At least 611 dead in Brazilian floods: Brazil's deadliest natural disaster in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:05 PM GMT on January 14, 2011

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Torrential rains inundated a heavily populated, steep-sloped area about 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday and Wednesday, triggering flash floods and mudslides that have claimed at least 611 lives. Rainfall amounts of approximately 300 mm (12 inches) fell in just a few hours in the hardest-hit regions, Teresopolis and Nova Friburgo. Many more people are missing, and the death toll is expected to go much higher once rescuers reach remote villages that have been cut off from communications. The death toll makes the January 2011 floods Brazil's worst single-day natural disaster in its history. Brazil suffers hundreds of deaths each year due to flooding and mudslides, but the past 12 months have been particularly devastating. Flooding and landslides near Rio in April last year killed 246 people and did about $13 billion in damage, and at least 85 people perished last January during a similar event.


Figure 1. Flooding at Sao Jose do Vale do Vale do Rio Preto in Brazil, photographed on Thursday, January 13, 2011.

Role of near-record sea surface temperatures in Brazil's flood
This week's heavy rains occurred when a storm system crossing from west to east over southern Brazil drew in a moist southerly flow air off the Atlantic Ocean over southern Brazil at the surface. At higher levels, the storm drew in very moist air from the Amazon. Sea surface temperatures along the Brazilian coast are at near-record warm levels, which likely contributed to the heavy rains. Record rains are more likely when sea surface temperatures over the nearby moisture source regions are at record high levels. This occurs because increased amounts of water vapor evaporate into the atmosphere from a warm ocean compared to a cold one, due to the extra motion and energy of the hotter water molecules. According to an analysis I did of the UK Met Office Hadley Centre sea surface temperature data set, December 2010 sea surface temperatures in the 5x5 degree region of Earth's surface along the Brazilian shore nearest the disaster area, 20S to 25S and 45W to 40W, were the second warmest on record since 1900. Temperatures were 1.05°C (1.9°F) above average in this region last month. Only 2007, with a 1.21°C departure from average, had warmer December ocean temperatures.

Meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart, with the Brazilian private weather forecasting company Metsul, wrote in his blog today, "Heavy rains early this year coincide with the strong warming of the Atlantic along the coasts of southern and southeastern Brazil. With waters up to 2°C warmer than average in some places, there is a major release of moisture in the atmosphere essential for the formation of storms."


Figure 2. Newspaper front page story in Brazil after the March 18, 1967 flooding disaster, Brazil's previous deadliest single-day natural disaster. Image credit: Metsul.

Brazil's previous worst natural disaster: the March 18, 1967 flood
The previous worst natural disaster in Brazilian history occurred on March 18, 1967 when a tsunami-like flood of water, mud and rocks swept down a hillside in the coastal city of Caraguatatuba, near Sao Paulo, killing 300 - 500 people. According to meteorologist Eugenio Hackbart with the private Brazilian weather company Metsul, a rainguage at nearby Sao Sebastao measured 115 mm (4.5") on March 17, and 420 mm (17") on March 18. Hackbart puts the death toll from the 1967 disaster at 300 - 500, and refers to it as Brazil's deadliest single-day natural disaster in history. Heavy rains at other locations in Brazil that month caused additional mudslides and flooding deaths, and Wikipedia lists the total death toll for the Brazil March 1967 floods at 785.

I looked at the sea surface temperatures for March 1967 to see if unusually warm ocean waters may have contributed to that year's flooding disaster. Sea surface temperatures in the 5x5 degree region of Earth's surface nearest the disaster site (20S to 25S, 50W to 45W) were 0.24°C (0.4°F) above average, which is not significantly different from normal. So, we can get record rains and flooding when sea surface temperatures are near normal, and it is possible that this week's catastrophe was not significantly impacted by the exceptionally warm water near the coast. However, heating up the oceans loads the dice in favor of extreme rainfall events, and makes it more likely we will have an unprecedented flood. If we look at the departure of temperature from average for the moisture source regions of the globe's four most extreme flooding disasters over the past 12 months, we find that these ocean temperatures ranked 2nd or 3rd warmest, going back through 111 years of history:

