1996-97 South Pacific cyclone season

1996–97 South Pacific cyclone season
Season summary map
First system formed November 23, 1996
Last system dissipated June 17, 1997
Strongest storm Gavin – 925 hPa (mbar), 195 km/h (120 mph) (10-minute sustained)
Total depressions 13
Tropical cyclones 12 official, 1 unofficial
Severe tropical cyclones 4
Total fatalities 7 direct, 2 indirect, 18 missing
Total damage $44 million (1997 USD)
South Pacific tropical cyclone seasons
1994–95, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99
Related articles

The 1996–97 South Pacific cyclone season was one of the most active South Pacific tropical cyclone season's on record, with 12 tropical cyclones occurring within the South Pacific Ocean basin between 160°E and 120°W.[nb 1] The season officially started on November 1, 1997 with the first tropical cyclone developing on November 23 while the season ended later than normal on June 17, when Cyclone Keli dissipated. The strongest tropical cyclones during the season was Cyclone Gavin which had a minimum pressure of 925 hPa (27.32 inHg). After the season had ended 4 tropical cyclone names were retired from the naming lists, after the cyclones had caused significant impacts to South Pacific islands.

During the season, tropical cyclones were officially monitored by the Regional Specialized Meteorological Center (RSMC) in Nadi, Fiji and the Tropical Cyclone Warning Centers in Brisbane, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. The United States Armed Forces through the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) and Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center (NPMOC), also monitored the basin and issued unofficial warnings for American interests. During the season RSMC Nadi issued warnings and assigned names to any tropical cyclones that developed between the Equator and 25°S while TCWC Wellington issued warnings for any that were located to the south of 25°S. The JTWC issued warnings for American interests on any significant tropical cyclone that was located between 160°E and the 180° while the NPMOC issued warnings for tropical cyclones forming between 180° and the American coast. RSMC Nadi and TCWC Wellington measure sustained windspeeds over a 10-minute and used the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale, while the JTWC and the NPMOC measured sustained windspeeds over a 1-minute period which are compared to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale (SSHWS).

Season summary

Record Tropical
Cyclone
Severe Tropical
Cyclone

Ref
Average activity: (1969–70 – 1996–97) 7 – 8 4 [4]
Record high activity: 1982-83: 14 1982–83:10 [5]
Record low activity 1994–95: 2 1994–95: 0 [6]
Activity during this season: 12 6

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Throughout 1996, a weak to moderate La Nina persisted, however during the cyclone season it started to break down, as the El Nino Episode of 1997-98 developed with the South Pacific Convergence Zone becoming more active.

Storms

Tropical Cyclone Cyril

Category 1 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHS)
Duration November 23 – November 26
Peak intensity 85 km/h (50 mph) (10-min)  987 mbar (hPa)

The storm produced heavy rains and high winds over New Caledonia before dissipating.[7]

Tropical Cyclone Fergus

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 2 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration December 20 – December 30
Peak intensity 150 km/h (90 mph) (10-min)  955 mbar (hPa)

Fergus was a Category 2 storm that formed in the Pacific Ocean, lasting from 29 December to 31 December 1996 until becoming extratropical near New Zealand. The storm dropped heavy rainfall across an already saturated area, with totals of over 16.5 inches (425 mm) near Thames. The rainfall led to widespread flooding and forced many to evacuate. Severe road damage occurred, with some roads remaining closed for over a week. Gusty winds from Fergus downed trees and power lines, and caused property damage.[8] Cyclone Fergus brought torrential rain and damaging winds to parts of the North Island of New Zealand. There was no loss of life, in part because of timely warnings about the ferocity of the storm.[9] Damages from the storm were at least $2 million.[10]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Drena

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration January 3 – January 10
Peak intensity 165 km/h (105 mph) (10-min)  935 mbar (hPa)
Main article: Cyclone Drena

On January 8, the weakening Cyclone Drena brushed the island of New Caledonia with sustained winds up to 150 km/h (90 mph 10-minute winds). Heavy rains accompanied the storm, peaking at 474 mm (18.7 in) in Dzumac. La Foa also recorded 202 mm (8.0 in) of rain. Wind gusts reached 165 km/h (105 mph) in Koumac. Flooding from the storm caused a total loss of crops and the high winds knocked out power and communication to most of the island.[11][12]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Evan

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (FMS)
Category 1 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration January 10 – January 16
Peak intensity 130 km/h (80 mph) (10-min)  965 mbar (hPa)

Severe Tropical Cyclone Evan formed on January 10 and dissipated on January 16. Evan stayed northeast of New Zealand for its entire lifetime. Sustained winds peaked at 120 km/h (75 mph).

Tropical Cyclone Freda

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 1 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration January 26 – February 2
Peak intensity 110 km/h (70 mph) (10-min)  980 mbar (hPa)

Tropical Cyclone Freda existed from January 26 to February 2.

