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The top 5 international weather stories of 2013

While the U.S. saw a relatively tame year of weather in 2013, other parts of the world experienced catastrophic floods, storms, and record heat. As the year comes to an end, here’s a look at the five most noteworthy weather events that occurred outside the United States:

5. Typhoon Wipha in Japan

As if compensating for the lack of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, the western Pacific had an unusually active season this year. In mid-October, typhoon Wipha collided with a cold front over Japan. Though the storm had weakened from Category 4 to Category 1 strength as it skirted past Japan, Wipha unleashed exceptionally heavy rainfall.

In just 24 hours the storm dumped nearly 33 inches (840 mm) of rain over Oshima Island, located 75 miles south of Tokyo. More than half of this incredible deluge fell in under four hours. The record 24-hour rainfall triggered mudslides on Oshima island, destroying hundreds of homes and killing 41 people.

Animation of Wipha and its large plume of tropical moisture moving up Japan's east coast. (CIMSS Satellite blog)
Animation of Wipha and its large plume of tropical moisture moving up Japan’s east coast. (CIMSS Satellite blog)

Although Wipha was far from being the strongest typhoon of 2013, its heavy rainfall over such a small area makes it one of the more unique global weather events of the year.

4. Australia’s record hot year

The sun glows a deep orange color over Sydney as the light is filtered through smoke haze from wildfires, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Several countries set new all-time high temperature records this year, but Australia earns a spot in the top five for its persistent record-breaking warmth.

The Sydney Morning Herald writes: “2013 is the year Australia marked its hottest day, month, season, 12-month period and, by December 31, hottest calendar year.”

January began with an intense summer heat wave that fueled devastating wildfires across New South Wales and Tasmania. The nationally averaged temperature eclipsed 102°F (39°C) for a record seven consecutive days, and on Jan. 18, Sydney reached a new all-time high of 114.4°F (45.8°C). It was Australia’s all-time hottest month since records began in 1910.

The summer of 2012-13 ended 2°F above normal, even warmer than the previous record-holder from 1997-98.

Mean temperature anomalies across Australia, Dec. 2012-Nov. 2013. (Bureau of Meteorology) Mean temperature anomalies across Australia, Dec. 2012-Nov. 2013. (Bureau of Meteorology)

The warmth didn’t stop after summer ended, however. In late August, the average national temperature reached 85.9°F, making it Australia’s warmest winter day on record. September was an astonishing 5°F warmer than normal, which helped stoke another round of devastating wildfires in the outback.

The warmth felt “down under” this year is remarkable for occurring without an El Niño event. As global temperatures warm, Australia will likely set new heat records in the coming years.

3. North India floods

This year’s summer monsoon in India turned deadly when flash flooding and landslides in June killed more than 5,000 people in northern India. It was the highest death toll recorded during an Indian monsoon event in 45 years.

Indian army personnel help stranded people cross a flooded river after heavy rains in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. (Reuters)

Dehradun, a city in the Uttarakhand state, received 14.6″ (370 mm) of rain in 24 hours, its greatest 24-hour rainfall on record, wrote Wunderground’s Jeff Masters. The flooding rains triggered a major landslide near the Hindu temple of Kedarnath, where thousands of worshipers and tourists flocked for a religious holiday. Emergency workers had to rescue several thousand stranded people.

While the summer monsoon rains are vital to India’s economic livelihood, this year’s rains arrived two weeks earlier than usual. It also was the fastest onset of the monsoon since records began in 1961. The combination of heavy rain on top of late-spring snowmelt in the Himalayas caused catastrophic damage, and placed this year’s floods among the deadliest weather events of 2013.

2. Flooding in Central Europe

Many parts of Europe experienced extreme weather in 2013, from an unusually cold spring followed by a hot summer, then a stormy fall. The highest impact event, in terms of human lives and economic costs, was the severe flooding that hit Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic in early June.

An aerial view of the swollen Vltava River that flooded Luzec nad Vltavou village near Melnik, about 25 miles north of Prague. (AP Photo/Vit Simanek)
500 mb pressure height anomalies over Europe during May 2013. Darker shades indicate lower pressure. (NOAA ESRL) 500 mb pressure height anomalies over Europe during May 2013. Blue and purple shades indicate lower pressure. (NOAA/ESRL)

In late spring, a blocking pattern over northern Scandinavia created a kink in the jet stream, which kept central Europe under a persistent trough of low pressure. By late May, a stalled stationary front north of the Alps delivered parts of southern Germany and Austria 2-3 months worth of rain in less than a week. Over 8 inches (200 mm) fell in parts of western Austria over a two-day period, making it a less than 1-in-100 year rainfall event.

The copious rainfall caused the region’s worst flooding in decades. Two dozen people died as swollen rivers inundated entire towns and villages. In Passau, Germany, floodwaters along the Danube and Inn Rivers reached their highest level in 500 years.

With economic losses near $18 billion, the European floods were also the world’s costliest natural disaster of 2013.

1. Super Typhoon Haiyan

Survivors walk in typhoon ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

By all accounts, Super Typhoon Haiyan (named Yolanda in the Philippines) was the deadliest and most destructive weather event of 2013. Packing one-minute sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts up to 235 mph, Haiyan ravaged the Philippines while at peak strength and became the world’s strongest landfalling storm on record.

At its peak intensity, Haiyan had a central pressure of 895 mb, the 12th lowest of any storm on record. Yet in terms of sustained wind speed, only three other cyclones on Earth were stronger – and none had ever hit land with such ferocity.

Super Typhoon Haiyan approaching the Philippines on November 7, 2013. (NOAA via AFP Getty Images)

Typhoon Haiyan’s violent winds and torrential rainfall left behind a trail of destruction as it tracked through the central Philippines. The storm caused more than 6,000 deaths and up to $14 billion in economic damage.  

A devastated area in the city of Tacloban, Leyte province, in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013, only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the town on November 8. (AFP Photo/ TED ALJIBE) A devastated area in the city of Tacloban, Leyte province, in the central Philippines on November 11, 2013, only days after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the town on November 8. (AFP Photo/ Ted Aljibe)

Hardest hit was Tacloban City, where a 20-ft storm surge inundated the area. Haiyan’s eye passed just south of Tacloban, placing the city’s 220,000 inhabitants at the mercy of the storm’s Category 5-equivalent winds.

After barreling through the Philippines, Haiyan entered the South China Sea and made landfall in Vietnam as a strong tropical storm. While the storm also caused flooding in Vietnam and southern China, the Philippines bore the brunt of Haiyan’s impact. Nearly two months after the storm, nearly 1,800 people are still missing and many more remain homeless.

Alongside Haiyan, all of the above events (plus several others not listed here) made 2013 another interesting year for record-setting weather around the globe.


Top five international weather events of 2012
Top five international weather events of 2011

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Jason Samenow · December 30, 2013

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