Cyclone Olivia

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Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Aus scale)
Category 4 (Saffir–Simpson scale)

Olivia Apr 10 1996 1123Z.png

Severe Tropical Cyclone Olivia near peak intensity off the coast of Western Australia
Formed 3 April 1996
Dissipated 12 April 1996
Highest winds 10-minute sustained:195 km/h (120 mph)
1-minute sustained:230 km/h (145 mph)
Lowest pressure 925 hPa (mbar); 27.32 inHg
Fatalities None reported
Damage At least $47.5 million (1996 USD)
Areas affected Northern Territory and Western Australia
Part of the 1995–96 Australian region cyclone season

Severe Tropical Cyclone Olivia was a powerful cyclone that produced the highest non-tornadic winds on record on Barrow Island, 408 kilometres per hour (254 mph), breaking the record of 372 km/h (231 mph) on Mount Washington in the United States in April 1934. The 13th named storm of the 1995–96 Australian region cyclone season, Olivia formed on 3 April 1996 to the north of Australia's Northern Territory. The storm moved generally to the southwest, gradually intensifying off Western Australia. On 8 April, Olivia intensified into a severe tropical cyclone and subsequently turned more to the south, steered by a passing trough. On 10 April, Olivia produced the worldwide record strongest gust on Barrow Island, and on the same day the cyclone made landfall near Varanus Island. The storm quickly weakened over land, dissipating over the Great Australian Bight on 12 April.

Tornado violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the earths surface and a cumulonimbus cloud in the air

A tornado is a rapidly rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the Earth and a cumulonimbus cloud or, in rare cases, the base of a cumulus cloud. The windstorm is often referred to as a twister, whirlwind or cyclone, although the word cyclone is used in meteorology to name a weather system with a low-pressure area in the center around which winds blow counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern. Tornadoes come in many shapes and sizes, and they are often visible in the form of a condensation funnel originating from the base of a cumulonimbus cloud, with a cloud of rotating debris and dust beneath it. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour (180 km/h), are about 250 feet (80 m) across, and travel a few miles before dissipating. The most extreme tornadoes can attain wind speeds of more than 300 miles per hour (480 km/h), are more than two miles (3 km) in diameter, and stay on the ground for dozens of miles.

Barrow Island (Western Australia) island off the coast of Western Australia

Barrow Island is a 202 km2 (78 sq mi) island 50 kilometres (31 mi) northwest off the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. The island is the second largest in Western Australia after Dirk Hartog Island.

Mount Washington (New Hampshire) highest mountain in the US state of New Hampshire

Mount Washington, called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes, is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft (1,916.6 m) and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River.

Contents

While in its formative stages, Olivia produced light rainfall in the Northern Territory. While offshore Western Australia, the cyclone forced oil platforms to shut down, and the combination of high winds and waves caused heavy damage to oil facilities. Onshore, Olivia's high winds damaged several small mining towns, halting operations. Every house in Pannawonica sustained some damage. One person in the town was injured by flying glass and had to be flown to receive treatment, and nine others were lightly injured. The cyclone also produced heavy rainfall and a localized storm surge. Damage was estimated "in the millions". While the storm was dissipating, rough seas in South Australia killed A$60 million (US$47.5 million) worth of farm-raised tuna at Port Lincoln. The name Olivia was retired after the season.

Pannawonica, Western Australia Town in Western Australia

The town of Pannawonica is an iron-ore mining town located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, near the Robe River, about 200 km south-west from Karratha and 1429 km North from Perth. At the 2016 census, Pannawonica had a population of 695.

A storm surge, storm flood, tidal surge or storm tide is a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water commonly associated with low pressure weather systems, the severity of which is affected by the shallowness and orientation of the water body relative to storm path, as well as the timing of tides. Most casualties during tropical cyclones occur as the result of storm surges. It is a measure of the rise of water beyond what would be expected by the normal movement related to tides.

South Australia State of Australia

South Australia is a state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of 983,482 square kilometres (379,725 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest of Australia's states and territories by area, and fifth largest by population. It has a total of 1.7 million people, and its population is the second most highly centralised in Australia, after Western Australia, with more than 77 percent of South Australians living in the capital, Adelaide, or its environs. Other population centres in the state are relatively small; Mount Gambier, the second largest centre, has a population of 28,684.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Olivia 1996 track.png
Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