Tropical Depression

Tropical depression (Australian scale)
Duration February 18 – February 19
Peak intensity Winds unknown 

This Tropical Depression affected Fiji on February 18–19, and caused severe flooding in Labasa, and other low lying parts of Fiji.[13][14]

Tropical Cyclone Harold

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHS)
Duration February 19 – February 24
Peak intensity 110 km/h (70 mph) (10-min)  975 mbar (hPa)

The storm produced large swells along west-facing coasts of New Caledonia.[15]

Tropical Cyclone 29P

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHS)
Duration February 24 – February 27
Peak intensity 110 km/h (70 mph) (10-min)  975 mbar (hPa)

On February 21, the NPMOC started to monitor a tropical disturbance that had developed about 835 km (520 mi) to the northeast of Avarua on the Southern Cook Island of Rarotonga.[16] Over the next two days the disturbance gradually developed further as it moved towards the southwest, before RSMC Nadi and TCWC Wellington started to monitor it during February 24 while it was located about 315 km (195 mi) to the northeast of Avarua.[16][2] During that day the system continued to develop further as it moved towards the southwest and out of RSMC Nadi's area of responsibility during February 25.[2] As it moved into TCWC Wellington's area of responsibility, the system developed into a category one tropical cyclone, but it could not be named as it had developed into a tropical cyclone within the subtropics.[2][3]

After developing into a tropical cyclone the cyclone continued to intensify and develop further, before TCWC Wellington reported early on February 26 that the system had become a category 2 tropical cyclone.[2] The NPMOC subsequently started to issue warnings on the system and designated it as Tropical Cyclone 29P, while the cyclone was near its peak 1-minute sustained windspeeds of 85 km/h (50 mph).[16][17] Later that day after it had peaked, the cyclone started to transition into an extratropical cyclone, before the NPMOC issued its final advisory on the system during the next day as it weakened below tropical cyclone intensity.[2][17][18] The cyclone's remnants were subsequently last noted by TCWC Wellington during February 1, as it affected parts of New Zealand and caused flooding in Whangarei.[3]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gavin

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration March 3 – March 12
Peak intensity 185 km/h (115 mph) (10-min)  925 mbar (hPa)
Main article: Cyclone Gavin

Damages from the storm in Fiji amounted to $27 million.[19] Seven people were killed and 18 others were listed as missing due to Cyclone Gavin.[20]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Hina

Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 1 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration March 12 – March 18
Peak intensity 120 km/h (75 mph) (10-min)  970 mbar (hPa)

On March 12, RSMC Nadi and the JTWC started to monitor a shallow tropical depression that had developed within the monsoon trough about 135 km (85 mi) to the southwest of the Fijian dependency: Rotuma. During the next day, as the JTWC designated the depression as Tropical Cyclone 33P, the system started to move northwards slowly, before during March 15, RSMC Nadi reported that the system had developed into a category 1 tropical cyclone on the Australian scale and named it Hina.

Cyclone Hina caused widespread damage in Tonga, leaving roughly $14.5 million in damages.[21] About 320 families were left homeless after the storm.[22]

Tropical Cyclone Ian

Category 1 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Tropical storm (SSHS)
Duration April 13 – April 19
Peak intensity 85 km/h (50 mph) (10-min)  987 mbar (hPa)

On April 13, RSMC Nadi started to monitor a depression that had developed to the east of the Santa Cruz Islands. Over the next few days the depression slowly developed further before early on April 17 RSMC Nadi reported that the depression had become a category one tropical cyclone and named it Ian.

Tropical Cyclone June

Category 2 tropical cyclone (Australian scale)
Category 1 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration May 2 – May 5
Peak intensity 95 km/h (60 mph) (10-min)  985 mbar (hPa)

Severe flooding produced by the storm in Fiji left roughly $500,000 in damages.[23]

Tropical Cyclone 37P

Tropical storm (SSHS)
Duration May 28 – May 30
Peak intensity 65 km/h (40 mph) (1-min)  997 mbar (hPa)

Late on May 26, the JTWC reported that a tropical disturbance had developed about 630 km (390 mi), to the north of Port Villa in Vanuatu.[24] During the next day the disturbance gradually developed further before the JTWC issued a tropical cyclone formation alert.[25] On May 28, the JTWC designated the disturbance as Tropical Cyclone 37P, as they expected it to intensify further with windspeeds expected to become equivalent to a tropical storm.[24][25] Over the next day, the system moved towards the southeast between a mid level ridge of high pressure and a trough of low pressure, before the JTWC reported that the depression had become a tropical storm and reached its peak 1-minute sustained windspeeds of 65 km/h (40 mph).[24][25] On May 30, the JTWC reported that the cyclone had dissipated over cooler water and encountered stronger vertical windshear.[24][25]

Severe Tropical Cyclone Keli

Main article: Cyclone Keli
Category 3 severe tropical cyclone (FMS)
Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHS)
Duration June 7 – June 17
Peak intensity 150 km/h (90 mph) (10-min)  955 mbar (hPa)

