This year, severe weather events impacted several regions around the
world—proof of the ever-growing threat of Climate Change. Fittingly enough, it was also this year when nation leaders gathered in Paris to finalize sustainable programs that will mitigate the effects of Climate Change.
Let’s review some of the notable extreme weather events that happened all over the world.
1. Deadly Heat Wave
The heat wave in India broke headlines as the death toll climbed to more than 2,300 in the most affected states— Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the intensity of the heat wave. In May, a scorching 43 degrees Celsius was recorded, enough to melt the pavement in New Delhi. The heat wave was observed for five consecutive days, and was considered to be the decade’s worst. It was also declared as the 5th deadliest heat wave in world history by the Indian Meteorological Department.
In June, a blistering 49 degrees Celsius was recorded in Pakistan, causing 2,000 casualties. Hot weather is a normal phenomenon in Pakistan during thesummer, but what made it worse was the power interruption that prevented people to seek relief in electric fans and air conditioning.
2. Worst Drought
According to NOAA, October 2015 was the warmest October ever recorded in the 136-year period. Droughts are among the inevitable impacts of dry days or less rainfall.
In 80 years, Brazil experienced the worst drought, where parts of Amazon had dried up by 25% since the year 2000.
In Central Valley, California where 40% of the US’s fruits, nuts and vegetables
came from, farmers resorted to drilling for water. According to scientists, the amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada was at its lowest in more than 500 years last September. California Governor Jerry Brown issued mandatory water restrictions in an effort to reduce water usage by 25% percent.
In August, the state of Washington suffered from wildfire, considered to be the largest of its kind this year. Upon the declaration of a federal emergency, soldiers were called in to help the firefighters. 170 homes were destroyed.
Last November, 6,000 fires in California were documented, burning more
than 300,000 acres. Due to the intense fires in the Amador and Calavares counties, a state of emergency was declared.
On Christmas Day, more than 100 houses were eaten up by wildfire in
Australia. The blaze occurred in the Victoria State’s Great Ocean Road and according to authorities, it could continue burning for weeks.
Another story that made it to the headlines is the forest fire in Indonesia that caused a haze blanketing Southeast Asia, back in August. For months, the forest fire in Indonesia blazed, said to be caused by corporations and small-scale farmers engaging in slash-and-burn methods or kaingin.
Kalimantan (Borneo) and Western Sumatra were among the worst hit areas.
The haze reached Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines.
Approximately, 500,000 cases of respiratory tract infections were reported in all the affected countries due to the air quality. In the Philippines, during the onslaught of Lando (international name Koppu), haze was reported in Zamboanga, Davao, Cotabato and Cebu.
4. Severe Flooding
In October, Hurricane Joaquin induced torrential rains that ensued
widespread flooding in South Carolina, resulting to 17 casualties. Around 400,000 people were affected by the floods.
In November, three times the average rainfall fell in Chennai in India, and in December, nearly 16 inches of rain fell within a two-day period. Known as the 5th largest city, Chennai was submerged in flood water, forcing the Chennai Airport, Southern Railway, as well as roads and highways, to close down.
Tens of thousands of people were trapped in floodwaters.
In late April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people. 23,000 residents were confirmed injured, while 450,000 were displaced. Aside from the 30 historical landmarks that were totally damaged in Kathmandu Valley, thousands of buildings, houses and shrines were also destroyed.
A magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile in September.
Though no tsunami was monitored, a tsunami alert was issued for early
preparation. According to the Ministry of Chile, 20 people were injured and an estimated 1 million residents evacuated their homes.
The force of nature is inescapable; everyone is at its mercy. What we can do is to learn from these past disasters so we can better prepare for future impacts. As we mitigate the effects of Climate Change, so should we strengthen our disaster preparedness.
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is continuously monitoring the low pressure area (LPA) within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR). At 4:00 PM today, it was spotted at 170 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
According to PAGASA Weather Forecaster Fernando Cada, it has a slim chance of developing into a tropical cyclone. Cada adds that as the LPA moves closer to the landmass of Eastern Visayas, it is expected to dissipate within the next 12 to 24 hours. However, if it does not dissipate, the clouds could disorganize and merge with a frontal system which will bring scattered rain showers and thunderstorms over the eastern section of Southern and Central Luzon.
Aside from the weather disturbance, the northeast monsoon or amihan prevails over the Northern Luzon. The outer cloud bands of the LPA and the winds associated with amihan are expected to dump rains over some parts of the country.
Eastern Visayas will experience cloudy skies with moderate to occasionally heavy rain showers and thunderstorms. Residents are alerted against possible flash floods or landslides. The rest of Visayas, Bicol Region and the provinces of Quezon, Marinduque and Romblon will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms.
Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Ilocos region will be cloudy with chances of light rains. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening.
