According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of February 9th less than seven percent of the U.S. (including Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico) was experiencing moderate to extreme drought. Drought afflicted 77 percent of Hawaii's land cover, with 13 percent of the region in extreme drought, including northern and southeastern areas of the Big Island, and leeward portions of Maui and Moloka'i. According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, the El Nino phenomenon anomalously warm ocean waters in the equatorial Pacific is responsible for the continuing dry conditions over Hawaii.
Polar air reached far into the deep southern U.S. during January and February. The unusually cold temperatures were caused by a strong negative AO index where polar air shifts southward which regularly brought temperatures below 35F (2C) in Miami, Florida. The record cold weather caused ocean temperatures in the Florida Keys to drop below 59F (15C), bleaching and killing coral reefs, which cannot survive the sustained cool water temperature. Area coral experts reported that they had not seen a bleaching of this magnitude due to cold temperatures since the winter of 1977/78 (Source: AFP).
On February 6th, after days of torrential rains, a mudslide crushed several cars on a road leading to a popular weekend destination for residents in Mexico State, killing 11 people with 20 more reported missing. Earlier in the week, 16 people died in heavy rains and floods in the neighboring state of Michoac and two children were killed in the state of Guanajuato. The rainstorms are unusual in central Mexico's dry winter season; rain falls in this region almost exclusively between
May and October (Source: Reuters).
Sudden heavy rains led to mudslides on February 6th that damaged or destroyed dozens of residences in the foothills north of Los Angeles, an area that was ravaged by wildfires during the summer of 2009. Fortunately, no one was injured as mud, boulders, and debris crashed into homes and cars at 4 a.m. local time.
A historic blizzard walloped the mid-Atlantic region on February 5th
-6th. This was the second major snow storm to dump more than 16 inches (41 cm) on the region during the 2009/10 winter season. A very large North Atlantic extratropical cyclone created an upper-level low, which helped block the mid-Atlantic snowstorm from moving northward. Colesville, Maryland suburb of Washington D.C. received the most snowfall, with 40 inches (102 cm) recorded in the region. Several preliminary all-time records were reported, including a state record of 26.5 inches (65.3 cm) that fell in Wilmington, Delaware, breaking the old record of 25.0 inches (63.5 cm) set in 2003. It was the second snowiest storm in Philadelphia's history, with 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) reported, falling short of the 30.7 inches (78.0 cm) recorded January 7th -8th, 1996. Washington Dulles Airport received 32.4 inches (82.3 cm, its largest two-day snowfall total on record. The snow was so deep in some areas that bulldozers had to be used in place of traditional snowplows to clear roads. The storm effectively paralyzed a large portion of the mid-Atlantic region. Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland declared state of emergencies. Hundreds of thousands of people lost power; schools, airports, and bus systems closed; and roofs caved in from the weight of the heavy snow.
Days later, on February 9th and 10th, the eastern U.S. was struck by yet another major winter storm. This event brought 19 inches (48 cm) of new snow to Baltimore, 16 inches (41 cm) to Philadelphia, 10 to 16 inches (25 to 41 cm) to New York City, 20 inches (51 cm) to New Jersey, and 10 inches (25 cm) to Washington, D.C. The storm helped to solidify the all-time seasonal snowfall record for three major cities (as of February 11th): Washington, D.C. (54.9 inches [139.4 cm] breaking the old record of 54.4 inches [138.2 cm] set during the winter of 1898/99), Baltimore (72.3 inches [183.6 cm], shattering the old record of 62.5 inches [158.8 cm] during the winter of 1995/96), and Philadelphia (70.3 inches [178.6 cm], breaking the old record of 65.5 inches [166.4 cm] also set during the winter of 1995/96). The storm affected an estimated 50 million people across the Southern Plains up through the East Coast. Two 50 car pile-up one on Interstate 64 near Williamsburg, Virginia and one on Interstate 80 in central Pennsylvania were reported. Nine people were reportedly killed, including one person who died in the Interstate 80 pile-up. Preliminary estimates from a risk management firm place total economic losses from both February storms at more than two billion U.S. dollars (Source: AFP).
Unusual snow storms continued to roll in the U.S. On February 12th,
Dallas, Texas received 11.2 inches (28.4 cm) of snow, demolishing the old record of 7.4 inches (18.8 cm), set on January 15th -16th , 1964. It also brought Dallas its snowiest winter on record (14.4 inches [36.6 cm], breaking the previous record of 14.1 inches [35.8 cm] set during the winter of 1977/78). More than 180,000 people lost power in the area.
The storm continued to move east, bringing snow to regions of the South that rarely experience this type of event, including Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. On February 13^th , snow was present in 49 of the 50 U.S. statesâ€”with Hawaii being the lone snow-free state (Note: Hawaii does occasionally receive snow at its high mountainous peaks, but none was found on this date).
The provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guizhou in southern China were reporting moderate to severe drought across much of the region, with extreme drought also covering portions of Yunnan and Sichuan. China Daily Newspaper reported that the region was experiencing its worst drought in more than a half century. Rainfall in Hunan since July 2009 measured about 7.9 inches (200 mm) a record low amount while average temperatures were about 4F (2C) above normal. Nearly 4.9 million people in southern China lacked drinking water, with many villagers reporting that they had to walk several kilometers to fetch or purchase water in nearby towns. Direct economic agricultural losses due to the drought disaster have been estimated at 556 million U.S. dollars, according to the Ministry of Data Affairs (Source: Beijing Climate Center.
In Mongolia, extremely frigid winter weather has continued since December 2009, with temperatures dropping as low as -58F (-50C). According to the United Nations, 1.7 million livestock vital to this poor, rural country have been killed during this period. A summer drought in 2009 prevented farmers from stockpiling food for their livestock.
In Afghanistan, 170 people were killed and dozens more were injured as a series of avalanches crashed onto the Salang Pass north of Kabul during a heavy blizzard on February 8^th . Cars and buses were pushed off the mountain, crashing into the valley below. Local officials called the event one of the worst natural disasters to affect the country. Avalanches of this magnitude in the area are unusual during the winter, but occur more frequently when heavy snow melts in spring (Source: BBC).
In Indian-controlled Kashmir, a massive avalanche struck part of a high altitude army training camp on February 10th, killing 17 soldiers who were taking a ski test. According to an army spokesman, although avalanches are common in this region, it was one of the deadliest to occur in recent years (Source: AP).
Santos, Brazil a coastal city near Sao Paulo 32 elderly people between the ages of 60 and 90 died during an unseasonably high heat wave. Temperatures soared above 102F (39C) on February 8th and remained well above 86F (30C) in the following days (Source: AP).
Nearly four inches (100 mm) of rain fell over Sydney, Australia on
February 13th the heaviest amount of rainfall recorded in that area in the last decade. The storm caused flash flooding and downed trees and power lines, causing widespread blackouts.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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