Early on June 7, RSMC Nadi reported that a tropical depression had formed about 460 kilometers (290 mi) to the north of Tokelau.[18] The depression gradually developed over the next few days whilst moving to the southwest with a Tropical Cyclone Formation Alert issued on June 9.[18][26] Before it got designated as Tropical Cyclone Keli by RSMC Nadi and Cyclone 38P by the NPMOC early the next day.[18][26] Cyclone Keli intensified slowly reaching its 10-minute peak windspeeds of 150 km/h, (90 mph), which made it a category three severe tropical cyclone, on the Australian Tropical Cyclone Intensity Scale early on June 12 with 1-minute peak wind-speeds of 215 km/h (130 mph), also being reported later that day.[18][26] As it came under the influence of strong mid latitude westerlies and moved into an area of strong vertical windshear the cyclone started to weaken with it being declared as extratropical by the JTWC on June 15.[26] However RSMC Nadi continued issuing warnings on Keli until early the next day when they passed primary warning responsibility for the system to TCWC Wellington, who monitored the system until it was last noted on July 17.[18]

Cyclone Keli struck the islands of Tuvalu on June 12 and 13, with extensive damage reported throughout the Islands with trees uprooted by wind and waves.[27] On Nivalakita all buildings except for the church were flattened with an estimated cost to rebuild the houses exactly as they were was estimated at (), while it was estimated that the cost of rebuilding the houses with an improved, cyclone-resistant design would be about ().[28] Whilst the whole of Tepuka Savilivili was left uninhabitable as coconut trees and other vegetation were swept away with no more than an area of jagged coral left behind.[29][30] In Fiji, Strong winds and rough seas were reported from the cyclone as it was moving to the north of Fiji near to Rotuma, and whilst the Cyclone was weakening 3.76 in (96 mm) of rain was reported on American Samoa.[31]

Season effects

This table lists all the storms that developed in the South Pacific basin, to the east of 160E during the 1996–97 season. It includes their intensity on the Australian tropical cyclone intensity scale, duration, name, areas affected, deaths, and damages. For most storms the data is taken from TCWC Nadi and Wellingtons archives, however data for 37P has been taken from the JTWC archives rather than RSMC Nadi and TCWC Wellington's archives, and thus the winds are a period of 1-minute sustained as opposed to 10-minutes.

|- | Cyril || November 23 – 26 || bgcolor=#00faf4|Category 1 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#00faf4|85 km/h (50 mph) || bgcolor=#00faf4|987 hPa (29.15 inHg) || Solomon Islands, New Caledonia || || || |- | Fergus || December 20 – 30 || bgcolor=#ffffcc|Category 3 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffffcc|150 km/h (90 mph) || bgcolor=ffffcc|955 hPa (28.20 inHg) || Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, New Zealand || || || |- | Drena || January 3 – 10 || bgcolor=#ffc140|Category 4 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffc140|165 km/h (90 mph) || bgcolor=#ffc140|935 hPa (27.52 inHg) || Vanuatu, New Caledonia, New Zealand || || || |- | Evan || January 4 – 14 || bgcolor=#ffffcc|Category 3 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffffcc|130 km/h (80 mph) || bgcolor=#ffffcc|965 hPa (28.50 inHg) || Fiji, Tonga || || || |- | Freda || January 26 – February 2 || bgcolor=#ccffff|Category 2 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ccffff|110 km/h (70 mph) || bgcolor=#ccffff|980 hPa (28.94 inHg) || None || None || None || |- | Harold || February 19 – 24 || bgcolor=#ccffff|Category 2 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ccffff|95 km/h (60 mph) || bgcolor=#ccffff|985 hPa (29.10 inHg) || Melanesia, Australia, New Zealand || 7 || || |- | 29P || February 24 –26 || bgcolor=#ccffff|Category 2 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ccffff|110 km/h (70 mph) || bgcolor=#ccffff|975 hPa (28.70 inHg) || None || None || None || |- | Gavin || March 2 – 11, 1997 || bgcolor=#ffc140|Category 4 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffc140|7002185000000000000185 km/h (115 mph) || bgcolor=#ffc140|925 hPa (27.32 inHg) || Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, Fiji || || 23 ||[nb 2][33] |- | Hina || March 13 – 18 || bgcolor=#ffffcc|Category 3 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffffcc|100 km/h (65 mph) || bgcolor=#ffffcc|980 hPa (28.94 inHg) || Fiji, Tonga || || 1 ||[34] |- | Ian || April 13 – 19 || bgcolor=#00faf4|Category 1 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#00faf4|85 km/h (50 mph) || bgcolor=#00faf4|987 hPa (29.15 inHg) || Fiji || None || Minimal ||[35] |- | June || May 2 – 11 || bgcolor=#ccffff|Category 2 tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ccffff|95 km/h (60 mph) || bgcolor=#ccffff|985 hPa (29.10 inHg) || Fiji || || || |- | 37P || May 28 – 30 || bgcolor=#00faf4|Tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#00faf4|65 km/h (40 mph) || bgcolor=#00faf4|997 hPa (29.44 inHg) || Vanuatu || None || None || |- | Keli || June 7 – 17 || bgcolor=#ffffcc|Category 3 severe tropical cyclone || bgcolor=#ffffcc|150 km/h (90 mph) || bgcolor=ffffcc|955 hPa (28.20 inHg) || Tuvalu, Fiji, Samoan islands || None || || |-

Notes

See also

Tropical cyclones portal

References

External links

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