January 2011 Brazilian floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C (20S to 25S, 45W to 40W)
November 2010 Colombia floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +0.65°C (10N to 0N, 80W to 75W)
December 2010 Australian floods: 3rd warmest SSTs on record, +1.05°C (10S to 25S, 145E to 155E)
July 2010 Pakistani floods: 2nd warmest SSTs on record, +0.95°C (Bay of Bengal, 10N to 20N, 80E to 95E)

The size of the ocean source region appropriate to use for these calculations is uncertain, and these rankings will move up or down by averaging in a larger or smaller region of ocean. For example, if one includes an adjacent 5x5 degree area of ocean next to Brazil's coast that may have also contributed moisture to this week's floods, the SSTs rank as 7th warmest in the past 111 years, instead of 2nd warmest. It would take detailed modeling studies to determine just how much impact these near-record sea surface temperatures had on the heavy rains that occurred, and what portion of the ocean served as the moisture source region.


Figure 3. Predicted total precipitation amounts in South America for the 7-day period ending at 7am EST January 21, 2011, as forecast by the 06Z run of the GFS Ensemble model made January 14, 2011. Image credit: Florida State University.

More rain in the forecast
The coast of Brazil is embedded in a warm, moist tropical airmass that is expected to continue to bring heavy rains over he Rio de Janeiro area for at least the next week. Heavy rains in excess of five inches in the next seven days (Figure 3) are predicted by the GFS Ensemble computer model for the disaster region, just north of Rio de Janeiro. The additional heavy rains are likely to cause more life-threatening mudslides and floods.

2010 tied for warmest year in Earth's history
Earth's warmest year in history occurred in 2010, NASA reported this week. The globe's temperature beat the previous record set in 2005 by just .01°C, so we should consider 2010 and 2005 tied for the warmest year on reecord. Reliable global temperature records go back to 1880. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also announced this week that 2010 was tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record, with temperatures during 2010 1.12°F (0.62°C) above the 20th century average. When the planet stops producing record weather catastrophes to blog about, I'll discuss the 2010 global temperature record in more detail.

Anniversary of the Haitian earthquake
Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of the great Haitian earthquake of 2010. I want to thank all of you who offered donations to such great charities as the Lambi Fund of Haiti and Portlight.org. The people of Haiti need our continued financial support and prayers in the difficult rebuilding years to come.

I'll have a new post on Monday.

Jeff Masters

Haiti Christmas (Portlight)
Haiti Christmas

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Quoting lightningbolt73:
It's interesting to see that the south pac and the south io are finally starting to heat up with tropical activity.
It's still pretty quiet over near Africa, though. Guess things won't heat up in the western SInd until Feb [like Aug in the ATL].

Zelia's 80 mph winds are the equivalent of what, 105 mph on our scale?
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I'll say this ever one has different parenting skills.Ever parent has their way on how to punish their child when they do bad behavior.Not ever parents methods are alike.
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675. flsky
Quoting Grothar:


The blog was much nicer two years ago. Many of the regulars have left. I don't blog as much as I once did. It seems that every comment or observation turns into a challenge. There were many helpful people who answered questions about tropical weather and weather questions in general without a mass attack. Now if you simply say, It was cold here today, you can be sure someone will answer with, "Well, it wasn't that cold". I would be willing to forgo civility just for a little politeness.

I can't really say I agree with this. There are many tools on this blog that helps cull the nonsense. I recommend being selective in what you take seriously. There are SO many intelligent, informative people on this blog. Seek them out!
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Hmmm.... wonder if the friends thought he was cool or just dumb afterwards.... lol
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So did Zelia absorb Vania the way they were suggesting it might?
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


I'm not (yet) a parent, but here's an idea...*calmly* remind them that eating out is a privilege.
Eh I didn't want to cook dinner today becuase heck it's saturday,and after a long week well you get the idea.My duaghter was over at a friends sleep over so she wasn't there when all this happend,and my husband was gone to work.If their dad was there they would've behaved much better.I don't want to be known to the kids as a push over.Each of them got a tap on the behind as soon as we got back.
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Quoting Patrap:
..."I Triple Dog Dare ya.."


