Hurricane Matthew will go down as one of the most publicised tropical systems and while many escaped potential heartache from the long tracked, dangerous hurricane … others haven’t, and they are counting both the emotional and financial cost.
Matthew began as a lonely tropical wave North of Africa on September 22nd with models indicating a westward track would be likely along with further intensification. It took until the 28th of September for Matthew to finally become a named storm at which point models indicated intensification into hurricane strength would be increasingly likely. Just 24 hours later, Matthew became a Category 1 hurricane and while further intensification was expected, nothing at all indicated what would happen over the next 24 hours.
Matthew entered an extremely favourable environment off the Northern Coast of Venezuela and Colombia. Incredibly warm sea surface temperatures down to rather potent depths along with next to no vertical wind shear lead to Matthew strengthening from a Category 1 system with sustained winds to 130kmh into a Category 5 monster with sustained winds to almost 260kmh and wind gusts nudging 300kmh.
From here, Matthew looked likely to veer more towards the North and while models were tossing up on a Jamaica or Haiti crossing, the end result lead to Haiti receiving a Category 4 crossing during October 4th on the South-West Coast / Tiburon Peninsula. From here, Matthew then continued on a general North to North-West track, crossing over the East of Cuba as a Category 4 system, then through multiple transitional phases again including eye wall replacements, weakening and strengthening… the Bahamas received at least 2 direct island crossings including Grande Bahama (home of the capital). After leaving the Caribbean in its wake, Matthew continued North to North-Westward where it skimmed the Florida East Coast and while models juggled the potential for a crossing, it never eventuated… Matthew then underwent a gradual weakening due to land interaction with the United States East Coast, where eventually that interaction lead to a crossing in South Carolina which lasted a matter of hours before Matthew then moved back out to sea.
Hurricane Matthew track map via NOAA
The toll Matthew’s impacts have had on the United States and Caribbean is phenomenal. The number of families, communities all torn apart is something that will live on forever (and not in a good way).
As of 8am (Tuesday October 11th 2016 AEST), Matthew had officially claimed the lives of more than 1000 people. Breaking that number down, Matthew had killed more than 1000 people in Haiti (with that number expected to grow due to unsearched Coastline), 21 in the United States, 4 in the Dominican Republic, 1 in both Saint Vincent and Colombia. Haiti is also on the brink of a cholera outbreak following Matthew. The disease has the potential to kill people within hours and can rapidly spread through untreated water – something the country is full of right now following mass destruction and torrential rainfall.
The estimated damage bill and flight cancellations/delays is greatly swayed towards the United States side of the scale. The United States alone accounts for as much as $6 billion is damages and as many as 4000 cancelled flights + more delays. However, the Caribbean has copped it too with more than $1 billion worth of damage to Haiti alone, and potentially as much as that across Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas and Dominican Republic also. Hundreds if not thousands of flights were cancelled and damages to airports have left many flights cancelled if not delayed even days after the hurricane moved through. More than 1 million people evacuated Cuba, and this was a large reason as to why 0 deaths were observed.
Les Cayes, Haiti as soon post-Matthew. Image Credit: Dieu Nalio Chery
This is the scene over the Northern Tiburon Peninsula in the town of Corail. Image Credit: Reuters
Devastating flooding ripping through Haiti causing bridges to wash away and towns to become isolated
From a damage perspective, its horrific, like something out of a horror movie, parts of Haiti’s Southern Coast are still yet to be searched due to the shear amount of damage. This area of Haiti is home to dozens if not hundreds of isolated, localised communities and the likelihood of anything remaining from these communities is decreasing significantly by the day. A major bridge on the Northern Coast of the Tiburon Coast of Haiti connecting the region to the rest of the Country collapsed due to flooding, which has also severely reduced the relief and recovery effort. Reports out of Jérémie, on the Northern Tiburon Coast, state that the region was virtually wiped off the map with more than 80% of buildings suffering severe to catastrophic damage – this included homes being wiped off their foundations. More than 500,000 people remain stranded over Southern portions of Haiti, this includes Les Anglais (170 deaths in this region) which is only accessible by helicopter. In some communities, the damage is so horrific that people have physically stopped looking for bodies, with reports also that the storm surge was so intense… people were washed out to sea. Outside of structures, there is also crops.. virtually all crops over the Western side of Haiti have been destroyed from either wind or flooding. This is bad in its own right, but it significantly increases the inadequacy of consumable product across the region and this in turn increases the threat of disease due to the human body becoming weak. Water is also in short supply with most drinking water now contaminated. Power through large parts of Haiti remains out, while communications in general across the Tiburon Peninsula are virtually useless as roads are cut – both due to flooding and debris, land and mudslides cover roads, bridges are knocked out and access as mentioned before is virtually non-existent. The very sad part of it all is that due to the combination of a rapid increase in deaths along with the complete and utter destruction of some areas, people have resorted to mass unmarked graves.