In early April 1996, a surge in the trade winds interacted with the monsoon trough to produce an area of convection. [1] On 2 April, the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) first identified the system as a low to mid-level low pressure area over Indonesia north of Darwin, Australia. Despite strong wind shear, the system slowly became better organized as it moved southward, [2] aided by improving upper-level outflow. [1] Early on 5 April, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) classified the system as Tropical Cyclone 25S as the system began a westward track, [3] steered by a building mid-level ridge to the south. [2] Shortly thereafter, the BoM upgraded the system to a Category 1 cyclone, designating the storm as Tropical Cyclone Olivia. [2] [4]

Trade winds

The trade winds are the prevailing pattern of surface winds from the east toward the west (easterly) found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth's atmosphere, in the lower part of the troposphere near the Earth's equator. The trade winds blow predominantly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere, strengthening during the winter and when the Arctic oscillation is in its warm phase. Trade winds have been used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world's oceans for centuries, and enabled colonial expansion into the Americas and trade routes to become established across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Monsoon trough

The monsoon trough is a portion of the Intertropical Convergence Zone in the Western Pacific, as depicted by a line on a weather map showing the locations of minimum sea level pressure, and as such, is a convergence zone between the wind patterns of the southern and northern hemispheres.

Indonesia Republic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It is the world's largest island country, with more than seventeen thousand islands, and at 1,904,569 square kilometres, the 14th largest by land area and the 7th largest in combined sea and land area. With over 261 million people, it is the world's 4th most populous country as well as the most populous Muslim-majority country. Java, the world's most populous island, contains more than half of the country's population.

In the days following Olivia's development, persistent wind shear prevented convection from developing around the center of circulation. By 8 April, an upper-level trough passed to the south of the nascent cyclone, leading to lower shear. [2] Following this, the system had developed sufficiently for the JTWC to upgrade it to a Category 1 equivalent on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS), estimating 1 minute sustained winds of 120 km/h (75 mph). [3] Around the same time, the BoM upgraded Olivia to a severe tropical cyclone, assessing similar wind speeds but sustained over 10 minutes. [2] [4] After the storm reached this intensity, the mid-level ridge south of the cyclone began to weaken, turning Olivia toward the southwest. By 9 April, the system attained Category 4 intensity according to the BoM as it continued to strengthen. [2] During the afternoon of 9 April, the BoM estimated that Olivia attained its lowest barometric pressure of 925  hPa (mbar), along with 10 minute sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph). [2] [4] Around 00:00  UTC on 10 April, the JTWC assessed the cyclone to have attained 1 minute winds of 230 km/h (145 mph), equivalent to a Category 4 on the SSHS. [3] By this time, another trough bypassed the cyclone, causing Olivia to turn to the south and accelerate to the southeast. Early on 10 April, data from a nearby weather radar at the Learmonth Airport near Exmouth, Western Australia, showed that the storm had developed a 65 km (40 mi) wide eye. [2]

Trough (meteorology) elongated region of low atmospheric pressure

A trough is an elongated (extended) region of relatively low atmospheric pressure, often associated with fronts. Troughs may be at the surface, or aloft, or both under various conditions. Most troughs bring clouds, showers, and a wind shift, particularly following the passage of the trough. This results from convergence or "squeezing" which forces lifting of moist air behind the trough line.

Pascal (unit) SI unit of pressure

The pascal is the SI derived unit of pressure used to quantify internal pressure, stress, Young's modulus and ultimate tensile strength. It is defined as one newton per square metre. It is named after the French polymath Blaise Pascal.

Bar (unit) non-SI unit of pressure

The bar is a metric unit of pressure, but is not approved as part of the International System of Units (SI). It is defined as exactly equal to 100,000 Pa, which is slightly less than the current average atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level.

Late on 10 April, the center of Olivia passed near Barrow Island at peak intensity. Shortly thereafter, the storm passed near Varanus Island as a high-end Category 4 or low-end Category 5 cyclone. [4] [5] Within several hours of passing by Varanus Island, Olivia made landfall near Mardie at peak intensity. [2] Shortly thereafter, the storm began to weaken overland. Accelerating to the southeast, the storm became disorganized and winds decreased below hurricane-force. [4] During the afternoon of 11 April, Olivia weakened to a tropical low over southern Australia. It moved over the Great Australian Bight and lost its identity as a gale-force low on 12 April, [2] after it was absorbed by a trough. [6]

Varanus Island is the largest of the Lowendal Islands, an archipelago off the north west coast of Western Australia, near Karratha in the Pilbara region. It is located at 20°39′3″S115°34′27″E.

Great Australian Bight Oceanic bight off the central and western portions of the southern coastline of mainland Australia

The Great Australian Bight is a large oceanic bight, or open bay, off the central and western portions of the southern coastline of mainland Australia.

