Severe Storm

Cyclone Idai on 13 March 2019 west of Madagascar and heading for Mozambique. Image: ESA.

Definition

Storms are generally classified as a meteorological hazard,  caused by short-lived, micro- to meso-scale extreme weather and atmospheric conditions that last from minutes to days (EM-DAT).

Facts and figures

There are several different types of storms distinguished by the strength and characteristics of atmospheric disturbances:

  • Convective/local storm: A type of meteorological hazard generated by the heating of air and the availability of moist and unstable air masses. Convective storms range from localized thunderstorms (with heavy rain and/or hail, lightning, high winds, tornadoes) to meso-scale, multi-day events.
  • Sandstorm, dust storm: Strong winds carry particles of sand aloft, but generally confined to less than 50 feet (15 metres), especially common in arid and semi-arid environments. A dust storm is also characterised by strong winds but carries smaller particles of dust rather than sand over an extensive area.
  • Tornado: A violently rotating column of air that reaches the ground or open water (waterspout).
  • Lightning: A high-voltage, visible electrical discharge produced by a thunderstorm and followed by the sound of thunder.
  • Winter storm, blizzard: A low pressure system in winter months with significant accumulations of snow, freezing rain, sleet or ice. A blizzard is a severe snow storm with winds exceeding 35 mph (56 km/h) for three or more hours, producing reduced visibility (less than .25 mile (400 m).
  • Orographic storm (strong wind): Differences in air pressure resulting in the horizontal motion of air. The greater the difference in pressure, the stronger the wind. Wind moves from high pressure toward low pressure.  
  • Extratropical storm: A type of low-pressure cyclonic system in the middle and high latitudes (also called mid-latitude cyclone) that primarily gets its energy from the horizontal temperature contrasts (fronts) in the atmosphere.
  • Tropical storms: A tropical cyclone originates over tropical or subtropical waters. It is characterised by a warm-core, non-frontal synoptic-scale cyclone with a low pressure centre, spiral rainbands and strong winds. Depending on their location, tropical cyclones are referred to as hurricanes (Atlantic, Northeast Pacific), typhoons (Northwest Pacific), or cyclones (South Pacific and Indian Ocean) (UNDRR, Sendai Framework).

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Noticias

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In collaboration with the National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE) of Argentina, the Mexican Space Agency (AEM) recently launched a digital platform to improve the integration of satellite data for environmental monitoring in Latin America. The Comprehensive Regional Satellite Information System (SIRIS) provides access to satellite information in order to enhance decision-making and facilitate disaster management.

The SIRIS platform provides access to satellite imagery for different areas. The platform supplies information on the agriculture and forestry sector to better monitor the impact of natural disasters on agricultural production and woodland. It also offers up-to-date and archived data on fires to strengthen early warning and build long-term resilience. On floods, information provided by SIRIS indicates the water level to improve damage evaluation of the impacted area and facilitate humanitarian relief. In... read more

Publishing date: 20/12/2020
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The European Commission plans to rapidly expand its environmental monitoring programme Copernicus. For this purpose, the European Space Agency (ESA) recently pledged 2.55 billion Euros towards contracts to advance the production of six new Copernicus satellite missions. The final of the six contracts was signed last Thursday between ESA and Thales Alenia Space for a mission that will provide new and important information to climate research and disaster management.

The high-priority Copernicus Radar Observation System for Europe in L-band (ROSE-L) mission is planned to launch in 2028 for a period of 7.5 years. The ROSE-L mission will orbit Earth every few days at an altitude of 690km and will carry a L-Band synthetic aperture radar (SAR). With a wavelength of approximately 23cm... read more

Publishing date: 18/12/2020
Screenshot of the SMAP tool in action. Image: NASA

Officially launched in 2015 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the SMAP mission is an orbiting satellite that measures the amount of wetness in the top layer of soil incrementally every 2-3 days. These Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) measurements rely on radiation frequencies that point to different levels of moisture on the surface of  earth’s soil and are useful for scientists because it allows them to construct maps indicating the level of soil moisture globally. Acknowledging the relevance and usability of this data for the field of disaster management, NASA recently integrated the SMAP data into its Disasters Mapping Portal

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Publishing date: 25/11/2020
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The report warns that the global effort to address climate change is leaving behind countries most vulnerable to... read more

Publishing date: 19/11/2020
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The hurricane season in Central America normally quiets down at the end of October, but this year is one of those rare years when tropical storms and hurricanes in the region have occured beyond the typical season. With 30 events thus far, the 2020 tropical storm season in the Caribbean continues to take its toll in developing countries in Central America. Hurricane Eta entered the west coast of Nicaragua on 3 November as a Category 4 hurricane – the second-highest classification category. It triggered massive floods in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In some regions, the magnitude of these floods was similar to those triggered by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which devastated the region and killed more than 35,000 people throughout Central America. Fortunately, the consequences of Hurricane Eta were much smaller.

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Publishing date: 16/11/2020
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In order to discuss and promote the use of space technologies in addressing natural hazards such as forest fires and landslides in Latin America, UN-SPIDER conducted a virtual regional expert meeting on the topic of “Space-based Solutions for Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Response in Latin America” from 22 to 24 September 2020. The meeting was jointly organized with UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices from Argentina (National Space Activities Commission, CONAE), Brazil (Federal University of Santa Maria, UFSM), Colombia (Geographic Institute Agustin Condazzi, IGAC), and Mexico (Mexican Space Agency, AEM).

In Latin America, UN-SPIDER and its Regional Support Offices have regularly carried out regional expert meetings, training courses and other joint efforts since 2011. The last Regional Expert Meeting took place in 2017 in Mexico.

The meeting, which consisted of three two-hour-long sessions, brought together a total of over 200 disaster management stakeholders... read more

Publishing date: 28/09/2020
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According to the latest issue of an annual disaster statistics report, floods were the deadliest type of disasters in 2019, followed by extreme temperature, while storms affected the highest number of people. Published by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED), “Natural disasters 2019 - Now is the time to not give up” draws on data recorded in the Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT), which saw the addition of 396 disasters that affected a total of 95 million and caused $103 billion in economic losses around the world. 

Accounting for 40 per cent of disaster events, Asia suffered the highest impact with 45 per cent of deaths and 74 per cent of total affected. India, which saw cyclone Fani cause destruction in 2019, was the country most affected... read more

Publishing date: 20/08/2020
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In recent years, Mozambique has suffered severe floods and droughts that have impacted urban and rural communities throughout the country. In the March and April 2019, tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth triggered major floods in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Comoros.  The Port of Beira was hard hit, as cyclone Idai destroyed transmission lines and bridges, leaving the port without access to these lifelines for several days.   In contrast the powerful El Niño event of 2016 triggered major droughts that affected most of the country. Thousands of farmers lost their crops and their cattle and had to rely on humanitarian assistance to cope with the impacts of this event.

Taking into consideration the benefits of the use of satellite imagery to map the geographic extent of floods and to monitor the effects of drought on vegetation; the Federal University of Santa Maria of Brazil (UFSM), in its role as a UN-SPIDER Regional Support Office (RSO); and UN-SPIDER joined forces to... read more

Publishing date: 10/08/2020
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