Unprecedented flooding hits Australia's Queensland

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 10:57 PM GMT on December 29, 2010

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Unprecedented flooding has hit the northeast Australian state of Queensland, thanks to a week and a half of torrential rains and the landfall of Tropical Cyclone Tasha on Christmas Day. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated yesterday, "Some communities are seeing flood waters higher than they've seen in decades, and for some communities flood waters have never reached these levels before [in] the time that we have been recording floods." The worst flooding occurred where Tropical Cyclone Tasha made landfall on Christmas Day. Though Tasha was a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds and lasted less than a day, the cyclone dumped very heavy rains of 8 - 16 inches (about 200 - 400 mm) on a region that was already waterlogged from months of heavy rains. According to the National Climatic Data Center, springtime in Australia (September - November) had precipitation 125% of normal--the wettest spring in the country since records began 111 years ago. Some sections of coastal Queensland received over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain from September through November. Rainfall in Australia in December may also set a record for rainiest December. The heavy rains are due, in part, to the moderate to strong La NiƱa event that has been in place since July. While the rains have eased over Queensland over the past few days, some rivers will not reach peak flood stage until Friday. Approximately 1000 people have been evacuated from the affected area so far.


Figure 1. Rainfall in Queensland, Australia for the 7-day period ending December 29, 2010. Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


Figure 2. Radar image of Tropical Cyclone Tasha as it moved inland over Queensland, Australia on Christmas Day (local time.) Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


Figure 3. River conditions in Queensland as of 8:30am local time on December 30, 2010. Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Flood warnings are in effect for over twelve rivers, and the flooding has closed approximately 300 roads across Queensland, including two major highways into the capital of Brisbane. Evacuations are underway in Rockhampton, a city of 50,000 people on the coast. Damage to infrastructure in Australia has been estimated at over $1 billion by the government, and economists have estimated the Australian economy will suffer an additional $6 billion in damage over the coming months due to reduced exports, according to insurance company AIR Worldwide. Queensland is Australia's top coal-producing state, and coal mining and delivery operations are being severely hampered by the flooding. Damage to agriculture is curently estimated at $400 million, and is expected to rise.

Flooding woes hit New Zealand
Wild weather has also hit New Zealand this week. Golden Bay on the northern end of the South Island of New Zealand had its worst floods in 150 years this week, thanks to torrential rains that dropped up to 13.2 inches (337.5 mm) in just 24 hours on Monday at one mountain location.


Figure 4. Two webcam views of the Motueka River in New Zealand taken five hours apart on December 28, 2010, showing the dramatic rise in the river due to flooding rains. Image credit: Tasman District Council. Screen shots kindly sent to me by Matt Johnson.

Jeff Masters

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201. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
8:36 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice #4
TROPICAL LOW 06U
3:00 AM WST December 31 2010
==========================================

At 2:00 am WST, Tropical Low (1000 hPa) located at 15.6S 126.8E (overland), or 390 kilometres east northeast of Derby and 140 kilometres west of Wyndham has 10 minute sustained winds of 15 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The low is reported as moving west at 14 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: Overland

The low is expected to develop into a tropical cyclone on Saturday morning after it moves off the west Kimberley coast tonight. Coastal areas of the west Kimberley between Cockatoo Island and Wallal including Broome can expect a period of strong winds and heavy rain later today and tonight as the low passes by.

While gales are not expected today, gales may develop along the Pilbara coast on Saturday for a brief period as the system moves steadily towards the west southwest parallel to the Pilbara coast. By Sunday the system is likely to be north of Exmouth and continuing to move towards the west southwest.

Heavy rainfall of 100 to 150mm is expected in the north and west Kimberley today with significant stream rises with local flooding possible, refer to the latest Flood Watch [IDW39610] for further details. The system is unlikely to cause flooding in the Pilbara due to its steady movement.

Tropical Cyclone Watches
========================
A Cyclone WATCH continues for a developing tropical low for coastal areas from Wallal to Exmouth.