Hurricane Matthew damage footage from Haiti
Before and after of Jeremie, Haiti via Reuters
Aerial footage captured by the United Nations during a damage survey along the West Coast. Image credit: United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), via univision.com.
Destroyed houses in Corail, Northern Tiburon Peninsula in Haiti following Matthew. Image Credit: Reuters
Haitians trying to cross where a bridge used to be South-West of Port-au-Prince. Image Credit: Hector Retamal
A woman walks on debris in Port-a-Piment, Haiti. Image Credit: Andres Martinez Casares
Footage from one of the worst hit parts of Haiti
The Dominican Republic was never really under a Hurricane warning during Matthew’s existence, however that didn’t eliminate the damage potential. Severe to catastrophic flooding has been noted across large portions of the Dominican Republic’s Southern Coast as widespread falls of more than 500mm were observed. Damaging wind gusts also lashed the Southern Coast as rain bands whipped through. While tornadoes (spawned by Matthew) were also observed and caused significant localised damage through parts of the nation – including some homes being completely destroyed.
BAHAMAS / CUBA:
Through the Bahamas, and at least 95% of homes in the Eight Mile Rock to Holmes Rock region suffered severe to catastrophic damage. Roads were not only washed away, but some that did survive copped brutal damage from debris – either due to flooding, landslides or winds. Roofs were ripped off of buildings as the hurricane’s intensity peaked. Winds of nearly 160km/h were observed across Grande Bahama (the main island). Baracoa in Cuba suffered significantly many buildings reportedly destroyed across the city – some of these buildings have stood since the 1500’s. The storm surge created by Matthew also left the Coastline of Cuba badly impacted with rock walls failing to cope under the strain of the relentless tirade. The full damage toll, like other nations, is still being determined.
Tour of a devastated Baracoa, Cuba – original video via Mike Theiss
A woman is seen walking on a road between Guantanamo and Baracoa, Cuba. The road is covered by large rocks after a storm surge ripped through. Image Credit: Tamil Lage (AFP)
From a meteorological standpoint, Matthew broke many records, some of which had been long standing and arguably ‘unbreakable’, while other feats were also noted.
5 Coastal Crossings – 1 in Haiti, 1 in Cuba, at least 2 in the Bahamas, 1 in the United States
Lowest latitude Category 5 hurricane (13.3ºS) in the Atlantic Basin, surpassing Hurricane Ivan from 2004
Third fastest intensification within a 24hr period in Atlantic history (behind Wilma (2005) and Ivan (2004)).
Wind speeds doubled from 80mph (126km/h) to 160mph (256km/h) in a 24hr period
Strongest hurricane since the 1898 Georgia Hurricane to impact the North-East of Florida
First Cat 4 hurricane since Cleo in 1964 to directly cross Haiti
18th on the most costliest U.S hurricane list of all time
A vigorous cold front is currently sweeping SA and VIC producing winds which are typically only seen once every 5 years for the region. Above image via BSCH
A vigorous cold front is currently crossing through Western VIC and South-East / Central Inland parts of South Australia. This cold front is generating damaging to near destructive winds ahead of it and along it, especially through Victoria, leading to widespread damage from trees snapping and being uprooted as well as powerlines falling / trees falling on powerlines. Widespread gusts of 90km/h+ have been observed over Melbourne Metro – some of these gusts include:
119km/h at Fawkner Beacon (State-high – Port Phillip Bay)
111km/h at Mt William in the State’s West
109km/h at Point Wilson (Port Phillip Bay, near Avalon)
107km/h at Melbourne Airport
106km/h at Avalon
104km/h at Essendon Airport
100km/h at St Kilda
While higher gusts have been noted this year, the system itself is producing widespread high winds which are typically only seen once every 5 years (quoted by BOM in the Severe Weather Warning). A severe weather warning is current for both SA and VIC and should remain in place for the rest of today.
Radar and Satellite showing the winds over VIC with showers in the South-West approaching via Weatherzone
South Australia is feeling the wrath of this system too. Winds have gusted to 109km/h at Kuitpo in Adelaide Metro and102km/h at Cape Willoughby, with most places seeing at least 60km/h gusts if not higher. The very strong winds ahead of the system feeding hot air across the State lead to the first 40ºc temperature for the 2016-17 Season falling for South Australia. Roxby Downs claimed the title at 1:58pm hitting 40.1ºc before the front and change moved through. Oodnadatta hit 39.4ºc as well with the change arriving shortly.