Impact and aftermath

As a minimal cyclone in the Timor Sea, Olivia brought minor rainfall and gusty winds to parts of the Northern Territory. [7] On 9 April, the fringes of the storm dropped 84 mm (3.3 in) in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. [8] An oil rig in the Timor Sea recorded a wind gust of 127 km/h (79 mph) during the storm's passage. [7] Offshore, Olivia affected the southern portion of Australia's Northwest Shelf, which had 24 oil and gas facilities. [9] The storm produced large swells up to 21 m (69 ft), in conjunction with extreme wind gusts 265 km/h (165 mph). [2] Waves toppled an oil drilling structure about 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Barrow Island, the first of its kind to fail since the 1980s. The waves also wrecked several anchors for underwater pipelines, although no lines were ruptured. On Barrow Island, the winds knocked over 30  pumpjacks, [9] and several buildings and instruments were damaged, while high waves incurred beach erosion. [8] Damage to offshore platforms was estimated in the millions of dollars. [2]

Timor Sea A sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia

The Timor Sea is a relatively shallow sea bounded to the north by the island of Timor, to the east by the Arafura Sea, to the south by Australia.

Northern Territory federal territory of Australia

The Northern Territory is an Australian territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia. It shares borders with Western Australia to the west, South Australia to the south, and Queensland to the east. To the north, the territory looks out to the Timor Sea, the Arafura Sea and the Gulf of Carpentaria, including Western New Guinea and other Indonesian islands. The NT covers 1,349,129 square kilometres (520,902 sq mi), making it the third-largest Australian federal division, and the 11th-largest country subdivision in the world. It is sparsely populated, with a population of only 246,700, making it the least-populous of Australia's eight states and major territories, with fewer than half as many people as Tasmania.

Kimberley (Western Australia) Region in Western Australia

The Kimberley is the northernmost of the nine regions of Western Australia. It is bordered on the west by the Indian Ocean, on the north by the Timor Sea, on the south by the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts in the region of Pilbara, and on the east by the Northern Territory.

A group of 17 people, initially considered missing, [10] rode out the storm on the offshore Mackerel Island. Onshore, officials closed a portion of Highway 1 as well as other roads in the area. [11] Ahead of the storm, hundreds of residents in older structures and mobile homes, as well as an aborigine village near Onslow, were ordered to evacuate to safer locations. [12] [13] Five iron mines were closed during the storm's passage, forcing the 1,500 workers to return home. [14] The disruptions from the cyclone affected about 340,000 tonnes of lost production. [15] About 800,000  barrels of lost oil production resulted from closed offshore platforms. Oil fields reopened by 14 April. [16]

Moving ashore Western Australia, Olivia produced peak gusts of 257 km/h (160 mph) in Mardie Station, [14] the station's second-highest wind gust from a tropical cyclone. [2] Olivia also produced gusts of 267 km/h (166 mph) at Varanus Island, which was the highest wind gust on record in Australia, [2] until the higher reading on Barrow Island during the storm was confirmed. [17] It broke the previous peak of 259 km/h (161 mph) set by Cyclone Trixie in 1975, [18] and was later matched by Cyclone Vance in 1999. [5] The high winds at Mardie Station damaged the local airport hangar and several windmills. [14] Farther inland, Olivia still produced wind gusts of 158 km/h (98 mph) in Pannawonica, which damaged many roofs, trees, and power lines. The town's police station and medical center lost their roofs during the storm, [19] and every house sustained some damage. [20] Of the 82 houses in the small town, 55 lost their roof. It was estimated that Pannawonica would remain without power for three weeks. One person in town was injured by flying broken glass, who had to be airlifted to Karratha for medical attention. In nearby Yarraloola, nearly every building was damaged, and the roofs of several farm buildings were ripped off. Several other small towns in the region sustained damage to roofs, power lines, and trees, [21] and a 24 year old roadhouse was destroyed along the Fortescue River. [22] Olivia also dropped heavy rainfall, peaking at 167 mm (6.6 in) in Red Hill, although flooding was not significant. [6] The storm also produced a 2 m (6.6 ft) storm surge in localized areas. [7] At the port of Dampier, the storm sank three boats, although no one was aboard. [21] Damage was estimated in the "millions of dollars", according to a local newspaper, [14] and overall, 10 people were injured. [23]

As the remnants of Olivia moved through Australia, they dropped heavy rainfall and brought gusty winds to South Australia. Cape Willoughby recorded gusts of 106 km/h (66 mph) on 12 April, strong enough to knock down tree branches on nearby Kangaroo Island. [8] At Port Lincoln, sediment stirred up by Olivia's remnants killed 60,000 farmed tuna, worth about A$60 million (US$47.5 million). The fish were in cages and died due to abnormally high oxygen levels in the water, caused by Olivia's high winds and rough waves. [24] The remnants of Olivia later brought rainfall to the states of Victoria and Tasmania. [8]