Forecast and Intensity
=========================
12 HRS: 16.5S 123.8E - 20 knots (Tropical Low)
24 HRS: 17.6S 120.7E - 30 knots (Tropical Low)
48 HRS: 19.9S 114.4E - 55 knots (CAT 2)
72 HRS: 21.1S 109.7E - 40 knots (CAT 1)

Additional Information
=====================
The system was located over land using surface observations and Wyndham radar under moderate shear of 10 to 20 knots.

Dvorak intensity not assigned as system over land.

Model guidance is consistent with a west to southwest track due to a strong mid level ridge to the south. The low is likely to move offshore late Friday into favorable sea surface temperatures. Being forecast to be of midget size, the system should develop rapidly into a tropical cyclone after spending less than 12 hours over open water.

Upper level winds are unidirectional but as the system is moving in the direction of the shear, it is likely to experience favourable shear conditions. The system is likely to have reasonable structure as it moves offshore. Given its forecast motion of 15 knots, strong winds should extend further on the southern side increasing the chance of gales on the Pilbara coast, albeit for a relatively short period.

The system is forecast to intensify, possibly to category 2 intensity [55 knots 10 minute mean wind] but should encounter cooler waters in the longer term northwest of Exmouth which should constrain its development potential.
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194. Jax82
8:04 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
SSTs Dec 25, 2009



SSTs Dec 25, 2010



Can you see a difference?
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
191. Jax82
7:58 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
186. Jedkins01
7:44 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Also, I don't see what he means by a "4 degree SST increase in the CPAC"; here is a map of SST changes in the past month; not much change in the equatorial Pacific:



If he is referring to the warming in the central south Pacific, that has nothing to do with the equatorial SSTs that define ENSO. On another note, there has been a lot of warming across the Southern Hemisphere oceans, also seen in the anomaly map in my previous comment, but I don't see how that relates to ENSO.

Also, you need to look at more than just SSTs; the SOI in no way supports any weakening of La Nina; indeed, it is going to shatter the December record of +23 in 1950 and is the highest since, well, I don't know; 1975?, 1955? (the MEI will probably drop again):




Considering La Nina is as strong as it is, you wouldn't know it across the U.S. La Nina hasn't acted like it is scientifically supposed to at all
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6867
185. CybrTeddy
7:43 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
What I've found also interesting is not only the 'drought' of Major Hurricanes hitting the USA (if you don't want to consider Ike a major) but the last 3 seasons have not seen a Category 5 either in the Atlantic Basin. That being said, there is some evidence to upgrade Hurricane Igor to Category 5 status during post-seasonal analysis. At one point, the ADT and SAB all indicated that Igor obtained Category 5 status on the 14th of September, and the TAFB and SAB both indicated it late on the 15th (might have gotten the dates confused did that off the top of my head) that Igor was a 160 mph Category 5. But Igor was no threat to land and it might have caused some panic when headlines read 'Igor, now a Category 5, churning westward towards the Atlantic' so 155 mph (1 mph away from Category 5) was what they sticked with.

Regarding the 2010 season, it looks likely that 3 storms will be retired in post season. Karl, Igor, and Tomas. Whats more, I think its possible that Alex and Matthew might get the boot during post season, given the amount of damage and death those storm did.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
184. washingtonian115
7:42 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Looks unlikely that 2011 will be even a weak El Nino event. Looks La Nina per CFS.

Seasonal Nino 3.4


Last 6 years have almost gone in a pattern with ENSO to note. 2004 was a El Nino (though a weird one) 2005 was neutral, 2006 was El Nino, 2007 was La Nina, 2008 was neutral, 2009 was El Nino, 2010 was La Nina, 2011 looks like it will be either La Nina or cold neutral. Based on that, I could see 2012 being a moderate-weak El Nino and 2013 being similar to this year.
I thought I was the only one who noticed we were following that pattern.And with that being said I think the U.S will see a bad hurricane season next year.Doesn't matter about the numbers,but the destruction they cuase.2010 was a good exsample of that.Many storms,but not much destruction in the U.S which is why most people along the coast will foreget we even had a hurricane season.And they are becoming complacent each year.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 15707
182. FtMyersgal
7:35 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting lilElla:


Where abouts in Wisconsin?? The winters really aren't that bad, you just have to dress for it. I would much prefer snow & cold over humid & hot :)

Grew up in Milwaukee County area. When we moved to Florida we were living in Racine. It's the snow I hate. You learn to leave with the humidity plus we get breezes here not the stagnent air we had in Wisconsin. Plus, everthing is air conditioned. Your part of Wisconsin is lovely. Go Badgers!!
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1216
181. CybrTeddy
7:33 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Looks unlikely that 2011 will be even a weak El Nino event. Looks La Nina per CFS.