Radar and Temperatures across SA as of 2pm local time via Weatherzone
A band of rain is current along the SA Coast, trailing a few hours behind the front itself. This band of rain should produce light to moderate showers but due to the speed at which its moving, these showers are unlikely to result to much with most places seeing between 5 and 15mm. Later on today, scattered showers should increase across VIC as the band of rain approaches, with the chance of some thunderstorms also. Any storms that do develop will likely behind severe courtesy of the damaging winds already in the area.
OCF Forecast Rainfall for South-East SA and VIC via BSCH
Category 3 hurricane Matthew is forecast to intensify to a Category 4 system as it approaches the Florida East Coast during Thursday (U.S time). The system is forecast to cross the Coast and poses a very dangerous threat!
Matthew is currently a Category 3 located over the North-West Bahamas (approximately 370km SE of Florida). Matthew is currently tracking in a North-West towards the Florida Coast, packing sustained winds of more than 200km/h along with producing torrential rain. In less than 24 hours, Matthew is forecast to intensify as it interacts briefly with far more favourable conditions before it skims the Florida East Coast near West Palm Beach and then crosses the Coast near Melbourne (South-East of Orlando). Matthew is then expected to begin tracking back out to sea courtesy of some ridging patterns over the United States however it will still heavily interact with Northern Florida, Eastern Georgia and Eastern parts of South Carolina.
Rick Scott’s tweet of a State of Emergency being declared for Florida
Mass evacuations have occurred across all States (Georgia, Florida and South Carolina) with a hurricane warning current from Fort Lauderdale (just North of Miami), Florida to Brunswick, Georgia and a Hurricane Watch extended further North to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Florida a few days ago was officially declared a State of Emergency by Rick Scott the governor. Flash Flooding warnings also extend along the Coast due to the forecast of as much as 500mm of rainfall for some areas of North Carolina, widespread falls of 100-300mm are expected across Coastal parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with the higher totals expected to occur the further North you go.
Along with the very destructive winds of more than 220km/h on impact, there is also the risk of Tornadoes. Greg Forbes from the Weather Channel has issued a TORCON:5 for the Eastern half of Florida, a moderate to relatively strong potential for tornadoes to occur over land with this system.
Forecast rainfall via Tropicaltidbits (yellow = 200-400mm)
The bad news, which is just adding to Matthew’s long lasting list of harrowing feats now, is that global models for a healthy period of time have held a track which shows Matthew after he moves offshore, looping back around, weakening somewhat and crossing Southern Florida AGAIN a number of days later as either anything from a Ex-Tropical Storm to a Category 3 system. The only thing models aren’t set on yet is the strength of the system, but the track is heavily agreed upon. This will significantly increase the flood threat in particular for the East Coast.
Forecast track map for Matthew via the National Hurricane Service
Queensland (and greater Australia for that matter) are forecast to see a real turn up in heat with temperatures nearing those experienced more often in Summer rather than the start of October. For many places (especially outside of the Gulf and Northern Inland QLD) it will be the warmest temperatures experienced since about March. Above image via BSCH/OCF
Basically, a slow moving high pressure system and associated ridge is forecast to linger over QLD during Friday and the weekend, with warm to hot winds wrapping around the backside of it. These will be further enhanced by a trough system moving through the country and acting as a cool change – ahead of it though, it will be drawing in its own hot air. The combination of the 2 should result in widespread temperatures of 35ºc+ across QLD with some parts of Central Australia going for 43ºc.
Note: This is a QLD oriented post. The heat is impacting large parts of Australia, however most of it is away from populated areas (such as Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Tasmania in general, Perth / Southern WA – all these places avoid it).
While Friday and Saturday will undoubtably be warmer than average across QLD with temperatures mainly sitting above 30ºc for most places and 35-40ºc through the West and North (temps sitting around 30-36ºc on Saturday through SEQ). It will be Sunday, Monday and Tuesday where the full force of the heat comes through.
Friday Temps. Image via BSCH/OCF
Saturday Temps. Image via BSCH/OCF
Coolish across South-East QLD (23-26ºc)
Warmer across the Darling Downs and Granite Belt (up to 30ºc)
Very warm across Southern Inland, Central Inland, Central Coastal and Northern Coastal QLD (30-36ºc)
Getting hot across the South-West, West, North-West, Northern Inland QLD – and even inland from Townsville/Bowen (35-41ºc)
Sunday Temps. Image via BSCH/OCF
Warm across South-East QLD, Wide Bay, Darling Downs (27-32ºc)
Very warm across Northern/Central Coastal, Central Highlands (29-34ºc)
Very warm to hot across Southern Inland, South-West, Western, North-West, Central Inland, Northern Inland and Cape York Peninsula (35-42ºc)
Note: The cool change is forecast to move through Birdsville and the Far South-West by late morning, Thargomindah to Boulia by early afternoon and Cunnamulla to Mt Isa by the evening.
