Storms, Majesty and Terror at Myall U3A

Professor Howard Bridgman.
Professor Howard Bridgman.


WHO could forget the spectacle of the bulk carrier, ‘Pasha Bulker’ ran aground on Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle in June 2007?

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The east coast low that drove the 76,741-tonne bulk carrier was the focus of the Myall U3A presentation, “Storms: Majesty and Terror” last Friday, 13 October at the Hawks Nest Old Library.

Guest speaker, Prof. Howard Bridgman, is conjoint Professor at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle.

“Storms come in many sizes, shapes and scales,” he said.

“They can be absolutely spectacular and utterly frightening at the same time.”

With the aid of stunning photographs, Prof. Bridgman held the audience’s undivided attention with a discussion of how storms develop from the initial to mature stages to dissipation.

East coast lows such as the one that caused “Pasha Bulker” considerable losses, typically occur in autumn and transitions to winter. The conditions required are a warm sea surface, 21-23C, an existing low centre or trough, a strong cold pool of air in upper troposphere, a northwest jet stream and rapid intense convection.

“Each storm is unique,” the popular speaker told the gathering of U3A members and their guests. An east coast low could bring rainfall from 200-400mls.”

In June 2007, Nobby’s Beach copped 209.8mls in one day.

When a storm is accompanied by lighting that heats the air, a big bang (thunder) occurs, hence a thunderstorm.

Severe storms bring hail (the largest on record was a 1.02kg in Bangladesh), squall lines ahead of a cold front (such as the Sydney 21Jan 1991 storm) or tornadoes, the most severe thunderstorm.

It took 24 days before the “Pasha Bulker” was towed back to sea.

Though the spectacle of the beached 76,741 tonne bulk carrier in central Newcastle brought much-needed tourism and economic boom to the city, Prof. Bridgman emphasised the importance of heeding storm warnings, the failure of which have resulted in massive losses or damage to property and lives (i.e. the Sydney-Hobart race in 1998).

The recent succession of tornadoes in the American southeast coast are of great interest and concern and will be discussed early next year.

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