Seasonal Nino 3.4


Last 6 years have almost gone in a pattern with ENSO to note. 2004 was a El Nino (though a weird one) 2005 was neutral, 2006 was El Nino, 2007 was La Nina, 2008 was neutral, 2009 was El Nino, 2010 was La Nina, 2011 looks like it will be either La Nina or cold neutral. Based on that, I could see 2012 being a moderate-weak El Nino and 2013 being similar to this year.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
180. washingtonian115
7:28 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting Jeff9641:
Looking more likely that a strong El-Nino is on the way by next Fall with El-Nino starting in July or August. Question will become is how this will impact the 2011 hurricane season? If these models pan out we may have a season similar to that of 2009. Colorado may want to revisit their prediction because if El-Nino occurs during August then Hurricane formation would be limited significantly. There has been a 4 degree rise in the C Pacific over the last couple of weeks.
Um No!!!.We will have a active hurricane season,becuase I don't expect El nino to form until december 2011-spring of 2012 time range.I don't belive we'll drop out of La nina that quickly.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 15707
179. Skyepony (Mod)
7:27 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Officials say an 80-year-old woman has died and her son is missing after they were swept away by floodwaters in eastern Philippines, where landslides and flooding have prompted some 4,000 people to evacuate to safer ground. Albay province has been pummeled by nonstop rains for five days, and the provincial governor, Joey Salceda, has declared a state of calamity to free up provincial funds for disaster relief efforts. Residents of at least five towns have been evacuated. Disaster official Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro says the woman who died was crossing a flooded area in Manito township late Wednesday when the strong current swept her away along with her 50-year-old son. Her body was found Thursday, but he remains missing.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36075
178. Skyepony (Mod)
7:23 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Oregon is having a snowstorm

More than a foot of snow fell on the eastern Oregon town of Burns overnight, collapsing the roof of a car dealership, breaking off tree limbs, snapping power lines and closing roads. According to the Oregon State Police, emergency workers were busy through Tuesday night and this morning responding to a wide range of weather-related problems in the Harney County high-desert town of about 3,000. OSP Sergeant Brian Williams reported that the storm closed U.S. 20 -- which runs through Burns -- intermittently because of crashes, jackknifed trucks and sliding vehicles. It also resulted in the closure of Oregon 395 when a large tree toppled across the roadway. In addition, Williams said, there were numerous reports of downed power lines and blown transformers and damaged trees, as well as the collapse of a portion of the roof at the Burns Ford Dealership.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36075
177. lilElla
7:02 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting FtMyersgal:


It's a balmy 73 in Fort Myers right now. We are supposed to see 78 Friday and Saturday. Now that's what I want to see. A return to a more normal winter. I lived in Wisconsin for 30 years and I never want to be that cold again! LOL


Where abouts in Wisconsin?? The winters really aren't that bad, you just have to dress for it. I would much prefer snow & cold over humid & hot :)
Member Since: December 5, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 272
176. Neapolitan
6:56 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting Cochise111:
Britain is on course to have its coldest winter in 1000 years...

No, it's not. No scientists predicted such a thing, and no forecast called for it. This is another example of journalistic foolishness and anti-science wishful thinking. Read the whole sordid story here, if you wish, or go back to the original news story here (translated to English).

As has been said before, folks shouldn't believe everything they hear on Glenn Beck's program or read on WattsUpWithThat. (In fact, they'd be doing themselves a favor if they never automatically assumed to be true anything either one of them said.)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13268
174. FtMyersgal
6:42 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Cold here in Florida too :P Though it is warming up the last few days, up in the 60s so far.