Monday Temps. Image via BSCH/OCF
Mild across Southern Inland, South-West, Western and parts of Central QLD (remaining below 27ºc – 7-11ºc cooler than Monday).
Very warm across South-East QLD, Wide Bay, Central Coast, Northern Coastal QLD (28-34ºc)
Very warm to hot across North-West, Northern Inland, Inland from Townsville / Bowen and Cape York Peninsula (36-42ºc).
Note: The cool change is forecast to move through Warwick, Barcaldine and Burketown by the early morning. Brisbane, Emerald, Richmond and the Gulf by the late morning and then the rest of QLD by the evening (apart from the direct Coastline between Hervey Bay and North QLD – could be a hot night there)
Tuesday Temps.. Image via BSCH/OCF
Throughout this hotter spell, its unexpected that many (if any) storms occur due to a lack of moisture and overpowering of dry air in the atmosphere. There is a hint of something brief along the direct Coast during Tuesday – but this will have to be a wait and see process as timing for the cool change will be critical.
Its been a blessing of an off season for all who live, work and even breathe inland QLD as unseasonable rainfall broke records and brought as much rain to some, as has been seen in the last few years combined. Above image via Jamie Soares of the Channel Country
Through many influences including a significant negative Indian Ocean Dipole, a continuous fetch of moisture being dragged in over QLD off the Coral Sea and repetitive troughs (especially during September), many parts of Southern and Central Inland QLD saw their best rainfall in years. It wasn’t just localised to Inland parts though with Tropical North QLD (specifically between Lucinda and Cape Flattery) recording nearly 2000mm of liquid gold, which somewhat makes up for a below average Summer.
The proof is not only in the numbers, but in the landscape.. with the dry desolate ground which couldn’t even maintain brown grass and home to endless tumbleweeds, now flourishing with vibrancy, colour and life once again!
Amount of Rainfall above average between April and October via BOM
Official recorded Rainfall for QLD through April to October via BOM
What are the numbers though?
Lets start with some areas of the Tropical North.
Innisfail 1594.8mm (average: 1269mm)
Low Isles 735.4mm (average 507.7mm)
South Johnstone 1832.4mm (average: 1129mm)
and Inland QLD?…
Town Name | Recorded Rainfall | Average rainfall | Rain days (average)
Barcaldine Birdsville Blackall Boulia Charleville Cunnamulla Injune Longreach Mitchell Roma St George Tambo Winton
View of the Channel County on September 22nd. Helen Kidd-Dancing Channels; Cooper Creek Flood plain
Mentions must also go out Longreach, Charleville, Boulia for all breaking their September monthly records. Charleville, Barcaldine, Longreach all broke June monthly records and Mitchell had a daily record broken in August while Blackall recorded a June daily record. Some of these records were standing for more than 100 years!
Special mentions also go to those on the Capricornia Coast which endured an East Coast Low bringing more than 500mm of rain down in a 48 hour period. Outside of this though as residents would know, it was very dry.
Its understandable now why so much flooding has been observed through inland parts of QLD, given its not only the exceptional totals which are up to 4 times the long term average for that period of time, but also the shear number of days which didn’t allow for the ground to soak it all up.
Flood Warning across QLD via BOM as of October 1st 2016
Wednesday, September 28th 2016 will go down as one of the most significant weather events not only Australia in 2016 but for South Australia’s entire recorded history. The combination of a vigorous cold front and close range very deep low pressure system triggered a swath of violent weather leading to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage. While the low produced hours upon hours of treacherous wind, rain, seas and flooding – this is focused on the Tornadoes.
To this stage, there are 4 confirmed tornadoes which touched down in South Australia, 2 of those over the Flinders region, the other over the Lower Eyre Peninsula. The day started out a little more intense than expected with a cluster of severe storms moving through and impacting most of the forecast area. It was behind this cluster where dangerous Supercell thunderstorms developed and wreaked havoc.
The Cummins Tornado will go down as the most innocuous tornado of the bunch. A line of violent Supercells were marching into Spencer Gulf and this took much of the focus, while to the South-West of them a storm cluster with an embedded Supercell dropped a tornado over the Cummins region causing significant localised damage. 2 very large football sized industrial sheds were blown apart with pieces landing in the surrounding trees, trees of which were shredded, twisted, debarked. Farming equipment was left in ruins around the farming country. Depending on the integrity of the sheds, this tornado will most likely be rated as an EF-2.
