Saturday, 26 July 2014

Airplane crash linked to Typhoon Matmo.

The crash of a TransAsia Airways ATR-72 passenger plane in the Penghu Islands on Wednesday 23 July 2014 has been linked to the passage of Typhoon Matmo across the area. Around 200 flights to and from Taiwan had been cancelled earlier in the day, but the typhoon had passed into Chinese territory by the time Flight GE222 took off from Kaohsiung in the South of Taiwan, and the weather was apparently deemed safe for take-off, despite high winds, cloud cover at 600 m and visibility down to 1600 m. 48 people died in the incident, understood to be 46 Taiwanese nationals plus two French medical students. Ten other passengers survived the incident, and five people were injured on the ground. This is Taiwan's first fatal air accident for 12 years.

Investigators inspect the remains of Flight GE222. The Independent.

Other than the plane crash Typhoon Matmo is thought to have caused relatively little damage in Taiwan or China, with only a single known death on the ground in Taiwan. However the agricultural sector has been badly hit in Taiwan, with extensive damage to crops and livestock, particularly in the east of the country, particularly in Hualien County, where extensive damage to fruit crops and trees has been reported.

Tropical storms are caused by solar energy heating the air above the oceans, which causes the air to rise leading to an inrush of air. If this happens over a large enough area the inrushing air will start to circulate, as the rotation of the Earth causes the winds closer to the equator to move eastwards compared to those further away (the Coriolis Effect). This leads to tropical storms rotating clockwise in the southern hemisphere and anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere.These storms tend to grow in strength as they move across the ocean and lose it as they pass over land (this is not completely true: many tropical storms peter out without reaching land due to wider atmospheric patterns), since the land tends to absorb solar energy while the sea reflects it.

The low pressure above tropical storms causes water to rise there by ~1 cm for every millibar drop in pressure, leading to a storm surge that can overwhelm low-lying coastal areas, while at the same time the heat leads to high levels of evaporation from the sea - and subsequently high levels of rainfall. This can cause additional flooding on land, as well as landslides, which are are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

See also...

The number of people known to have died after Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda) hit the Eastern Visayas islands in the central Philippines on Friday 8 November...

Three people are known to have died and two more are still...

 At least 17 dead as Typhoon Wipha hits Japan.

Seventeen people are known to have died and several more are missing after Typhoon Wipha made landfall in Japan on Wednesday 15 October 2013. The majority of the deaths occurred on Izu Oshima...

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