Cyclone Drops 10 Years Worth of Rain on Yemen

Cyclone Chapala made landfall Tuesday and dumped an enormous amount of rainfall on Yemen's normally parched coastline. Continue reading →

The conflict-ravaged nation of Yemen is still reeling after being battered by an unusually powerful tropical cyclone coming off the Arabian Sea - one that could be a harbinger of more violent future storms in a part of the world that isn't accustomed to them.

Cyclone Chapala made landfall Tuesday and dumped an enormous amount of rainfall on Yemen's normally parched coastline - by one account, the equivalent of 10 years' worth of normal precipitation in just two days. It was the most powerful storm since 1960 to hit the nation on the edge of the Arabian peninsula.

NASA Earth Observatory reported that at its peak, Chapala's maximum sustained winds were 120 miles an hour, the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.

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Three people were killed during the storm, while thousands fled their homes in a nation that already has a massive refugee crisis.

In the provincial capital of Mukalla, where 300,000 people live under the rule of Al Qaeda fighters since government troops retreated in April, cars were submerged on flooded streets and families took refuge in a local hospital due to fear of landslides, Reuters reported. Houses and buildings were slammed by 80-mile-an-hour winds, according to Al-Jazeera America.

The World Health Organization stepped in to provide aid, including 20,000 liters of diesel fuel to keep generators supplying power to Yemen's hospitals.

As Yemen struggles to dig out from the devastation, there are worries that more such violent storms may be in its future. Traditionally, the Arabian Sea doesn't have that many tropical cyclones, and the ones it does have aren't as intense as storms other parts of the world see. That's because the region has had a strong wind shear - that is, a difference in wind speeds at the top and the bottom of the troposphere.

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Such a contrast can keep tropical cyclones from forming, or tear them apart before they can do much damage on land, according to NASA Earth Observatory.

However, over the past decade, the intensity of storms over the Arabian Sea has increased. A study published in Nature in 2011 attributed the change to an increase in emission of black carbon and other aerosols in the region. That pollution may be changing regional air circulation patterns to reduce the wind shear, scientists believe.

At its peak, Cyclone Chapala was the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane.

The winners are in from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's "Weather in Focus" photo contest, picked from more than 2,000 entries taken between Jan. 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. "From rainbows and sunsets to lightning and tornadoes, the winning photos aren’t just captivating to look at, but inspire us to look at the world in different ways," said Douglas Hilderbrand, NOAA's contest judge and Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador Lead. "It was difficult to pick winners from so many good entries." In first place, from the category "Science in Action," is "Green Bank Telescope in WV" by Mike Zorger, Falls Church, Va.

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All 16 winning images will be displayed in a

Gateway to NOAA

exhibit located on the NOAA campus in Silver Spring, Md., starting in July. Second place in "Science in Action" went to "Photographer captures the aurora" by Christopher Morse, Fairbanks, Alaska.

In third place: "Atmospheric Research Observatory" by Joseph Phillips, Boulder, Colo.

Photo: NASA's Extreme Weather Photo Contest

And honorable mention also went to Joseph Phillips, Boulder, Colo. for "Atmospheric Research Observatory."

In the category "Weather, Water & Climate," first place went to "Snow Express" by Conrad Stenftenagel, Saint Anthony, Ind.

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In second place was "Proton arc over Lake Superior" by Ken William, Clio, Mich.

"With a Bang" by Bob Larson, Prescott, Ariz., won third place in the "Weather, Water & Climate" category.

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Honorable mention went to Alana Peterson, Maple Lake, Minn. for "Raindrops on a Leaf."

A second honorable mention was won for "Fire in the Sky over Glacier National Park" by Sashikanth Chintla, North Brunswick, N.J.

Sunsets and Other Sky Wonders

In the category "In the Moment," first place went to "Smoky Mountains" by Elijah Burris, Canton, N.C.

Second place went to "Spring Captured: Freezing rain attempts to halt spring" by Mike Shelby, Elkridge, Md.

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And third place went to "Rolling clouds in Lake Tahoe" by Christopher LeBoa, San Leandro, Calif.

Of course the professionals had their own category. First place was won by Brad Goddard, Orion, Ill., for "Stars behind the storm."

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Brad Goddard pretty much cleaned up this category, winning second (and third) place with "A tornado churns up dust in sunset light near Traer, IA."

Third place went for "A tornado crosses the path, Reinbeck, IA" by Brad Goddard.

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“Fog rolls in from the ocean on a hot summer day, Belbar, N.J.” by Robert Raia, Toms River, N.J., won honorable mention in the pro category.

To see all of the images on NOAA's website, go here.