January 2011 Global Weather Extremes Summary
January 2011 Global Weather Extremes Summary
Another month of wild weather from around the world has just passed. Highlights include extraordinary snowfall in the Eastern portion of the U.S.A., record floods in Australia, Brazil, and Sri Lanka and record cold in Korea, Manchuria, and Japan.
The biggest story of the month for the United States was a series of tremendous snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic States and Southern New England. A storm on January 11-12 broke Hartford, Connecticut’s all-time 24-hour snowfall with a 24.0” accumulation. Unofficial amounts of up to 30.5” were reported from the New Haven area. On January 26-27 another blizzard deposited 19.1” in Central Park, New York City, its 8th greatest snowstorm on record and the 3rd top-ten snowfall in just the past year (Central Park has 142 years of records). Overall, this was the single snowiest month on record for Hartford: 57.0” (old record 45.3” in Dec. 1945), New Haven: 56.6” (old record 46.3” in Feb. 1934), and Newark, NJ: 37.4” (old record 33.4” in Jan. 1994). It was New York City’s 2nd snowiest month with a 36.0” total (snowiest month was just last February with 36.9”!).
Another extreme but very localized snow event was South Bend, Indiana’s greatest snowstorm on record with a 24-hour total of 32.2” on Jan. 7-8 and a snowstorm total of 38.1” between the 5th and 8th. The latter was also a single-storm record for the state of Indiana.
An arctic blast of air dropped the temperature to -46°F (-43.3°C) at Babbit and International Falls, Minnesota on Jan. 21. For International Falls this was the coldest temperature on record aside from three dubious readings from January and February 1909 (the lowest of which was -55°F/-48.3°Con Jan. 6, 1909).
Babbit, Minnesota at sunrise on January 21 when the temperature stood at -46°F. Photo from NWS Minnesota Duluth web site.
Cold air filtered all the way south into northern Mexico on January 11-14 with Monterrey seeing is daily high of 82° on Jan. 9 fall to a high of just 41° on Jan. 12 (low was 35°), some 28° below normal. An ice storm damaged trees in nearby Chipinque Park above the 4000-foot level.
The most tragic weather story in the world for the month of January was undoubtedly the flash floods that struck Brazil following torrential rains Jan. 10-11. Up to 12” was estimated to have fallen in a 24-hour period in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro, about what normally accumulates there for the entire month. As of this writing the death toll stands at 869 with many still missing, mostly in and around the resort towns of Novo Friburgo, Teresopolis, and Petropolis. The unusually heavy rains were at least in part due to abnormally warm ocean temperatures observed off the coast of Brazil. The crisis has focused attention, however, on the Brazilian weather service’s lack of adequate warnings and notification to authorities concerning extreme weather events.
Flash floods rampaged through several towns north of Rio de Janeiro in mid-January following a foot of rainfall. Photo from wiki site.
After a record cold and snowy December the weather returned to normal for most of Europe during January. There were no notable extreme weather events of note.
A heat wave in West Africa towards the end of the month sent temperatures soaring to 107.6°F (42.0°C) at Matam, Senegal on Jan. 30 and Kiffa, Mauritania on Jan. 31. These were the highest temperatures observed in the Northern Hemisphere for the month.
A flash flood struck Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Jan. 26 depositing 111 mm (4.37”) of rain in three hours (what normally falls in a year!) over a portion of the city. The resulting flood killed at least 10 and thousands needed rescuing by ground and helicopter crews.
Massive regional flooding affected eastern Sri Lanka in mid-January killing 43 and dislocating thousands. The floods were the result of up tot 18” of rainfall during the week of Jan. 3-9. As Jeff Masters reported in his blog on Jan. 19, 63” of rain was recorded at Batticaloa between Dec. 1 and Jan. 12, a sum almost equal to the city’s annual average.
Extreme cold gripped Manchuria, Korea, and Japan during January. Seoul, Korea averaged 4.5°F below average for the month with a low of 3° on Jan. 16. Only one day struggled above freezing (35° on Jan. 8). In Manchuria the Chinese city of Bayanbulak recorded its coldest temperature on record with a -57.3°F (-49.6°C) reading on Jan. 10 approaching China’s all-time record low of -62.1°F/-52.3°C at Mohe in February 1962). In Siberia the usual cold spot of Omyakon registered -78.2°F (--61.2°C) on Jan. 6 for the coldest temperature in the world for the month. Terrific snowfall was reported in Japan at the beginning of the month disrupting travel and closing roads. Snow was even reported from Amani-Oshima Island, a sub-tropical island in Kagoshima Prefecture. This was the first snow reported here since 1901. In the normally very snowy town of Kitahiroshima in Hiroshima Prefecture 192cm (75.6”) of snow was reported to have accumulated during a single storm ending on Jan. 2.
An unusual snowstorm also blanketed northern Burma in Kachin State near China. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said one resident of the area. “The snow came down like heavy rain, causing a number of buildings to collapse. No one was injured, but travel in and out of the area has been blocked for days.”
A customs building collapsed from heavy snow in the Burmese Panwe Valley near the border with China. Photo from The Irrawaddy web site.
The floods that began in December increased in scope and intensity during the first half of January in Queensland and, at one point, threatened the city of Brisbane with its worst flood in history. In the end, the floodwaters fell three feet short of their highest level measured in 1974. Between Jan. 10-12 684mm (26.93”) of rain fell at Mount Glorious. At least 25 deaths have been attributed to the flooding so far.
Record rainfalls were also reported in northern Tasmania. The town of Falmouth reported 282mm (11.10”) in 24 hours ending Jan. 15. This was the heaviest 24-hour total for January in the state’s history (the all-time record for Tasmania remains 352mm/13.86” at Cullenswood in March 1974).
The map above depicts flood peaks in Eastern Australia over the period of November 26, 2010 to January 20, 2011. Both maps courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
In spite of all the rains in eastern Australia some extreme heat was experienced as well being, after all, the peak of summertime down under. Olympic Dam registered the hottest temperature with a reading of 119.3°F (48.5°C) on January 25th. This was the highest temperature measured in the world for the month of January 2011.
The coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was -45.2°F (-42.9°C) at Concordia station in Antarctica.
KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for temperature data and Paul Simons and Blair Trewin for Australian precipitation records.