Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Before we moved to Queensland


I don't think I'd ever visited the Bureau of Meteorology website, am not even certain that I knew it, & the incredible amount of information it carries, existed. These days it's a different story. Now the regular awareness of what's going on around routine is check email accounts, check the local radar weather map, check the news.

Much of the time, the search of the BOM site is reasonably mundane—is it safe to do the washing or is there rain around, or am I being a wimp for turning the air conditioners on? But there are times when it's critical to know what's going on or likely to happen, especially now, in an extreme La Niña period.

The modelling the BOM uses has become, like so many things mathematical in the technological advances of recent times, extremely sophisticated & precise. It still misses out on highly localized events—the severity of the rainfall in parts of the Lockyer Valley near Brisbane that led to flash flooding & loss of life was not predicted though the predictions for the area as a whole were otherwise accurate—but for major geographically-wide events, such as the recent floods & the current cyclone, the information it provides, & the constant updating & refining able to be done as more data comes in, is essential reading.

We knew, for example, how high the just-passed flood was going to reach, that access to supplies were going to be interrupted, what we needed to do to prepare. The initial reports of the extent of Cyclone Yasi (this morning's satellite image is shown above) had its watch area extending as far south as Yeppoon, slightly to our north & 40 kilometers away, which meant that though we wouldn't be in its direct path, the accompanying wind & rain would impact upon us, & there were things we had to do to minimize possible danger.

That watch area has now been reduced in coastline length, but the warning area now stretches inland far beyond the point where it will cross the coast. This cyclone is so intense—possibly the strongest cyclone to ever hit Australia—that, unlike most cyclones that tend to turn into tropical lows once they reach land, this is going to remain a cyclone for some time as it barrels inland.


There are unconfirmed reports on TV that the meteorological equipment on Willis Island—in the eye of the storm in the tracking map above—which was built to withstand such events, has just been taken out.

The latest notification from the BOM includes:
"SEVERE TC YASI IS A LARGE AND VERY POWERFUL TROPICAL CYCLONE AND POSES AN EXTREMELY SERIOUS THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY WITHIN THE WARNING AREA, ESPECIALLY BETWEEN CAIRNS AND TOWNSVILLE.

"THIS IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE MORE LIFE THREATENING THAN ANY EXPERIENCED DURING RECENT GENERATIONS."

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