Boy rescued after getting tongue stuck on icy pole

by Associated Press

wwltv.com

Posted on January 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM

WOODWARD, Okla. %u2013 (AP) In a scene straight from the movie "A Christmas Story," an 8-year-old Oklahoma boy got his tongue stuck to a metal pole after he licked it on a dare.
Hmmm.... wonder if the friends thought he was cool or just dumb afterwards.... lol
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WTH has this blog become? Look at the comments prior to this. Wow, unbelievable !

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664. flsky
Quoting KrippleCreekFerry:
Striking a child teaches them that violent solutions to problems is the way to go. Not good.

So true. Why would you teach a child that violence is best? Is that all the parenting skills you have? I imagine you've been "taught" by violence by your own family. Perpetual crap is very sad.
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Quoting KrippleCreekFerry:
You're not funny. I've seen children with cigarette burns, electrical burns, belt marks,etc. It's repulsive. They rarely did anything more than act like children. Violence teaches them the wrong thing. NO EXPERT recommends it in any form.
it was not meant to be funny
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660. flsky
Quoting KoritheMan:


Funny how I wasn't traumatized at all despite having been spanked frequently as a child.

Are you sure?
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Quoting MichaelSTL:


I myself stopped coming to this blog for a while; I hadn't posted or even read any of the comments for like two years when I came back. Of course, I left because of all of the sheer nonsense that was going on (in fact, it got so bad that people were getting bans over it, I stopped coming shortly after I was banned (from this blog), even if for only 24 hours).

On the other hand, I now wonder why I did come back (one reason though was the way certain trolls got one of my friends permabanned, not that it isn't easy to circumvent it but it destroys your standing as one of the long-term regulars, and of course incites harassment)...


Amazing, you throw daggars at all who don't see things your way and then seek sympathy.



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Quoting JFLORIDA:
You know they actually grew out of it. Little kids are wild and unreasonable. You just gotta let go and relax.
thats what i did with my boy he use to act up then i would act up worst takes the focus off him to me then it was not fun anymore i have never smacked my son no spankings no punishment what so ever
joshua is a very well behave little boy and iam proud of him we talk all the time play vids together he is growing fast now 10 i got 8 more years to go
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how about an eletric belt everytime they act up give em a zap 110

or better yet get a tazer that will fix em up


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649. flsky
Quoting twincomanche:


How about it teaches them boundaries, something sadly lacking here and in modern life..

Yikes!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm never taking the kids out to eat again for a long time.They were terrible!.They were crowling up under the table and making loud noises.And guess what?...Their all boys!!!
Quoting JFLORIDA:


Little kids do that. My sisters used to horrify me when we would go out. I just learned to tune it out. Someone will tell me if they kill someone so I don't pay attention and make myself fixate on enjoying the food.


I'm not (yet) a parent, but here's an idea...*calmly* remind them that eating out is a privilege.
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Quoting Grothar:


The only time I insert a movie quote or rarely, if ever post music, it is to divert the blog from getting ugly. I never to do to disrupt a legitimate dialogue. (great movie, though)


I think the video posts help us to realize the blog atmosphere we're in at certain times.

Quoting bappit:

My post previous to this illustrates the reality that not even saturation bombing with reasonable argument will resolve the situation. It all becomes tiresome.

Edit: I should have said "The quote in my previous post ..." LOL


I read that as "limestone", but you can only fill so much.

Quoting Patrap:
..."I Triple Dog Dare ya.."


Boy rescued after getting tongue stuck on icy pole

by Associated Press

wwltv.com

Posted on January 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM

WOODWARD, Okla. %u2013 (AP) In a scene straight from the movie "A Christmas Story," an 8-year-old Oklahoma boy got his tongue stuck to a metal pole after he licked it on a dare.


That's why every Canadian knows not to stick your tounge on cold metal.

