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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 01/ 5/2010

Top weather events of 2009: International edition

By Steve Tracton

* The cold holds... light snow? Full Forecast | Static cling season *

In previous posts, I highlighted my choices for the top 5 D.C. metro region and continental U.S. weather events of 2009. Here are my choices for the top 5 international weather events (as before, see the end of this post for my criteria for selecting them.)


Satellite image of Jan. 17, 2009, storm that pounded the British Isles. Courtesy NOAA.

1) Ferocious North Atlantic storms hit Europe: A severe winter storm produced ferocious winds up to 100 mph across the British Isles on Jan. 17 downing trees, disrupting power supplies and killing one person. One week later a severe storm struck southwestern France and northern Spain, wreaking havoc across the region with winds up to 118 mph (equivalent to a category 3 hurricane). Overall the storm was responsible for 26 fatalities, including four children when winds collapsed a sports hall. This storm is reported to have been the worst to hit southwestern France and northern Spain since a December 1999 storm claimed 88 lives (source, and some more details).

2) European severe cold/snow: A severe cold snap and a succession of snow storms affected most of Europe Dec.18-22. The combined effect of snow and cold is blamed for over 100 deaths, including at least 42 people, most of them homeless, in Poland. Perhaps most notable was the heaviest snowfall in about 100 years in Moscow. (Apparently the plan of Moscow's mayor to seed clouds of approaching storms to redirect snowfall from the Russian capital to regions outside Moscow has not yet met expectations).

3) India floods: Following the driest monsoon season in almost 40 years (monsoon season officially ends Sept. 30), the heaviest rainfall in more than 60 years was recorded in southern India during the first two weeks of October. At least 286 people were killed and 2.5 million were left homeless following the torrential downpours and subsequent flooding and landslides (source, and some more details).


Livelihoods and livestock have been severely impacted by drought in Africa. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim)

4) African drought: Continuing drought in East Africa is reported to be one of the worst in recent memory. The drought has led to massive food shortages resulting from loss of livestock and maize harvests. Additionally, water rationing was necessary because a large majority of wells and water sources dried up. Overall, it's believed the lives and livelihoods of 23 million people were affected, many of whom were in need of relief aid. (source, and some more details)

5) Philippines typhoons: Throughout the year the Philippines suffered through a series of typhoons with the effects considered some of the worst in decades . The worst damage and loss of life occurred during September and October from Typhoons Ketsana and Parma. Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours, causing massive flooding and landslides which left hundreds of people dead. Manila, the capital, experienced the worst flooding in more than four decades (see amazing flood video: note, locals referred to Typhoon Ketsana as Typhoon Ondoy). Parma produced further devastation and misery, but Manila escaped the worst. The worst affected area was the coast in the north of Luzon, which was ravaged by winds in excess of 110 mph and almost 4 feet of rain in one 6 hour period.

Comments and additions to my selection of international events are welcome, especially from those who might have experienced extreme and/or high-impact weather while overseas!

Keep in mind that weather events occurring beyond the U.S. can also have significant direct and indirect impacts in the U.S. As noted in a previous post, many significant storms have their origins in weather systems over the Asian continent interacting with storms (including ex typhoons) over the Pacific. Also, for example, floods and droughts in agricultural centers around the globe can lead to food shortages and price increases in supermarkets here; tropical storms that devastate foreign lands can mean massive U.S. financial aid, ultimately affecting your taxes; and ocean storms can disrupt shipping of imports and exports.

In selecting entries to the lists, it's worth mentioning that the main considerations are (or should be) whether the event is extreme and/or high impact at some location during some given time period.

Refer to my earlier post on the top 5 D.C. metro region events for an explanation of what I mean by extreme weather.

By Steve Tracton  | January 5, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  International Weather  
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Comments

Steve - excellent post. I'm especially pleased to see you include the Philippine typhoons, which were absolutely devastating. I have one small quibble on a matter of public policy. You state "tropical storms that devastate foreign lands can mean massive U.S. financial aid, ultimately affecting your taxes." While that is theoretically true I suppose, I'm not aware that foreign aid (which is an extremely small proportion of the federal budget) affects U.S. tax rates, or that tax rates fluctuate in conjunction with foreign aid. Am I mistaken on that? Thanks.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | January 5, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, I probably misused the terminology, foreign aid. The more appropriate narrower term is disaster assistance/relief, and applies to any natural disaster from hurricanes (especially associated floods), earthquakes, tsunami's, etc. This aid is incorporated as reserves into the overall budgets for foreign assistance, including both the military and civilian sectors.

Yeah, the amounts are small (many millions) in comparison to the overall U.S. budget (trillions). Even if budgeted, it still goes into the seemingly bottomless pit called the federal deficit. And there are those on the Hill who look closely at foreign aid as a prime candidate for $$ cuts versus taxing options. I have this from very good authority!

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | January 5, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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