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Global Hazards - July 2010

News and Press Release
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Drought & Wildfires

Severe drought plagued Bolivia during July. The dry season typically begins in August, but the rains stopped earlier than normal this year. Crops and livestock—the primary livelihood for much of the country's residents—were majorly affected. Additionally, a large wildfire almost ten miles (15 km) wide threatened parts of the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world and home to thousands of diverse plant and animal species. The drought conditions dried the soil and contributed to a strong dust storm on July 18th across southern portions of the country. The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency near the end of June due to the drought conditions

Three massive wildfires raged across Southern California during the last week of July. Nearly 40 homes were destroyed in the fires, with several other structures damaged. About 2,300 evacuations were ordered across the state as the fires spread rapidly. The Bull fire burned more than 16,000 acres, and destroyed eight homes. The West fire burned 1,700 acres and destroyed 30 homes. The Bull and West fires both occurred in Kern County. The Crown fire burned 14,000 acres in Los Angeles County. Governor Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency to allocate state resources to battle the blazes.

Extreme Temperatures

High temperatures and sparse rainfall dominated the climate of the world's largest country during June and July. With temperatures hovering 8–12°F (4–8°C) above average across a large swath of Russia., on July 30th, Moscow recorded its highest temperature ever—102°F (39°C)—breaking the previous record of 98.9°F (37.2°C) set just four days earlier. Prior to 2010, the hottest temperature recorded in Moscow was 98.2°F (36.8°C) set 90 years ago. The hot weather has had deadly consequences. More than 1,600 drowning deaths were reported in July as people tried to escape the heat across Russia. The worst drought conditions since 1972 destroyed 22 million acres (nine million hectares), an estimated 20 percent of the nation's crops, including grain, vegetable, and fodder. Additionally, a state of emergency was declared as 948 forest fires covering 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) were burning in 18 provinces. Forty people were reported killed by the wildfires. Twenty-six forest fires and 34 peat fires were burning in the Moscow region on the 26th, leading to dangerous air pollution levels. Mosekomonitoring, the Moscow governement agency in charge of monitoring air pollution, said that smog levels were five to eight times greater than normal. On the 27th, pollutant levels increased by about 50 percent and were reportedly ten times higher than normal. According to Rianovosti, Russian meteorologists stated that the summer of 2010 was the hottest on record for the country. Other countries in the region have also been experiencing extreme heat. On July 30th, the temperature reached 99°F (37.2°C) in Joensuu, Finland, breaking the all-time maximum temperature recorded in that country. The previous Finnish highest temperature was 95°F (35°C), which was set in July 1914.

An oppressive heat wave on July 4th–7th across the eastern U.S. and eastern Canada led to soaring temperatures—many of which were in the triple digits. Hundreds of maximum high and minimum high temperatures were broken from North Carolina (U.S.) to Quebec (Canada). On July 5th, Montfort Hospital in Ottawa, Canada reported the highest number of hospital visits ever recorded in a single day. On the 6th, Milton, Massachusetts recorded a minimum temperature of 77°F (25°C), breaking the old record of 73°F (23°C) set in 2003 and a maximum temperature of 99°F (37°C), breaking the previous record of 98°F (37°F) set on this date in 1911. The same day, temperatures at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut reached 102°F (39°C), tying with July 3rd, 1966 and August 9th, 2001 for the all-time hottest temperature on record at that locale. On July 7th, Raleigh/Durham International Airport in North Carolina also reported a maximum temperature of 102°F (39°C), breaking the previous daily record of 100°F (38°C) set in 1977.

At least two people died as a heat wave spread across 16 provinces in northern China during the first week in July. On the 5th, temperatures in Beijing reached 105.1°F (40.6°C)—the highest recorded temperature in July for the city since national records began in 1951. That same day Beijing reported its largest single-day water consumption since tap water use began in 1910. In several cities, overheated cars reportedly caught fire and hospital visits spiked due to heat-related illnesses. The hot, dry weather also brought huge swarms of locusts to several parts of China. Temperatures well above normal and precipitation 10–50 percent of normal for this time of year contributed to the insect pests ravaging 9.6 million acres (3.9 million hectares) of grassland in Inner Mongolia, according to an official from China's Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry.