Meanwhile, another cloud cluster is now being monitored outside the PAR. Located east of Southern Mindanao, this cloud cluster could be a potential LPA in the next few days. However, it is still too far to affect the country and is still under observation.
“Pineapple Express” hits California
California has been battling with a major storm dubbed as the “Pineapple Express” for a couple of days now. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), together with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explained that this phenomenon happens when warm air and enormous amount of moisture are transported from the Central Pacific to the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Pineapple Express is composed of stream of clouds and moisture that could result to intense rain storms just like what is now experienced in California.
The storm system has brought violent rainfall causing flood and mudslides. Strong winds and tornadoes also smashed trees and damaged homes. The inclement weather caused flight cancellations and power outages that left many people in the dark. Police and rescue teams are continuously providing help and assistance to those who are affected.
Source: PAGASA-DOST, NASA, NOAA
Meteorology covers a wide variety of terminology that we often hear, but seldom understand and remember. Check out these weather words and be in the know!
Climate is the general weather pattern in a specific area that involves temperature, humidity, rainfall, air pressure and other meteorological variables over a long period of time. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), some scientists define climate as the average weather condition based on 30 years of observation.
It is important to study climate as it plays a big role in our lives. Rising global temperatures can cause sea levels to rise or affect precipitation over a specific region, human health and various ecosystems. Climate change is one of our generation’s major concerns.
Season refers to the time of the year caused by the tilting of the Earth. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) says it is the division of the year based on the recurring astronomical or climatic phenomenon.
However, the location of an area, whether it is in the northern or southern hemisphere, affects its seasons. Other regions have complete seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. Philippines, being a tropical country, has two official seasons – wet and dry. The wet season usually starts in June as the southwest monsoon or habagat prevails. Rainfall during this season is concentrated over the western sections of the country.
Meanwhile, dry season normally starts in March when warm and humid weather is experienced. Though the scorching heat is felt over all the country, PAGASA clarifies that the term “summer” is not applicable to the Philippines. Meteorologically, we only have the wet and dry seasons.
The convergence of winds coming from the northern and southern hemispheres results to group of convective clouds known as the ITCZ or Intertropical Convergence Zone. This weather system affects the country depending on the orientation of the sun or the season. Once it becomes active, it can be a breeding ground of weather disturbances or low pressure areas.
Aside from tropical cyclones, ITCZ is one of the weather systems that cause flooding and landslides because it triggers moderate to heavy precipitation over the affected areas.
PAR means Philippine Area of Responsibility, an area in the Northwest Pacific, where PAGASA monitors tropical cyclones that are expected to affect the country. Once a tropical cyclone enters PAR, it is automatically given a local name so Filipinos can easily remember it.
With a measurement of more than 4 million square kilometres, PAR covers the West Philippine Sea, Bashi Channel over the north, part of the Pacific Ocean in the east and Sulu and Celebes Seas in the south.
One must remember that the Philippine Area of Responsibility is different from the country itself. When we say a tropical cyclone is entering the PAR, it doesn’t mean that it will hit the Philippine landmass. It may still change its course or re-curve away from the country.
Filipinos often hear the southwest monsoon or habagat during the rainy season. Characterized by warm and moist air, it speeds up cloud formation, which dumps rains mostly over the western section of the country.
Once a habagat is enhanced by a tropical cyclone entering PAR, it can bring heavy downpour that may cause widespread flooding.
During the passage of “Ondoy” last 2009 and “Maring” in 2013, habagat brought enormous amounts to Luzon, which led to serious flooding.
After habagat comes the northeast monsoon or amihan, a wind system characterized by cold and dry air coming from Mainland China. It normally starts to prevail during mid-October just like this year, when its onset was officially declared by PAGASA on October 16, 2014.
Amihan is responsible for colder mornings and lower temperatures during the “ber” months. It also affects sea conditions and may direct tropical cyclones towards the Philippine landmass with a higher chance of landfall.
PAGASA issues thunderstorm warnings everyday mostly in the afternoon or evening. A thunderstorm is a weather disturbance that produces rains, gusty winds, lightning and thunder.
Thunderstorm formation occurs through water cycle, wherein heat serves as the main component. As the sun heats up the land or a body of water, warm air rises, producing clouds by means of condensation. Once the cloud becomes massive, precipitation follows in the form of rain, drizzle or hail.
Along with gusty winds and moderate to heavy rains, thunder and lightning also occur during a thunderstorm. Lightning is caused by the connection of the positive charges at the top of the cloud and the negative charges formed at the bottom. Due to lightning, thunder is produced by vibration of air particles.
Flooding in low lying areas is expected during thunderstorms.
8. TROPICAL CYCLONE
Tropical cyclone is the general term for a “bagyo,” which starts out from a cloud cluster that develops into a low pressure area (LPA), an area that has an atmospheric pressure lower than its surrounding locations.