As the line of violent Supercells crossed into Spencer Gulf, conditions become favourable for further development to occur and the line to expand. An additional 4 Supercells based off radar imagery developed between Port Pirie and Woomera, with the one responsible for the Melrose Tornado occurring near Miranda and heading straight for Melrose. It developed an instant hook-echo on radar before directly hitting Melrose with force. Producing large hail, torrential rainfall and a confirmed Tornado. It downed powerlines and HV lines leading to instant blackouts while significant damage was noted on farming estates. Its expected this tornado will be rated as either a high end EF-1 or low end EF-2.
Tornado damage on a farm in Melrose. Image Credit: Tom Fedorowytsch
Tornado damage on a farm in Melrose. Image Credit: Tom Fedorowytsch
What appears to be a crushed water tank or piece of farming equipment near Melrose via Debbie Prosser
Farming equipment and parts of a shed lay in paddocks after Tornado hits Melrose. Image via Andrew Walker
While the Melrose Tornado was occurring, another Supercell developed directly on top of Port Augusta producing significant wind damage and large hail. This Supercell tracked South-East and developed a hook-echo also which later was confirmed to be yet another Tornado, this one directly over the town of Wilmington (approximately 15 minutes North of Melrose). Significant damage was observed through farming estates, with one property owner having her shed obliterated into hundreds of pieces and thrown over the paddocks, all trees stripped, debarked or uprooted and her trailer flipped and thrown further down the yard. Its expected this will be rated as an EF-1.
Trees snapped and debarked – consistent with tornado damage via Julie Marr
Tornado damage in Wilmington via Julie Marr
Shed obliterated in a tree after Tornado touches down in Wilmington via Julie Marr
BLYTH MULTI-VORTEX TORNADO:
Arguably the most famous of the lot, the town of Blyth – located between Snowtown and Clare. A very violent Supercell showing extreme rotation and multiple hook echo signatures on radar directly hit Snowtown producing tennis balls size hail and destructive winds. It then continued to intensify and hit the town of Blyth directly. Residents in the town ran for cover as dozens of reports came through of 2 tornadoes on the ground at the same time – which turned out to most likely be a large multi-vortex wedge tornado. The tornado lifted between Clare and Blyth, but the Supercell still went on to cause significant damage in the town of Clare.
In the aftermath it was noted significant building damage had occurred with roofs torn off multiple buildings, some walls had caved in, cars and trucks had been flipped, trees debarked and uprooted and then used as missiles. The clean up bill will be massive for the town and surrounding regions. Its expected this tornado will be rated as a high end EF-2 or EF-3.
SES workers fixing a roof from a property in Blyth after a Tornado struck. Image Credit: Tornado damage on a farm in Melrose. Image Credit: Tom Fedorowytsch
Sturdy building with parts of its wall caved in and roof gone in Blyth. Image Credit: Michelle Morris
Significant damage to a home in Blyth. Image Credit: Michelle Morris
Significant damage to the Blyth Church. Image Credit: Michelle Morris
Its also worth nothing that violent Supercells were observed off Port Broughton where a likely Tornado was occurring over water, and another Supercell was showing very dangerous signs of producing a Tornado to the West of Yunta. The town was directly hit with 113km/h winds and large hail. The wall of Supercells (approximately 6-9 simultaneously) moved across the Flinders and directly hit and downed 23 HV lines leading to the entire State being blacked out for many hours. The winds these lines were subject to would’ve been ferocious and very sudden. It wouldn’t be surprising that in the coming weeks if more tornadoes were confirmed from this event. Thankfully, and we cant be happier about this enough – not only did nobody die, nobody was even injured!
Transmission tower downed in Melrose via James Lang
Multiple transmission towers downed near Melrose via Tom Tom Fedorowytsch
Another Super Typhoon is carving yet another path of destruction and heartache through the Western Pacific. Above image showing current satellite imagery from NOAA
Super Typhoon Chaba is currently situated about 520km East of Taipei, mingling in the Islands between Taiwan and Japan which only just went through Typhoon Malakas. Chaba has rapidly intensified in the past 24-36 hours to become a Category 5 Super Typhoon with wind speeds to more than 260km/h, gusts to more than 320km/h and Central Pressure down to 905hpa. In the last 6-12 hours, Chaba is forecast to max out its intensity with a simply impressive 275km/h sustained winds and 330km/h wind gusts, at this stage its expected that Chaba will veer more Northerly before taking a hard North-East turn due to ridging patterns and more favourable sea surface temperatures.
Forecast track map for Chaba via JTWC
Thankfully Chaba will enter a highly unfavourable environment to the South of Japan, and this will allow the system to veer more towards the Sea of Japan which splits Japan from South Korea. Very strong vertical wind shear will rapidly weak the system, but Chaba is still expected to pack a punch with gusts to more than 200km/h upon impact.