While heat waves were affecting various regions in the Northern Hemisphere, frigid polar air from Antarctica gripped parts of southern South America, including Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Chile, southern Brazil, and eastern Peru. At least nine people died in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the minimum temperature plunged to 29°F (-1.5°C) on the 15th—the city's lowest recorded temperature in a decade. At least twenty-eight people also reportedly perished due to the cold weather in Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruaguay. In the Peruvian capital of Lima, temperatures dropped to 46°F (8°C), near the end of the month, the coldest temperatures recorded in the city in 46 years. It was also cold from the lowest to the highest elevations in the country. The typically warm Amazon region saw temperatures as low as 48°F (9°C). In the Andes Mountains, temperatures fell to -11°F (-24°C). Hundreds of people in the South, including many children, died from cold-related illnesses. Approximately 10 percent of the alpacas in the mountains also succumbed to the weather, as they were not able survive in such cold environments. A state of emergency was declared in 16 of Peru's 24 regions.


By the beginning of July, heavy monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides in both southern (Kerala) and northeastern (Assam) India. An estimated 50 people were killed and nearly 500,000 displaced from their homes. Although, the monsoon was a week late reaching northeastern India, when it did arrive near the beginning of the month it brought more than four times the normal amount of precipitation. At least 15 people died in flooded regions in the states of Haryana and Punjab as the downpours continued. On July 12th, two inches (51 mm) of rain fell over New Delhi within a three-hour period. Eleven people were killed and construction sites were flooded as the city prepared for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in October.

Torrential rainfall in northwestern China during the first week in July killed 29 people and damaged more than 6,300 homes in parts of Qinghai Province. Across the country in southern China, at least 118 people were killed and nearly 1.1 million had to be relocated due to flooding and landslides across nine provinces during the first two weeks in July, according to China's Ministry of Civil Affairs. Information reports, citing official figures, stated that more than 1,100 people either died or were missing due to the numerous rainstorms this year. Seventy-five percent of China's provinces were affected and at least 25 rivers reached record high water levels. Damage for the year-to-date was estimated at more than 142 billion U.S. dollars. As China faced its worst flooding since 1998, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River—completed last year and billed as the world's largest—was being credited with preventing catastrophic flooding.

Following one of the worst droughts on record, according to local meteorologists, 5.1 inches (130 mm) of rain fell over Hanoi, Vietnam within a three-hour period on July 13th. Three people were killed and city streets were submerged under water up to 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) deep, wreaking havoc on morning rush hour traffic.

Torrential rainfall on July 13th led to flooding that killed seven people in Saudi Arabia. Heavy rains on the 14th–16th also led to flooding and landslides that killed 26 in northwestern Yemen and one person in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border. Drivers were trapped in their cars as flash floods turned city streets into rivers.

At least eight people were killed and seven were missing as heavy rains on July 14th–16th lashed central and western Japan. Towns and farmland were submerged under water for days due to the downpours. In Shobara, 2.5 inches (64 mm) of rain fell in one hour, breaking the hourly rainfall record for the city.

Redeveloping thunderstorms in eastern Kentucky on July 17th led to flash flooding that killed two people and damaged several homes in Pike County. The National Weather Service received a local report that 4.36 inches (111 mm) of rain fell in a three and a half hour period in that area.

In West Africa, three days of rain from July 20th–22nd in Burkina Faso left one person dead and 20,000 homeless after floods swept through the eastern portion of the country. To the southeast in northern Cameroon, heavy rainfall and strong winds from July 22nd–24th left eight people dead and 4,000 homeless. Experts reported that the heavy rains this season was causing a June cholera outbreak that had already killed 77 people—the worst since 2004—to spread more quickly and into neighboring Nigeria and Chad.

Up to 12 inches (305 mm) of rain fell across parts of eastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois, and southeastern Wisconsin during a 48-hour period on July 22nd–24th. The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed as floodwater from the Maquoketa River bore a 30-foot wide hole in the earthen structure. The river crested upstream of the dam at 24.53 feet (7.48 m), more than 10 feet (3.1 m) above flood stage and nearly three feet (one meter) higher than the previous record of 21.66 feet (6.60 m), set in 2004. The Milwaukee Metro area was also particularly hard it, experiencing extreme flash flooding, where five to eight inches of rain fell. A 19 year old male drowned as he was swept from his car—the only reported fatality. Dozens of homes and businesses were affected and damages were initially estimated by a local official to exceed $34 million U.S. dollars.