It's a balmy 73 in Fort Myers right now. We are supposed to see 78 Friday and Saturday. Now that's what I want to see. A return to a more normal winter. I lived in Wisconsin for 30 years and I never want to be that cold again! LOL
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1216
173. hydrus
6:38 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting lilElla:


OMG!!! Does Bill also go by the name of "Tank" and is this the person that lives at the caverns? What an interesting character he is! I was there with a Girl Scout troop - we actually slept in the cave and did some real spelunking! Pulllllllll with your fingers and pushhhhhhhh with your toes cause it was too narrow to lift your head off the ground. Paul, our guide, told some good ghost stories as we were sitting next to a 50' pit where the little boy sat with his candle! But we got him good the following morning! The caverns was the first place I saw a Kentucky Warbler :) I love the huge Oak tree on the "Trail of Tears". You are surrounded with so much history. I was even called a "Yankee"!
If you are in this neck of the woods again, be sure to see Fall Creek Falls state Park and Rock Island State Park...The falls are nothing short of spectacular and are on the National Treasure list....Link
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172. CybrTeddy
6:32 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Yeas, and you don't know why they call it global warming.

Just because it is cold, even record cold, in one area doesn't mean that it is cold everywhere! How many times does this have to be repeated before people get it?!


Cold here in Florida too :P Though it is warming up the last few days, up in the 60s so far.
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171. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:28 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting MichaelSTL:


Yeas, and you don't know why they call it global warming.

Just because it is cold, even record cold, in one area doesn't mean that it is cold everywhere! How many times does this have to be repeated before people get it?!
they never will get it
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
170. melwerle
6:23 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
A little shaker (3.8) here this morning. Woke me up. Had to think whether I had the wash machine on and was it on spin cycle...nope. It was a quake. I'm getting lazy now - I don't even get out of bed anymore.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
169. lilElla
6:22 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting hydrus:
Lol..The Cumberland Caverns are in my back yard, and under my house! I live in Rock Island, which borders McMinnville. I have been inside the caverns many times. Bill Higgenbothem is a member of our church. His Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather discovered the caverns in the very early 1800,s. It is said to be haunted. There are dead bodies in the caverns...I did not see any ghosts during my visits, but it is said that not all the caves have been mapped and the cave system is very large indeed.


OMG!!! Does Bill also go by the name of "Tank" and is this the person that lives at the caverns? What an interesting character he is! I was there with a Girl Scout troop - we actually slept in the cave and did some real spelunking! Pulllllllll with your fingers and pushhhhhhhh with your toes cause it was too narrow to lift your head off the ground. Paul, our guide, told some good ghost stories as we were sitting next to a 50' pit where the little boy sat with his candle! But we got him good the following morning! The caverns was the first place I saw a Kentucky Warbler :) I love the huge Oak tree on the "Trail of Tears". You are surrounded with so much history. I was even called a "Yankee"!
Member Since: December 5, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 272
166. Cochise111
6:10 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Britain is on course to have its coldest winter in 1000 years, but the cultish are still pushing that "global warming."
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165. hydrus
6:09 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting lilElla:


Let's hope 2011 has no more tornado activity for you! Is it hard to see storms coming in and they catch people by surprise?

We do have lots of great state parks. Devils Lake SP is about 10 miles N of us. We are on the eastern edge of the Driftless Area and how anyone can think that S. WI is flatlander country has obviously never been here. This is our 4th winter with enough snow to ski/snow board on our hill. And breaking trails for the donkeys, they don't like snow. Hopefully we will get more to cover up the crust once it goes below freezing again.

I have been to Cumberland Caverns, close to McMinnville. Are you in this area? It is absolutely beautiful!!!
Lol..The Cumberland Caverns are in my back yard, and under my house! I live in Rock Island, which borders McMinnville. I have been inside the caverns many times. Bill Higgenbothem is a member of our church. His Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather discovered the caverns in the very early 1800,s. It is said to be haunted. There are dead bodies in the caverns...I did not see any ghosts during my visits, but it is said that not all the caves have been mapped and the cave system is very large indeed.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19521
164. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
6:03 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting Shonuff:


Got to experience my first earthquake ever (along with most Maryland residents) during that 3.4 in Gaithersburg on July 16. Very interesting experience, felt and sounded like elephants running across my roof for about 8 seconds.

