September Heat Records/Billion Dollar Disasters

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:26 PM GMT on October 25, 2013 +24

September 2013 was the globe’s 4th warmest September since records began in 1880, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The year-to-date period of January – September has been the 6th warmest such period on record. September 2013 global land temperatures were the 6th warmest on record, and global ocean temperatures were the 4th warmest on record. September 2013 was the 343nd consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average. Global satellite-measured temperatures in September 2013 for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were 11th or 3rd warmest in the 35-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), respectively. Wunderground’s weather historian, Christopher C. Burt, has a comprehensive post on the notable weather events of September 2013 in his September 2013 Global Weather Extremes Summary.

Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for September 2013, the 4th warmest September for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warmth was observed across most of Australia and part of central Asia, as well as part of southwestern Canada. Most of central and northern North America, northern Europe, and much of central and southern Asia were much warmer than average. Cooler and much-cooler-than-average temperatures occurred across much of central and eastern Russia, along with most of eastern Europe and western Greenland. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) .

The five billion-dollar weather disasters of September 2013
Five billion-dollar weather-related disasters hit the Earth during September 2013, bringing the world-wide tally of these disasters so far in 2013 to 32, according to the September 2013 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield. This is the third highest yearly total for the globe since accurate disaster records began in 2000, according to Senior Scientist Steve Bowen of Aon Benfield. The record highest was 40 billion-dollar disasters in 2010. For comparison, during all of 2012, there were 27 billion-dollar weather disasters; the tally in 2011 was 35 (adjusted for inflation.) The U.S. total so far in 2013 is seven.

Disaster 1. The most damaging billion-dollar weather disaster of September was in Mexico, where Hurricane Manuel made two landfalls along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Flooding from Manuel’s torrential rains caused $4.2 billion in damage and left 169 people dead or missing. According to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database, this was the second most expensive weather-related disaster in Mexican history, behind the $6 billion in damage (2013 dollars) wrought by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. In this aerial view, we see the landslide triggered by Hurricane Manuel’s rains that killed 43 people in La Pintada, México, on September 19, 2013. (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty)

Disaster 2. Super Typhoon Usagi made landfall near Shanwei, China on September 22, 2013 as a Category 2 typhoon with 110 mph winds, after skirting the Philippines and Tawian. The storm killed at least 37 people and did $3.8 billion in damage. Property damage was widespread in five Chinese provinces as Usagi damaged at least 101,200 homes. This radar image of Usagi shows that the typhoon had multiple concentric eyewalls as it approached landfall. Image credit:

Disaster 3. Record rainfall of 8 – 15″ triggered historic flash flooding across in Colorado September 11 – 12, 2013, killing at least nine people and doing $2 billion in damage. The most significant damage occurred in Boulder, Larimer and El Paso counties after several major rivers and creeks crested at all-time highs. The Office of Emergency Management reported that nearly 20,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in addition to thousands of businesses and other structures. One person was also killed by flooding in New Mexico. In this image, we see damage to Highway 34 along the Big Thompson River, on the road to Estes Park, Colorado. Image credit: Colorado National Guard.

Disaster 4. Category 1 Hurricane Ingrid weakened to a tropical storm with 65 mph winds before hitting Mexico about 200 miles south of the Texas border on September 16, 2013. Ingrid’s heavy rains triggered flooding that killed 23 and did $1.5 billion in damage, making the storm the 7th costliest tropical cyclone in Mexican history. In this image, we see Tropical Storm Manuel and Hurricane Ingrid laying siege to Mexico on September 15, 2013. Tropical Storm Manuel came ashore on the Pacific coast near Manzanillo on the afternoon of September 15, and Ingrid followed suit from the Atlantic on September 16. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Disaster 5. A series of killing freezes during the second half of September led to extensive agricultural damage in central Chile. A state of emergency was declared after farmers reported that frigid air had destroyed 61% of stoned fruit crops, 57% of almonds, 48% of kiwi crops, and 20% of table grapes. Heavy damage to vineyards also affected wine productivity. Total damage was estimated at $1.15 billion.

Neutral El Niño conditions continue in the equatorial Pacific
For the 18th month in row, September 2013 featured neutral El Niño conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) expects neutral El Niño conditions to last the Northern Hemisphere spring of 2014, as do the large majority of the El Niño models. Temperatures in the equatorial Eastern Pacific need to be 0.5°C below average or cooler for three consecutive months for a La Niña episode to be declared; sea surface temperatures were 0.4°C below average as of October 21, and have been +0.1 to -0.4°C from average since April 1, 2013.

Arctic sea ice falls to 6th lowest September extent on record
Arctic sea ice extent during September was 6th lowest in the 35-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). This was the largest September extent since 2009, and a nice change of pace from last year’s all-time record retreat. The Arctic sea ice reached its minimum extent for the year on September 13, and has now begun re-freezing.

New “Tipping Points” episode, “Dangerous Rise of Oceans”, airs Saturday at 9 pm EDT/8 pm CDT
“Tipping Points”, a landmark 6-part TV series that began last Saturday on The Weather Channel, airs for the second time on Saturday night, October 26, at 9 pm EDT. The new episode, “Dangerous Rise of Oceans”, goes on an expedition from the Great Southern Ocean to the Great Barrier Reef and Tuvalu, to explore the changing currents and oceans that are driving extreme storms, sea surge and changing the landscape of many small South Pacific communities. The series is hosted by polar explorer and climate journalist Bernice Notenboom, the first woman to climb Mt. Everest and walk to the North and South Poles. In each episode, Notenboom heads off to a far corner of the world to find scientists in the field undertaking vital climate research to try to understand how the climate system is changing and how long we have to make significant changes before we reach a tipping point–a point of no return when our climate system will be changed irreversibly.

Figure 2. “Tipping Points” host Bernice Notenboom visits the Heron Island Research Station on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during Saturday’s new episode, “Dangerous Rise of Oceans.”