During the last week of July, heavy rainfall associated with the annual monsoon in Pakistan brought a deluge of water, creating extreme flooding, particularly in the northwest regions of the country. Over 12 inches (302mm) of rain fell between July 28th and 30th in the Peshawar province. An official of the Pakistani government reported the flooding was the worst since 1929. According to media sources, at least 1,500 people were killed in the flooding and landslides in Pakistan and another 64 in Afghanistan. A plane crash near Islamabad that killed 152 people was also blamed on the severe weather. Health ministers in Pakistan estimated that 100,000 people were affected by water-borne illnesses due to the flooding, and another 2.5 million affected by the floods. The floods destroyed thousands of acres (hectares) of cultivated land, government buildings, businesses, schools, bridges, and homes.

Severe Storms

Just days after Hurricane Alex made landfall over northeastern Mexico, a tropical depression formed in the western Gulf of Mexico and headed toward the same general location. The storm, with 35 mph (56 km/hr) sustained winds, came ashore near South Padre Island just north of the Rio Grande River in southern Texas on July 8th. The heavy rainfall from Alex led to major flooding on the Rio Grande, which was exacerbated by several more inches of rainfall from the tropical depression. The water level at Rio Grande City reached its maximum height of 57.6 feet (17.6 meters) on July 11th—4.6 feet (1.4 meters) above major flood stage, marking the highest levels in almost 40 years.

storm on July 23rd dropped hundreds of massive hailstones in the small town of Vivian, South Dakota. Local reports stated that every house in Vivian sustained some type of hail damage. One of the stones collected broke the U.S. record not only for the largest hailstone (in diameter) but also the heaviest. The stone measured 8 inches (20.3 cm) in diameter, 18.5 inches (47.0 cm) in circumference, and weighed 1.9375 lbs (0.89 kg). It was also reported that the hailstone was initially much larger, but the freezer it was stored in lost power for about five to six hours and the person who collected it kept opening the freezer door to show friends and relatives. Even so, it smashed the previous hailstone record of 7 inches (17.8 cm) diameter, collected in southern Nebraska in June 2003. The world record for the heaviest hailstone belongs to Bangladesh, with a stone collected in April 1986 that weighed 2.25 lb (1.02 kg).

A strong storm system affected the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. on July 25th, bringing heavy rain, hail, strong winds, and even a tornado to the region. The storm complex began over the Ohio River Valley, and traversed the Appalachian Mountains gaining strength as it approached the highly populated Northeast corridor. The high winds downed trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of households without power. An EF-1 tornado touched down in Bronx County, New York injuring 7 people. This was only the second tornado observed in the Bronx, and the first tornado since 1974. However, the violent storm system brought much needed relief to the region as an ongoing heat wave had been plaguing residents.

Tropical Cyclones

Typhoon Conson (locally named Basyang in the Philippines)—the second tropical storm of the northwestern Pacific to obtain hurricane strength this year—formed on July 12th, gaining strength to a Category 1 typhoon. The storm made landfall over the northern Philippine island of Luzon on July 13th with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (121 km/hr) and was downgraded to tropical storm status as it weakened over land. Heaviest rainfall totals of 6.5 inches (165 mm) were reported in the municipality of Daet. The storm left at least 76 people dead, 72 missing and more than 40 million without power. The storm moved across the island and into the South China Sea toward the Chinese island of Hainan where it made landfall as a Category 1 typhoon on July 16th and two more people were killed. Conson then made a final landfall on the 17th as a tropical storm with 53 mph winds (83 km/hr) in northern Vietnam where 17 fisherman were missing.

Just a few days later, Typhoon Chanthu formed in the South China Sea. The second typhoon of the season, the storm made landfall at Wunchua City in the southern province of Guangdong, China with maximum sustained winds of 78 mph (126 km/hr). Three people were killed as the storm moved inland and was expected to bring even more rainfall to an already soaked region.