A tropical cyclone is classified into three: Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm and Typhoon. Each of these is measured by its maximum wind speeds and not by its amount of rainfall. An average of 19 to 21 tropical cyclones enter PAR each year.
Landfall happens when the surface of a tropical cyclone intersects with a coastline. In this scenario, the landmass or the affected area will experience stormy weather with moderate to heavy rains and gusty winds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is possible for a cyclone’s strongest winds to be experienced over land even if landfall does not occur. In some instances, its strongest winds could also remain over the water even if it made its landfall.
Tropical cyclones can have a series of landfalls like what happened to Typhoon Yolanda wherein 6 landfall activities were recorded on the 8th of November 2013.
10. STORM SURGE
Storm surge is the abnormal rise in sea level associated with a tropical storm or typhoon. It is usually measured by deducting the normal high tide from the observed storm tide.
This event is never related to tsunami, which is a sea level rise brought by a strong earthquake. A tsunami is triggered by underwater seismic activities while a storm surge is generated by strong winds from a storm.
Sources: PAGASA-DOST, NOAA, NASA
Natural disasters, particularly typhoons, have earned special attention and mention throughout our nation’s history because of the devastation they leave behind, causing immense losses to infrastructure, agriculture and human lives.
This year alone, several typhoons have left their mark on the public consciousness, including Tropical Storm Fung-Wong (local name: Mario), which caused severe flooding in Greater Luzon, including Metro Manila, affecting more than 118 thousand families.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Rammasun (local name:Glenda) crossed Southern Luzon in July with maximum winds of 150 kilometers per hour. It made its landfall in Albay, claiming more than one billion pesos worth of infrastructure and more than six billion pesos worth of agricultural products and facilities.
Luckily in October, when Super Typhoon Vongfong (local name: Ompong), tagged as the strongest typhoon that entered Philippine Area of Responsibility this year, packing maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour, it kept its distance from the country as it moved outside our boundary. Though Vongfong did not do damage to the Philippines, Japan was not able to evade the rage of the super typhoon. 31 people were injured, 90,000 households in Okinawa had to evacuate, and more than 400 flights were cancelled. It also knocked out power supply in Okinawa.
It seems that the names of the tropical cyclones are as unique as their characteristics and effects on the areas they have gone through. In the Philippines, PAGASA has a ready list of Filipino names for tropical cyclones.
Just as local names are important for easy communication among PAGASA, the media and the public, so are international names since these weather disturbances can affect more than one country. Through constant correspondence with other nations, we can gauge the cyclone’s track and projected effects—an important tool in increasing preparedness on both national and community levels.
How the naming process began
The areas where tropical cyclones are formed are divided into seven basins: North Atlantic Ocean, Northeastern and Northwestern Pacific Ocean (where the Philippines is located), Southwestern and Southeastern Indian Ocean, North Indian Ocean and Southwest Pacific Ocean.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Australian forecaster Clement Wragge introduced the use of proper names in naming cyclones in the late 19th century. When the Australian national government failed to establish the federal weather bureau and appoint Wragge as director, the forecaster took matters in his own hands and started naming cyclones after political figures whom he disliked and described as “causing great distress and wandering aimlessly about the Pacific.”
It took 40 years before the idea inspired George Stewart, a junior meteorologist in the United States to name Pacific tropical storms after his former girlfriends in his 1941 novel “Storm.”
It was in 1945 when the US armed services formally embraced the practice of using women’s names for typhoons in the Western Pacific. Eight years later, the US Weather Bureau finally adopted the use of women’s names for cyclones in the Northwest Pacific basin. It was in 1979 when men’s names were used.
Meanwhile, cyclones in the Southwest Indian Ocean started using names during the 1960s, while the North Indian Ocean cyclones were formally named in 2006.
According to the Weather Philippines Foundation, a new list of Asian names was contributed by all member nations of the World Meteorological Organization‘s (WMO) Typhoon Committee in January 1, 2000. These names are allocated to developing tropical storms by the Tokyo Typhoon Center of the Japan Meteorological Agency, and are arranged in alphabetical order of contributing countries. The majority of names includes flowers, animals, birds, trees, food and adjectives.
Currently, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Typhoon Committee (ESCAP/WMO), which promotes the order and implementation of procedures required for minimizing the losses caused by typhoons, has 14 members: Cambodia; China; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Hong Kong, China; Japan; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia; Philippines; Singapore; Thailand; Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and the United States of America.
Regardless of the year, international names are used per column. Below are the lists of names for developing tropical cyclones in the Northwest Pacific basin within a six-year time frame.
Retiring of Names
Tropical cyclone names are retired if they have caused significant damage and casualties in an area. A new list of names is discussed during the annual meeting of the WMO’s regional committee.
Sources: Weather Philippines Foundation | PAGASA | JMA | ESCAP/WMO | NOAA | NASA | Official Gazette of the Philippines | Japan NHK