Winds and storm surge appear to be the greatest threats to Japan and South Korea. Due to the track, Japan will cop the brunt of all impacts as it will inevitably protect South Korea. Dangerous seas are likely to batter the Japanese Coastline – especially the South Coast, with as stated above 200km/h winds are likely during the initial impact and winds to more than 130km/h as it crosses to the North of Tokyo. Rainfall should see widespread falls of 100-200mm over Southern South Korea and Southern Japan with isolated falls to 250-300mm leading to flash, creek and river flooding as well as some town isolation. Winds will inevitably down trees and powerlines leading to power outages and communication failures.
With the absolute tirade of system that have hit the Western Pacific, we once again hope those who are in the path take all precautions to be safe.
A worst case scenario is playing out for Major Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean which has many distinguished weather observers very concerned across the globe. Above: Latest rainbow satellite imagery via NOAA
Major Hurricane Matthew (Category 4 – wind gusts to more than 200km/h) has completed the Northern turn which it was expected to make during the weekend. Unfortunately, it made it too early and now a catastrophe awaits. Hurricane warnings are current via the National Hurricane Centre in Florida for all of Jamaica, all of Haiti, Eastern Cuba and parts of the Bahamas. Its great that Matthew has weakened somewhat after going from nothing to Category 5 in a matter of 36hrs and becoming the lowest latitude Category 5 hurricane in Atlantic history as well as the 3rd fastest intensifier for the Atlantic in history. However the danger isn’t in the winds… its in the rain!
Forecast track map for Matthew via the National Hurricane Service
Matthew is a very tight system, and this allows minimal threat to be posed with the winds. Its hurricane force winds barely extend outside of the eye wall, and so unless you get a direct hit it won’t seem like much in the picture. Very large clusters of convective development have remained active to the East of Matthew though for the past 24-72hrs and this is adding to the growing concern for Haiti.
Haiti is all be locked in to be on the Eastern side of Matthew and this will allow the onshore winds to wrap around and directly hit the region. This in turn means rain, torrential rain… and with the addition of the loose convection to the East, the situation is grim. Rainfall totals of 400-600mm have been forecast for Haiti with isolated totals to as much as 1000mm!!! Haiti is home to 29 mountainous peaks sitting at more than 1500m – whats this got to do with anything?? that means theres valleys. All the rainfall will run off those mountains and enter the valleys where people live. This will likely lead to catastrophic flooding, community isolation and inundation. Storm surges along the Southern and Western Coasts of Haiti could be detrimental to those living there also! Mudslides and landslides seem all but locked in to occur and all of this means more than 10,000,000 residents have a life threatening few days ahead.
Forecast rainfall via Tropicaltidbits (yellow = 16-24 inches)
Yes this is very grim, but its all unfolding right before our very eyes. The system is expected to continue through to the Bahamas and eventually move up the East Coast of the U.S or remain offshore (track undetermined), but the focus is and will be with Haiti for this system. We can only hope people are kept safe!
This is a write up describing what tornadoes are and how they occur, their relevance to Australia, the damage they can and do cause along with busting some myths and highlighting some of Australia’s deadliest, most destructive and famous tornado and tornado related events. Above image: Tornado captured in Colorado by HSC Admin Thomas in 2015
What is a Tornado and How do Tornadoes occur?
To put it simply, Tornadoes are strong to violently rotating columns of air which are attached to an associated Thunderstorm (Cumulonimbus Cloud). Tornadoes form under rare circumstances, especially in Australia. They occur as a result of a rare chain of events and this chain of events requires absolute precision for a tornado to occur. A supercell thunderstorm in about 99% of cases needs to be present. This rotating thunderstorm (mesocyclone) in simplistic terms has a strong moisture and heat feed which wraps around the backside of the Supercell due to the immense rotation, and this collides with a Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD). This collision creates a localised tightening of rotation within the cell and this produces a funnel cloud. As the tightening strengthens this funnel cloud may touch the ground – at which point a tornado is born.
There are also other types of Tornadoes which occur due to differing circumstances. A waterspout is essentially a tornado over water – as soon as a waterspout comes ashore it is automatically a conventional tornado. One of the most famous Australian Waterspouts was a very large one off Batemans Bay in NSW, while Lennox Head in Northern NSW had one come ashore causing significant damage. A common misconception about Waterspouts is that they suck up water – this is false. They are rotating columns of air over water.
The other type of Tornado is a Landspout tornado. This is essentially the name given to a Tornado which doesn’t form due to a mesocyclone or rotating thunderstorm. They appear to be most common around drier areas.
View of the Lennox Head Tornado / Waterspout as it destroys dozens of homes during the morning. Image Credit: Ross Tuckerman
Giant waterspout offshore from Batemans Bay. Image Credit: Len Tompkins
Where do Tornadoes occur?
