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Philippines disaster

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:34 PM GMT on February 17, 2006

Heavy rains of up to 12 inches during the past week on Leyte Island in the Philippines have triggered mudslides that have killed hundreds and left over 1,500 people missing today. As we can see from a rainfall plot of the past week's rainfall (Figure 1), these heavy rains have affected only a small portion of the Philippines, and the rest of the Islands have escaped major rains. A modest La Ni�a episode is affecting the Pacific Ocean this winter, and precipitation over the Philippines is typically enhanced during a La Ni�a episode. We should not be surprised to hear of further heavy rain problems in the Philippines, Indonesia, and northern Australia over the coming months, unfortunately, due to the presence of La Ni�a. All of these regions usually experience above-normal rains during a La Ni�a episode.

Figure 1. Precipitation for the week ending February 17, 2006, as observed by the NASA TRMM satellite.

Figure 2. Mountainous region of southern Leyte where the landslides occurred.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Isn't the real problem the deforestation, not necessarily the rains??
Denverite - the deforestation certainly makes the flooding a lot worse. What part of town do you live in? I'm in Thornton.
Deforestation and bad logging practices have caused problems downhill in the states. Those mountain ecosystems have evolved over hundreds and thousands of years all the while accumulating organic matter. Cut down the trees willy nilly and the roots decay leaving nothing to hold the soil. Bad road placement also diverts rainwater from being spread out all over a hill side to being often arbitrarily focused into artificial sewer outlets.

That said I do not know of any forestry or mining in the area of the mudslide.
Link to Saint Bernard, Leyte, Phillipines
4. F5

I believe so. Same problem you have in parts of Latin America and the Carribbean. Get a TS or Hurricane and the mudslides can kill thousands.
5. F5
I should have been more specific. I don't know if that's the specific problem in the Philipines, only that the results of deforestation can be seen in islands in the Carribbean and Central America, which have led to horrific mudslides.

I live in Park Hill, near City Park...
MDI - thanks for the final sentance in your post...I was not trying to blame anything, just discover if the devastation was due to a deforestation issue, more than the meteorological phenomenon of the heavy rains, as described by Doc Jeff...From the photo of the area from the news sources, sure looks like there are not a lot of trees around...but who knows how accurate those photos are?

Dr Masters
Thanks on the info on the mudslides in the
Denverite, we had just over 3" of snow at our place yesterday. Not a lot, but we'll take what we can get down here. Close to home, just look at the Hayman burn area - every time a t-storm drops 1/2 inch or more the NWS has to issue a flash flood warning there. Replanting forests and slowing or hopefully halting deforestation is every bit as important as reducing fossil fuel use.
I don't know how much (if at all) the U.S. is assisting other countries in the area of replanting forests and establishing sound forestry practices. Perhaps it would be possible to offer incentives for timber companies or other private industry to use their expertise to assist in poor countries such as in Central America. With active hurricane seasons likely for some time to come, this could help prevent some of the destruction and loss of life in that area.
What a sad story! But when you get an overpopulated country, people end up having to live on hillsides in marginal areas.
12. dcw
Well, there's some good news for them then. The La Nina seems to have really weakened, and in fact it looks rather Nino-ish:

The mountains in these areas have 'zero', yes 'zero' angle of rest. Without foliage to hold the soil any area will eventually flatten.
Where does anyone see Ninoish?lol This is out of last monday's weekly ENSO report. ~Credit NOAA~

Wasn't it like -0.5 on the anomalies to be concidered a weak La Nina? Dr masters decribed it as being moderate~ the word ussually ranked right under severe.
15. F5
ENSO Advisory

SSTs in the equatorial Pacific are below normal form 170E to 110W, continuing to exhibit a La Nina signal. The below normal temperature waters have been slowly propagating westward over the last couple of months, as the La Nina has developed. At depth, a cold pool exists at around 150 meters in depth centered at about 140W. A warm pool is present at about 175 meters in depth centered at about 165E. Also, a weak layer of above normal temperatures is now present at the surface along the South American Coast, a feature typical of a mature La Nina.

According to the latest ENSO advisory of February 9, 2006, La Nina conditions are expected to continue during the next 3-6 months. Both recently observed upper-level circulation centers and tropical precipitation patterns are similiar to those of previous La Nina epsiodes. Wetter-than-normal conditions are expected to prevail over Indonesia and the Philippines with drier-than-normal conditions for southern California and Arizona. Except for temperatures in the northern Plains and Pacific Northwest, recent patterns of anomalous temperature and precipitation over the United States are similiar to wintertime patterns of previous La Nina episodes.


Regarding Hayman...everytime I go fly fishing in Cheeseman I see the damage from siltation and the forceable runoffs coming down the canyons into Cheeseman...that was the core of my initial comment - that even though there is lots of rain, it would be of somewhat less severe damage from catastrophe's like this if those folks were not forced to deforest thier local areas just to survive...

On to your second point, if our government really wanted to help out, there are a number of signs that we would see other than just 'emergency relief...' We can't even keep our government from wanting to sell off or privatize our own public lands, let alone hope that they would have a worldwide conscience. Thank goodness we have the power to help as citizens instead of having to rely on THEM...just look at our Global Warming policy...

On that note - here is a very interesting web site that folks may be interested in viewing (I just found it today, but I am not a professional weather junkie...just Avid!)


Harsh Flooding Disasters are what you Deserve when you cut down Nature!!!!

This does not sound to good for the storm that was expected for Saterday for the south west.