Although the quake in Indiana is unrelated, the New Madrid fault has always concerned me, mostly because it feels like many people have downplayed the threat to the area. Because the Midwest doesn't employ the same building standards as the more well-known earthquake areas in California and Alaska, a recurrence of the 1811-12 quakes today would cause catastrophic damage to Memphis and St. Louis.


its ironic that that date is approaching again with the coming of new year been 200 years
time for the giant to tremble

December 16, 1811, 1415 UTC (8:15 a.m.); (M ~7.2%u20138.1) epicenter in northeast Arkansas
January 23, 1812, 1500 UTC (9 a.m.); (M ~7.0%u20137.8[1]) epicenter in the Missouri Bootheel.
February 7, 1812, 0945 UTC (4:45 a.m.); (M ~7.4%u20138.0[1]) epicenter near New Madrid, Missouri

3 big one's in the span of 3 months
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163. lilElla
5:59 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting hydrus:
Great parks in your state. Winters are brutal. I am on the Cumberland plateau, Middle Tennessee. It can be pretty rough here too...I am hoping that there are no more tornadoes. We are #1 with tornado fatalities for the past ten years.


Let's hope 2011 has no more tornado activity for you! Is it hard to see storms coming in and they catch people by surprise?

We do have lots of great state parks. Devils Lake SP is about 10 miles N of us. We are on the eastern edge of the Driftless Area and how anyone can think that S. WI is flatlander country has obviously never been here. This is our 4th winter with enough snow to ski/snow board on our hill. And breaking trails for the donkeys, they don't like snow. Hopefully we will get more to cover up the crust once it goes below freezing again.

I have been to Cumberland Caverns, close to McMinnville. Are you in this area? It is absolutely beautiful!!!
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161. Shonuff
5:47 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting Neapolitan:

The same mechanism is why the New Madrid quakes--which have their 200th anniversary in just under a year--were felt as far away as South Carolina and New England...


Got to experience my first earthquake ever (along with most Maryland residents) during that 3.4 in Gaithersburg on July 16. Very interesting experience, felt and sounded like elephants running across my roof for about 8 seconds.

Although the quake in Indiana is unrelated, the New Madrid fault has always concerned me, mostly because it feels like many people have downplayed the threat to the area. Because the Midwest doesn't employ the same building standards as the more well-known earthquake areas in California and Alaska, a recurrence of the 1811-12 quakes today would cause catastrophic damage to Memphis and St. Louis.
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160. hydrus
5:43 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting lilElla:
Hydrus - we are located in south central WI.
We had about an hour of rain last night that made the roads extremely slick - lots of slide offs & roll overs. Temps were hovering at 32 and instantly froze. Today we are supposed to hit 40 with drizzle & possible rain showers.
So much for our snow........... :(
Great parks in your state. Winters are brutal. I am on the Cumberland plateau, Middle Tennessee. It can be pretty rough here too...I am hoping that there are no more tornadoes. We are #1 with tornado fatalities for the past ten years.
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159. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
5:41 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Quoting kwgirl:
Is this part of the New Madrid fault?
yeah don't want things shaking up there some big one maybe even the biggest have occured on that line
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158. Shonuff
5:38 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
I'll be traveling to central Louisiana tomorrow, right smack in the center of that severe weather bulls-eye. :\
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154. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
5:19 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
153. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
5:18 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 163 Comments: 52257
152. sirmaelstrom
5:07 PM GMT on December 30, 2010
№ 148

Quoting MichaelSTL: And that doesn't even include most of the Arctic, which was up to 10[deg C] above average in November (NASA also handily allows you to use polar projection which shows the polar regions better)


DMI data for 80degN seems to disagree with this for November 2010. Granted the baselines are different-- DMI uses 1958-2002 and NASA 1951-1980--but the difference is still striking. The NASA shows over half of the area north of 80degN as being 10degC above the baseline. The DMI graph shows a peak of only about 5degC late in November; half of the month is below the baseline. Note that November is represented as Days 305-334.

From here.

Added: Just for clarification--red line is temperature data in K, green is the 1958-2002 average for the DMI data, the blue line is the freezing point of water. More details available at the link below the graph.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.