The United States is clearly famous for Tornadoes, with more than 1300 occurring per year on average. This is of course highlighted further by Tornado Alley. Other areas include:
Argentina / Uruguay (approx 300 per year)
Europe (approx 300 per year – UK has the highest number of tornadoes per square km globally)
Canada (approx 100 per year)
Bangladesh / India and China, Japan, Philippines during Typhoon / Monsoon season
Australia and New Zealand (approx 20 per year in Australia but this number is growing)
In Australia, tornadoes are more common across the Eastern States, Eastern/South-East South Australia and Southern/Western WA. This is due to the more favourable tornadic conditions occurring more regularly through these regions. As a brief description, tornadoes are more common across NSW/QLD due to the shear number of severe storm setups that occur, while in VIC, Southern NSW, SE SA and Southern WA the combination of frequent close range lows / cold fronts along with the addition of the Snowy Mountains creating localised influences has lead to many touchdowns as these areas over recent years have charged ahead of QLD/NSW in terms of frequency.
Global distribution of more Tornadoes
Tornado Rating and its Damage Potential:
A tornado is rated under the Enhanced Fujita Scale (which is where the term ‘EF’ comes from). The numbers are scaled from 0 to 5, with 0 being the weakest and 5 being the strongest. Under the old system of the Fujita Scale – tornadoes were measured through windspeed with some alterations due to damage, however in 2007 the Fujita scale was replaced by the Enhanced Fujita scale which measures the tornado’s strength through damage rather than wind speeds.
Tornado damage ratings via NOAA
Some famous Australian Tornadoes / Tornado events:
Sydney, NSW (1795) – BOM’s first official record of a Tornado in Australia.
Marong, VIC (1911) – First official photograph of a Tornado. Wiped out the town of Lockwood.
Kin Kin, QLD (1971) – An EF-3 tornado killed 3 people, making it Australia’s deadliest Tornado to date.
SEQ Tornado Outbreak (1989), a dangerous Supercell with tops to 77,000ft produced numerous tornadoes throughout its course – leaving a swath of destruction through Brisbane CBD, North Brisbane, Scenic Rim and Redcliffe.
Dunoon, NSW (2007) – a multi vortex tornado caused significant damage near Lismore.
Bacchus Marsh, VIC (2011) – A supercell thunderstorm produces a strong tornado on Christmas Day leaving a trail of destruction. The supercell went on to produce widespread hail in Melbourne CBD
Bargara, QLD (2013) – During Tropical Cyclone Oswald, 6 Tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down – 3 of which occurred at Bagara causing significant damage.
Eastern VIC (2013) – Just a month after Sydney’s outbreak, an outbreak of 7 tornadoes were confirmed in Eastern VIC. 1 was rated EF-4 (highest rated tornado in Australian history). This tornado hit Koonoomoo, Cobram, Barooga, Mulwala, Yarrawonga and Bundalong. The same Supercell produced a second tornado later on in Rutherglen. Several people were injured.
Tornado observed near Nimmitabel, Southern NSW in 2008. Image Credit: Heather Leckie
First captured tornado at Marong, VIC 1911. Image released by the Victoria Museum
Tornado captured in Monarto, South Australia in 2015. Image Credit: Lisa Bennier
Ef-1 Tornado forming at Dubbo in 2015. Image Credit: David Daly
Difference between Cyclone and a Tornado?
A cyclone is large low pressure systems which produce heavy to torrential rainfall and damaging to destructive wind gusts across large areas. They are completely different weather phenomenons that occur under completely different weather setups.
Similarities: Cyclones and Tornadoes have a few things in common, they can both produce destructive winds leading to severe damage or pose a threat to life. Thats about it.
Differences: Tornadoes cover an area from the width of a street, to the width of a suburb (30-50m up to 4km), Cyclones range from 50km wide to 400km wide. A cyclone’s damaging wide range is far far greater than any Tornado. A tornado may last for a few seconds to several minutes or even an hour or two, while a Cyclone lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
Whats a ‘Mini-Tornado’?
There is NO such thing as a ‘mini’ Tornado. Tornadoes are all the same – violent rotating columns of air attached to thunderstorms. The terminology has most likely occurred due to Australia not receiving the same level of destruction surrounding Tornadoes as America does. However, Tornadoes are measured by wind speeds and width… NOT height. Its either a Tornado or its not. Simple as that!
The idea of this is to help explain and educate people on one of the most locally severe elements during an Australian Storm Season along with bringing attention to the integrity and relevance that Supercell’s have within Australian Storms. Above image: Booker, Texas Supercell by Australian Storm Chaser – Brad Hannon, back in June 2014
How a Supercell is formed?