The name "Olivia" was later retired from the list of tropical cyclone names for the Australian region. [25] After the storm's passage, the Royal Australian Air Force flew six generators to Pannawonica after the town was out of power for two nights, [26] and the Western Australian government sent another 13 generators. [27] Residents in the town received counseling to cope with the stress of the storm's aftermath. [21]

Records

At 10:55 UTC on 10 April 1996 along the offshore Barrow Island, an automatic privately operated anemometer recorded a three-second wind gust of 408 km/h (253 mph), at a position 10 m (33 ft) above sea level. The BoM was initially unsure of the veracity of the reading, although a team at the 1999 Offshore Technology Conference presented the reading as the highest wind gust on Earth. [17] In 2009, the World Meteorological Organization Commission for Climatology researched whether Hurricane Gustav in 2008 produced a record 340 km/h (211 mph) gust on Pinar del Rio, Cuba; [28] one committee member recalled the gust set during Olivia, which spurred the investigation. The reading occurred along the western edge of the eyewall, possibly related to mesovortices. Based on other similarly high wind gusts during Olivia 369 km/h (229 mph) and 374 km/h (232 mph) observed within five minutes of the record gust the team confirmed that the instrument was observing properly during the storm. The same anemometer also recorded five-minute sustained winds of 178 km/h (111 mph), causing a much greater than normal ratio of gusts to sustained winds. The team confirmed that the instrument was regularly inspected and calibrated, and that the reading was during the passage of the eyewall. [17]

On 26 January 2010, nearly 14 years later, the World Meteorological Organization announced that the wind gust was the highest recorded worldwide. This gust surpassed the previous non-tornadic wind speed of 372 km/h (231 mph) on Mount Washington in the United States in April 1934. [29] The long delay was partly due to the anemometer not being owned by the BoM, and as a result the agency did not enact a follow-up investigation. Despite the high winds, the anemometer and a nearby building were not damaged due to the winds occurring over a very short time. [17]

See also

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Severe Tropical Cyclone Bobby set numerous monthly rainfall records in parts of the Goldfields-Esperance regions of Western Australia, dropping up to 400 mm (16 in) of rain in February 1995. The fourth named storm of the 1994–95 Australian region cyclone season, Bobby developed as a tropical low embedded within a monsoon trough situated north of the Northern Territory coastline on 19 February. The storm gradually drifted southwestward and later southward under low wind shear, strengthening enough to be assigned the name Bobby by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). The storm rapidly deepened as it approached the coast of Western Australia, and attained its peak intensity of 925 mbar at 0900 UTC on 24 February with 10-minute maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph). After making landfall as a somewhat weaker cyclone near Onslow, the remnants of Bobby drifted southeastward, gradually weakening, before dissipating over the southern reaches of Western Australia.

Tropical Storm Tess (1988)

Tropical Storm Tess known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Welpring was the second of three tropical cyclones to directly impact the Philippines in a two-week time frame in 1988. An area of disturbed weather near the Philippines was first observed on November 1. Following an increase in organization, the disturbance was designated as a tropical cyclone on November 4. Moving west, Tess steadily strengthened due to favorable conditions aloft. During the evening of November 5, Tess was estimated to have achieved its highest intensity, with winds of 115 km/h (70 mph). Rapid weakening then ensured as Tess neared Vietnam, and after making landfall in the country on November 6, Tess dissipated the next day.

Cyclone Fergus

Cyclone fergus was a tropical cyclone, later becoming an extratropical cyclone, that affected islands in the south-west Pacific Ocean. It lasted from December 23, 1996, to January 1, 1997, and reached speeds of up to 165 kilometers per hour, or 90 miles per hour. In additions to its winds, the storm caused heavy rains and severe flooding, causing significant damage to property in some areas.

Typhoon Vera (1986)

Typhoon Vera, known as Typhoon Loleng in the Philippines, affected Okinawa, China, and South Korea during August 1986. A tropical depression formed on August 13 and attained tropical storm intensity later that day. Initially, Vera meandered in the monsoon trough. On August 17, however, the system abruptly re-formed to east-northeast, and subsequently began to move east and then north. Vera became a typhoon on August 20, and peaked in intensity two days later. Typhoon Vera then turned west-northwest and slowly weakened as it approached Okinawa. After passing near the island, Vera turned north as it tracked east of China. The typhoon made landfall on South Korea on August 28 as a tropical storm, and the next day, transitioned into an extratropical cyclone.

References

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