temperatures lowered to almost -40.0°C (-40.0°F) in southern Siberia. At month's end, temperatures dropped to about -30°C (-22.0°F) in Moscow and -60.0°C (-76.0°F) in eastern Siberia.
Snowfall spanned central U.S.
on 22 December 2012
Parts of North America also experienced blizzard conditions during December. In the U.S., heavy snow and wind created brutal conditions from Colorado to Wisconsin, where snow covered up to 65 percent of the country's lower 48 states in late December. The treacherous storm system resulted in at least 16 fatalities, many related to traffic accidents, according to media accounts. A 120-mile section of Interstate 35 was closed due to a major collision involving 25 vehicles near Des Moines, Iowa. A snowfall in excess of 48 cm (19 inches) occurred in Madison, Wisconsin. Power outages in Arkansas left close to 200,000 homes and businesses without utilities for days. Nearly 30 tornadoes spawned along the Gulf Coast. Across the Northeast, a mix of rain and snow posed travel delays on highways and airlines. Power was lost at over 7,000 homes in Maryland and 800 homes in Vermont. In Montreal, Canada, the daily snowfall of 45 cm (17.7 inches) received on December 27th broke the city's all-time record high daily snowfall previously set in 1971 at 41 cm (16 inches).