A Supercell is a more enhanced version of your typical severe thunderstorms. The base of all Supercell’s is the same – they require the presence of a mesocyclone which is a very deep and constant rotating updraft. How this rotating updraft occurs is through the combination of wind shear and updraft strength. Wind shear will give the storm movement and direction, whilst at the same time creating an invisible horizontal vortex within the storm. If the updraft is strong enough, it can tilt this horizontal vortex and allow it to become more vertical within the storm. This action allows the thunderstorm to enter ‘Supercell mode’ where the presence of rotation becomes clearly visible and from a viewing perspective – you will be able to see the entire base of the Supercell begin to rotate while from a scientific or meteorological perspective, indicators on radar will become present in the form of a ‘couplet’. The presence of this updraft is also very vital as it allows the Supercell to have a clear inflow and outflow (or updraft / downdraft). The separation of these is vital in that it allows the storm to maintain life, strength and formation. The updraft will consist of an inflow and this carries both the heat and moisture which feeds the storm while the downdraft consists of the rain, wind and hail. If these cross over then the heat feed is cut and the cell weakens.
Characteristics of a Supercell?
Each Supercell has the same characteristics, just some characteristics are more prominent in some over others. Thats where the terminology of LP, HP and Classic. In simplistic terms:
LP (Low-Precipitation) Supercell: These types of Supercells are more inflow dominant and from a viewing perspective have a very strongly titled updraft which can sometimes have a corkscrew appearance. These types of cells produce minimal precipitation (rain/hail)
HP (High-Precipitation) Supercell: These have noticeably much heavier precipitin and this makes them far more dangerous. Due to the excessively heavy perception, the rotation of the mesocyclone can cause the precipitation to wrap around the entire cell making dangerous elements such as Tornadoes hidden. They can also dump excessive amounts of rain in short periods of time leading to flash flooding. However they are also some of the most colour storms going around.
Classic Supercell: This your typical Supercell that consists of heavy rain, large hail and damaging wind gusts.
Characteristics of a Supercell looking towards it from the South-East in AUS
As stated above, Supercells have notable characteristics. Some of them include:
Anvil Cloud: This is where the updraft reaches its the highest levels of the lowest part of the the atmosphere which is the Troposphere. Since it can no longer rise upwards, it spreads out. The anvil usually hangs out in front of the storm, or in other words – it faces the way the storm is moving. In some of the stronger updrafts though, back-sheared anvil can occur and this is where it can also overhang in the opposite direction to which the storm is moving.
Rain-Free Base (RFB): This is the main inflow area and is usually typified by a distinct lack of precipitation.
Wall Cloud: Wall clouds act as a barrier between the Rain-Free Base and the downdraft which consists of your precipitation. It forms through rain cooled air which becomes drawn in by the updraft. The cooler and wetter air is nurtured by the updraft forming a cloud which then continues to lower itself to the ground. Wall clouds are easy to spot if you’re facing the RFB as they show a box-like formation
Forward Flank Downdraft (FFD): These usually occur in the heaviest precipitation areas. This downdraft pushes out from the Supercell, interacting with the warm and moist air outside of the cell to produce a shelf cloud which in turn, acts as a bound or visual feature separating the air outside of the cell from the precipitation inside the cell.
Rear Flank Downdraft (RFD): These usually occur on the back end of the Supercell and are typically associated with the RFB. This can play a vital role in the formation of tornadoes by tightening the already present rotation within the mesocyclone. They are derived from the mid level steering components of the Supercell which collider with the strong updraft. RFD winds can be some of the most violent straight line winds possible in thunderstorms.
Green coloured Supercell via HSC Admin Thomas from Southern Oklahoma, May 2015
Perfect illustration of a Supercell’s life cycle from Leoti, Kansas via Brad Hannon
Heavy Rain leading to Flash Flooding
Large to Very Large Hail (Hailstones likely bigger than golf balls, typically up to tennis ball size and in the stronger Supercell’s they can be anywhere from cricket ball size to oranges, grapefruits and the biggest in the world… bowling ball size)
Damaging to Destructive straight line Winds. These winds are typically above 90-100km/h however wind gusts of more than 200km/h have been recorded around the world
Dangerous and very frequent Lightning.
Tornadoes, and even Strong Tornadoes which have the ability to destroy well established infrastructure.
Supercell’s arent foreign to Australia. They’ve been around for many years and will continue to appear every Storm Season. The highest chance of them occurring is through Spring and Summer, however they have been known to occur in any month given the right conditions. In November 2014, Brisbane was struck by a dangerous Supercell which dropped 9cm hail and produced winds to 150km/h leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Back in 1999, Sydney was struck by a violent Supercell which caused more than $2B worth of damage and dropped more than 500,000 tonnes of hail.
Brisbane, November 2014 Supercell via Kai Linkerhof