September goes out with a bang, several bangs in fact. Typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding. It almost sounds like the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Typhoon Ketsana started off by causing severe flooding in Manila on Saturday, dumping more than 16 inches of rain on the Philippino capital in 12 hours. More than 100 people lost their lives, and they are still cleaning up. Three days later, Ketsana had blown up into a fully fledged, category II typhoon and slammed into Vietnam. A similar deathtoll, and a similar number of people homeless - 730,000 in the Philippines and Vietnam combined. Even northern Cambodia was affected, and 11 lives were lost there.
Ketsana had barely disappeared from the weather charts when the Earth had an itch and jolted 3 inches under the Pacific. Six and a half miles of water were bumped upward and outward, and swamped the Samoan islands with a 25 feet tsunami. Even Hawaii, thousands of miles away to the northeast, saw 5 feet of tsunami running by. The devastation in Western and American Samoa is huge, and the deathtoll as yet incomplete. Yesterday evening, as the wave rolled round the Pacific, I (and hundreds with me) spent several hours relaying warning messages on Twitter.
Twelve hours after the Samoan quake, which measured 8.3 on the Richter scale, the earth moved again, and this time it was Sumatra that bore the brunt. Although no sizeable tsunami was generated, the devastation in western Sumatra was once more huge. The death toll at time of posting was quoted as at least 1,000, and probably much higher.
More natural disasters loom for the Pacific in the next few days. Two typhoons, one actual and one in the making, are shunting up Typhoon Alley to the east of the Philippines. Melor will slam into Guam on Saturday with winds near 110 mph, whilst Parma (further west) could cause problems in Luzon Island, Philippines before making for Taiwan.
The Atlantic hurricane season? What's that?? There have so far been 6 named storms, of which 2 in September, which is supposed to be the peak of the hurricane season. I am pleased for those in Hurricane Alley who (so far) have been spared the worst, although you should never count your chickens before they're hatched - and there is two months of the season left. The reason for the quietude of the Atlantic this year is an abnormal temperature pattern in the eastern Pacific, which is warmer than usual - it is called El Nino. As a result, atmospheric conditions are unfavourable for tropical cyclones to form in the Atlantic. Long range forecasts state that a tropical cyclone could form in a week or so from now. I'm keeping an eye on developments on my TC blog.