Pictures from space
and guidance indicated limited moisture upstream and trajectories
south of the area will continue to move moisture east. Uncertainty
exists in the convective instability and orographic process as the
moisture consolidates over the area tomorrow. Timing of the system
moving over the area was similar to previous runs and expect showers
will taper off Sunday morning.
19. Inyo
The storm in california is just about how everyone expected i think.. moisture starved but dynamic. the rain is about to start in arcadia and the san gabriel mountains are already getting snow. (i work for the forest service, so i get a lot more info than those from the reporting stations :) ) I think we will get about a half inch in the city or less, depending on where the showers go.. and maybe 6 or 8 inches of snow in the mountains. The storm is only notable beacuse the snow will be down to 3000 feet or lower in places.

This is in my opinion a totally typical La Nina storm... moisture starved and COLD. Although La Nina winters sometimes have long hot periods like we had earlier this month, they are also often charactarized by very cold 'inside slider' storms with snow in odd places. I believe it was la nina a few years back when we got up to an inch of snow in davis, ca.

as for mudslides... having spent 3 years (including what was the wettest year in history in many places) working and living in malibu...

i would say that at least 90% of mudslides occur either in burnt areas or areas that have been disturbed in some way (vegetation clearing or often a road or trail). Even during last year's torrential rains, most mudslides occurred in areas like that. The actual creeks get huge and rage and cut new channels but even during 100 year floods they stay in the flood plains. This is only a problem if people go into the flood plains.

California's climate changes often, and in the past there were wetter periods, and larger flood plains. If it becomes wetter again, the flood plains will change.. but again, the main reason for the 'flood' problems is where people are living.
Mmmm...image I saw (which has been removed, and I don't know why, so I won't repost it) showed some rising anomalies off S America and falling in the west to central Pacific.
Irregardless of the reason, the number of people lost is staggering yet again....
For those who have been following my fantasy storms, I just posted some new stuff. Link
Mr. Globalize, how does the horrible ice storm scenario presently developing in the US provide more evidence of global warming? Please tell!

Well child, at this time of year under normal Winter conditions along these latitudes it would be several degrees colder, and the coming precipitation would be falling in the form of snow.

Instead, here comes Mr. Ice to visit. And look out don't step on Mr. Power Line. You might get a nasty sting!

You are exactly right Inyo. I remember back in 1998 when the last major La Nina. Every time it there would be a chance of rain it would be very cool and no more then a 30-60% chance of rain. I would aslo remember logging onto this site on a very slow conection and every day I cheaked the forcast looking out there would be a chance of rain. Then coming back and looking at the forcast the chance of rain would be gone by the afternoon. Replaced with something like "partly cloudy/AM clouds PM Sun" tpye of deal we would get the very tail end of everything and it would just be enough to kick up the marine layer
25. Inyo
lightning, during the drought in the 80s when i was young, we had this crazy cold snap that took out much of the orchards in the central valley. It hard froze down along the beaches, there was ice on the roads in Manhattan Beach, snow in Palos Verdes, and a pond in the area completely froze over on xmas eve night. I get bored with the dry years but really, there is neat stuff to see all the time.
Here's an update on the Philippine's disaster~ Link Looks pretty bleak. Many of the people had been evacuated, for fear of this. They had just returned, since the weather had turned sunny. Glad to see the military & red cross helping or enroute. Military arrives tommarrow, hopefully they can get in the school & find suviviors. Locals said due to illegel logging, red cross says because of their previlence of coconut trees which have shallow root systems.
11:10 AM there is this little thundershower that has poped up right over my area. Whitttier, CA. Its so cool.
There were several news articles out talking about a report released on Thursday about the glaciers melting much faster than expected... I couldn't find the actual report but found this on how it it affecting the gravitational fields of earth, making it somewhat pumkin shaped.
Hey everyone :) I have updated my official 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. Please feel free to read and leave any comments about my predictions, or even post your own.

Have a great afternoon,

I felt like throwing a brick through my monitor after reading this. This is a nice way of saying the storm is going to be a bust just like almost every other storm with winter. Looks like I will have to hold off tell next year to see some good snow on the old San Gabriels

Models indicate that this band of showers is not expected to be as
strong as earlier projections predicted. Therefore...some areas have
been downgraded to snow advisories while storm totals have also been
decreased to just above minimum warning criteria...6 to 8 inches
with local amounts to 10 inches. In addition... shower intensities
are expected to be less than earlier expected. While the flash flood
watches will be allowed to remain in effect... the possibility for
mud and debris flows in the burn areas seems to be diminishing as
well. Look for showers to end from the west Sunday afternoon with
partial clearing.

Snow levels will not be as low as earlier expected due to the fact
that the coldest air stays to the north and southerly winds develop.
Thus...have kept the snow levels at around 3500 feet overnight and
have deleted the mention of snow in many of the valleys. However...
still could see some flurries in the foothills with some very light
accumulations possible in colder areas below 3500 feet.

Heh. I wanted to throw a brick through mine when I looked at the temp map last night - the freeze line extends into Mexico, Dallas has a freezing rain warning, and I'm at 65 degrees >.<
Hello everyone...........Just wanted to say hello.........Hope everyone is having a good weekend.....

You know when I get on here there's a purpose.......

Look at 45% west and 7% North.......Convection has been firing up there for a while.........something to watch!!!!
Not really. It's too far south and shear is wayyyy too high for development now.

Wow, I just looked at W Carib shear, and it's actually very low...the system we're talking about is about to get obliterated by 100+kt shear, but the Caribbean may bear watching.
atmosweather mail for you e mail me and come by my blog there some photo i like you to se but it not on my blog it photo of some snow i got from this storm i had can you or any one that storms by my blog tell me how march?
And the cluster of moderate to deep convection near the Winwards. Not something you usually see in mid February. Shear should tear it apart but it will slacken mid week. Low is forecast to drop into that area so I will be watching the Caribbean next week.