Quoting pinehurstnc:
i thought 6 months might ,,,just might,, turn this blog into what it was 2 years ago.. i was wrong,, no need to say any thing rude,, it has been said over and over , and, i miss storm w


+1

Quoting xcool:



ENSEMBLE TEMPERATURE


Keeper's models are being updated, but a massive cold snap later January will be compounded by that Hudson-forming low set to bring in more high pressure vortex air.
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, we can settle this age thing right now. What were you doing when the 2nd Peloponnesian War broke out. Gotcha!


Hey Gro:

Just looking if anything worthwhile reading before going back to my book...

Did you get to meet Thucydides? I've read some of his work. The plague sounds awful.

Wel te rustig
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Quoting KrippleCreekFerry:
You're talking child abuse. Shame on you.


Funny how I wasn't traumatized at all despite having been spanked frequently as a child.
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Quoting twincomanche:


Take em outside, cause of course you can't do this in public or you are arrested, and hit them a few times with a small stick. Next time there will be no crawling under the table.


Actually, that depends more on the kid and not necessarily the method of discipline. Corporal punishment doesn't seem to work on my own siblings (I'm over 10 years older than all but one of them >_>), for example.
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I'm never taking the kids out to eat again for a long time.They were terrible!.They were crowling up under the table and making loud noises.And guess what?...Their all boys!!!
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Quoting beell:
Probably worth keeping an eye on for Monday.



DAY 3 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
0222 AM CST SAT JAN 15 2011

VALID 171200Z - 181200Z

...SYNOPSIS...

LARGE SCALE PATTERN WILL CHANGE LITTLE THIS PERIOD WITH A BROAD
SYNOPTIC TROUGH OVER THE ERN HALF OF THE COUNTRY AND CORRESPONDING
UPSTREAM RIDGE OVER THE WRN THIRD. MODEL CONSENSUS IS THAT THE
SHORTWAVE TROUGH THAT WILL MOVE THROUGH TX SUNDAY WILL TURN EWD AS
IT ENTERS UPPER TROUGH BASE AND CONTINUE THROUGH THE NERN GULF AND
GULF COASTAL AREA MONDAY...REACHING FL BY MONDAY AFTERNOON. WARM
FRONT WILL LIFT NWD INTO THE SRN FL PENINSULA AHEAD OF THIS FEATURE.

...SRN HALF OF FL PENINSULA...

WARM FRONT WILL LIFT NWD THROUGH SRN FL MONDAY AS SURFACE RIDGE AXIS
SHIFTS EWD AND SLY FLOW STRENGTHENS IN ADVANCE OF APPROACHING
SHORTWAVE TROUGH
. LOW-MID 60S DEWPOINTS WILL ADVECT NWD INTO SRN FL
CONTRIBUTING TO DESTABILIZATION...BUT INSTABILITY SHOULD REMAIN
MARGINAL DUE TO WEAK MID-LEVEL LAPSE RATES. DEVELOPING ISENTROPIC
LIFT AND WARM ADVECTION REGIME WILL RESULT IN WIDESPREAD CONVECTION
AND THUNDERSTORMS NORTH OF WARM FRONT. THIS ACTIVITY WILL LIKELY
REMAIN ELEVATED. HOWEVER...SURFACE BASED STORMS WILL BE POSSIBLE IN
WARM SECTOR OVER SRN FL
WHERE DIABATIC WARMING CAN DESTABILIZE THE
BOUNDARY LAYER. STRONGER FLOW ALOFT ACCOMPANYING THE SHORTWAVE
TROUGH WILL CONTRIBUTE TO 40+ KT EFFECTIVE SHEAR AND HODOGRAPHS WILL
ALSO BE ENHANCED WHERE THE LLJ INTERSECTS THE WARM FRONT. THREAT
WILL EXIST FOR A FEW SUPERCELLS AND BOWING SEGMENTS CAPABLE OF
PRODUCING ISOLATED STRONG WIND GUSTS AND PERHAPS A COUPLE OF
TORNADOES. UNCERTAINTIES REGARDING THE EXTENT OF DESTABILIZATION
WITHIN THE WARM SECTOR PRECLUDES INTRODUCING MORE THAN 5% SEVERE
PROBABILITIES AT THIS TIME...BUT AREA WILL CONTINUE TO BE MONITORED.

..DIAL.. 01/15/2011
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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