Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:36 PM GMT on March 30, 2006
Tropical Cyclone Glenda smashed ashore near Onslow, Western Australia today as a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 115-120 mph, gusting to 155 mph, and a central pressure estimated at 940 mb by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. A storm surge of at least 10 feet likely accompanied the storm to shore, but fortunately, Glenda missed the most heavily populated city of the region, Karratha, and damage will be far less than the $1 billion inflicted by Tropical Cyclone Larry just 11 days ago. The one-two punch of two major hurricanes hitting Australia in one year is not unprecedented; two Saffir-Simpson Category 4 hurricanes hit Queensland in 1918, killing 147 people, and twin Category 3 storms struck northern Queensland again between March 5 and 15, 1934, killing 64 people and causing $3 million in property and crop losses. The University of Wisconsin has an animation of Glenda hitting the coast.
Figure 1. Tropical Cyclone Glenda near landfall at 7:30 GMT March 30 2006, moving inland near Onslow on the Western Australian coast. This visible light image courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
An interesting article appears in The Australian today, where Dr. Bruce Harper, a consultant to the Bureau of Meteorology, said that Larry had been substantially overestimated in strength. A quote from the article:
Dr. Harper said, "It's not that there's any intention to exaggerate or there's anything wrong with the people at the bureau. It's just that the satellite recognition techniques they use are not accurate."
Bureau of Meteorology weather services supervisor Mike Bergin agreed Larry had not been as strong as the bureau claimed at the time.
"Tracking cyclones is a difficult exercise," Mr Bergin said. "These are dynamic things, changing all the time."
Dr. Harper claimed the bureau was not adequately resourced by the federal Government. He said Australia should follow the example of the US, which flew planes with recording instruments through hurricanes.
If you recall my blog from Monday discussing the problems with estimating hurricane strength in the Southern Hemisphere, these problems continue even today. This makes it very difficult to determine just how many Category 4 and 5 storms there really are, and whether or not they are increasing in number. I'll post part 2 of that discussion Friday, assuming today's severe weather outbreak in the U.S. doesn's grab the headlines. It could be a wild afternoon in the Plains, with the potential of strong F3 tornadoes, particularly in eastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma.
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