Saturday, January 15, 2011

A week of cataclysmic natural disasters

To anyone even remotely interested in monitoring the weather, the week gone by has been one of exceptional and cataclysmic hydrological happenings the world over :-
  • Queensland in Australia saw some of the heaviest rainfall since 1974 which left 25 people dead, another 71 missing and billions of dollars of loss which is likened to be like the aftermath of a war. Unluckily they still have two months of rain ahead of them.
  • Widespread flooding and landslides in the Philippines claimed the lives of 40 people. The disaster, triggered by the northeast monsoon and a cold front, hit mainly the Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, Southern Tagalog regions and affected more than 1.2 million people. 
  • 27 people died, 12 are missing and more than a million people were affected by the floods triggered by torrential rains in Sri Lanka, particularly in the eastern districts of Batticaloa and Ampara.

  • In Brazil at least 540 people have died due to landslides and flooding caused by torrential rain and another 10,000 people living in what used to be picturesque mountain towns popular with tourists have been affected by the torrential rains that began at the start of the year
I place below an excerpt of an article by Germaine Greer in the Guardian entitled :
Australian floods: Why were we so surprised?

Meteorologists warned Australians six months ago to prepare for a soaking. And nobody did a thing ...
What's going on in Australia is rain. British people might think that they're rain experts. Truth is that they hardly know what rain is. The kind of cold angel sweat that wets British windscreens isn't proper rain. For weeks now rain has been drumming in my ears, leaping off my corrugated steel roof, frothing through the rocks, spouting off the trees, and running, running, running past my house and down into the gully, into the little creek, into the bigger creek, and on to the Nerang river and out to sea at Southport. We've had more than 350mm in the last four days. My creek is running so high and so fast that I can't get out and my workforce can't get in…
The rain comes in pulses. When the noise abates, momentarily, I can see Mount Hobwee through veils of wet mist, and then I hear the advancing roar of the next pulse, and everything shuts down again. Behind my house a white cataract is charging down the gully through the rocks. When I'm in bed I can feel the thudding of its raw power through my bones.
The meteorologists will tell you that the current deluge is a product of La Niña. At fairly regular intervals, atmospheric pressure on the western side of the Pacific falls; the trade winds blow from the cooler east side towards the trough, pushing warm surface water westwards towards the bordering land masses. As the water-laden air is driven over the land it cools and drops its load. In June last year the bureau of meteorology issued a warning that La Niña was about "to dump buckets" on Australia.
Six months ago the meteorologists thought it was worthwhile to warn people to "get ready for a wet, late winter and a soaked spring and summer". So what did the people do? Nothing. They said, "She'll be right, mate". She wasn't.

Comment by Praful Rao
Starting May2011, we will be engulfed by the SW monsoons once again and face 5 months of rainfall - I daresay, nothing; nothing whatsoever has been done by way of landslide prevention during the time when we should have been shoring up our defenses against the onslaught of the monsoons.

Too bad we never learn

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