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Saturday, January 15, 2011

South Pacific comes alive

The south Pacific has been quite active lately with tropical systems. A tropical system that never quite gained enough strenth to be a tropical storm dumped enough water on Queensland, Australia last week to cause very severe flooding. Another tropical storm is veering away from the northwestern coast while two additional storms are converging towards New Zealand.

Trio of Tropical Systems Churning near Australia (AccuWeather)

Three tropical systems are currently churning near Australia. None of the named storms will slam flood-ravaged Australia, but two are threatening nearby islands.

Tropical Cyclone Vania already unleashed its fury on the Vanuatu Island group and neighboring New Caledonia. Both are located east of Australia.

Disruptive wind shear (strong winds high in the atmosphere) is now causing Vania to rapidly weaken south of New Caledonia.

The opposite is taking place with Tropical Cyclone Zelia, which is churning in the Coral Sea southeast of Papua, New Guinea.

Zelia should continue to strengthen into this weekend as it tracks southeastward through the Coral Sea, then the southern Pacific Ocean. By Sunday morning EST, the cyclone's intensity may be equal to that of a Category 2 hurricane.

Sunday is also when Zelia will come dangerously close to New Caledonia. At this time, the worst of the cyclone should remain offshore. Its outer bands of rain squalls and tropical storm-force winds could still graze the island.
It appears that New Zealand could be in for some heavy weather as a result of the strengthening Zelia as well as the moisture laden remnants of Vania. Zelia is strengthening as it moves towards the south southeast directly towards New Zealand. I sus pect that Vania will dissipate soon but the remnants of Vanie will become incorporated into Zelia's

Stormy weather in store for NZ (New Zealand Herald)

Former tropical cyclone Vania has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but is moving south "packed with moisture", said WeatherWatch analyst Philip Duncan.

"The low is going to pull tropical moisture down to New Zealand early next week," he said.

And MetService weather spokesman Bob McDavitt, said that if a tropical cyclone encounters an injection of cold air as it approaches New Zealand, then it may "feed" on the difference in density so that the cold air turns the tropical moisture to rain, and that rain-making process lowers the pressure, so that the system becomes "extra windy".

But Mr Duncan said forecasters were also closely watching the newly-developed tropical cyclone Zelia, classified as a Category 1 cyclone with winds averaging 65km/h and winds gusting up to 120km/h.
Zelia is currently heading directly for Wellington and the cook Strait.

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