Global Focus
Temperature estimates across India at 1200 UTC on May 22, 2003 South Asia Heat Wave
Global Hazards and Significant Events
May 2003

A deadly heat wave brought temperatures exceeding 38°C (100°F) to parts of South Asia during mid to late May. Additional information can be found below.

Drought conditions
Beneficial rain and snow fell throughout much of the Intermountain West, bringing significant drought relief to areas of the Pacific Northwest. Despite wetter weather, severe to extreme drought persisted throughout much of the Rockies through May. Click Here for the drought depiction on May 6, 2003
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For detailed drought information across the United States, see the U.S. drought pages.

Heatwave affects parts of South Asia during May 2003larger image Temperatures in mid to late May soared across South Asia, with high temperatures in many areas of India and Pakistan well over 38°C (100°F). In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, over 1,200 people died in the heat wave which began in mid-May (BBC News/OCHA). Temperatures in India during the week of May 24th reached as high as 40°C (122°F) across the worst-affected areas near the Bay of Bengal coast.

Excessive heat quickly exacerbated drought conditions across parts of India. In the city of Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh, no precipitation fell during the month of May. Normal monthly rainfall is 40 mm (1.58 inches).

Dry conditions in eastern Russia promoted wildfires which spread large plumes of smoke as far away as Canada and the upper Midwest of the United States by the 28th. Click Here for a satellite image of fires burning in eastern Russia on May 28, 2003
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Heavy rainfall and flooding
Heavy thunderstorms across American Samoa on May 20, 2003larger image In American Samoa, the heaviest rainfall in nearly 20 years affected the islands during the 18th-20th, causing mudslides that killed 4 people and prompted a state of emergency declaration from Governor Togiola Tulafono (Associated Press). Rainfall at Pago-Pago on the 19th totaled 27.1 cm (10.68 inches).
Heavy rainfall during late April through mid-May resulted in significant flooding across parts of the Greater Horn of Africa, specifically southeastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia and much of Kenya. At least 55 people died in Kenya and 106 in Ethiopia with well over 100,000 people displaced due to the flooding (Associated Press/OCHA). Flooding also damaged the water treatment system in Nairobi, Kenya's capital (OCHA/GVA). Click Here for the wetness anomaly map for the Greater Horn of Africa during April 30-May 6, 2003
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While heavy rainfall is common across the Horn of Africa in the two annual rainy seasons (October-December and April-June), this is reportedly some of the worst flooding since 1997 (OCHA/GVA).

Wetness anomalies across South America during April 30-May 6, 2003larger image In Argentina, torrential rains that produced severe flooding at the end of April continued into early May, exacerbating conditions in the provinces of Santiago del Estero, Entre Rios and Santa Fe. At least 23 fatalities were reported and 28,000 houses were damaged or destroyed by the floodwaters (OCHA/GVA). As of May 8, 25 percent of the city of Santa Fe remained under water.
Rainfall in Rosario, Argentina was above normal for the March-May period, with 313 mm (12.3 inches). Click Here for the precipitation timeseries for Rosario, Argentina during March-May 2003
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Seasonal flooding in China was responsible for at least 45 deaths in the Hunan and Guangdong provinces, forcing 200,000 from their homes during May. (Associated Press).

Torrential rainfall associated with Tropical Cyclone 01B in the Bay of Bengal brought the worst flooding and landslides in over 50 years to Sri Lanka, killing at least 300 people (OCHA/GVA). Government officials reported that 350,000 people were left homeless during the flooding which occurred during the 16th-17th (Associated Press).

On May 2 in Papua New Guinea, heavy rainfall triggered a landslide in the Southern Highlands province along the Tagali River. The landslide killed 13 people and seriously injured 21 others. (OCHA/GVA).

In Azerbaijan, heavy rain and snowfall during early to mid-May produced flooding and landslides in 11 districts throughout the country (OCHA).

Storm Total Precipitation estimates from the Miami radar ending May 29, 2003larger image Heavy rains in the southeast United States brought significant flooding to south Florida on the 27th, with over 254 mm (10 inches) reported at Fort Lauderdale. In central North Carolina, four earthen dams burst when as much as 150-200 mm (6-8 inches) rain fell over parts of the area (Associated Press).

For an archive of flood events worldwide, see the Dartmouth Flood Observatory.

Severe Storms
The deadliest outbreak of severe weather since May 1999 produced 84 tornadoes, large hail and damaging winds across 8 states during May 4-5th. Click Here for an infrared satellite animation depicting severe thunderstorms over the Plains on May 4-5, 2003
Click for AVI Satellite Loop (1.5 MB)
Tornadoes affected the metropolitan Kansas City area, producing F4 damage to parts of the city. Other cities including Pierce City, Missouri and Jackson, Tennessee sustained heavy damage and loss of life. At least 38 people were killed from the outbreak in Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee (USA Today). Click Here for a radar animation from Kansas City on May 4, 2003
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Historical tornado reports during May 1-10 from NOAA's Storm Prediction Centerlarger image The exceptional period of severe weather in the United States continued during May 6-10. In Oklahoma City, damaging tornadoes occurred on both the 8th and 9th, prompting President Bush to declare all of Oklahoma a federal disaster area (Associated Press). A total of 42 storm-related deaths were reported during the 1st-10th (USA Today, Associated Press).

May 1-10 had more reported tornadoes (412) than any other ten-day period since records began in 1950 (NOAA/SPC).

A severe thunderstorm affected eastern Bangladesh on the 5th, claiming at least 22 lives (OCHA/GVA). Winds gusting as high as 120 km/hr (75 mph), hail, and heavy rain hit remote villages in Brahmanbaria district, flattening hundreds of mud houses. A tornado tore through several villages in northern Bangladesh on the 21st, killing three people and destroying nearly 100 houses (Associated Press). More severe weather occurred on the 25th, as thunderstorms destroyed hundreds of houses and killed 4 people in the Rangpur district in the northern part of the country (Associated Press).

Tropical Cyclones
Click here a satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Manou near eastern Madagascar on May 8, 2003 larger image Tropical Cyclone Manou developed in the Indian Ocean on the 3rd and made landfall along the eastern coast of Madagascar on May 9 with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/hr (75 knots or 85 mph). Wind gusts along the coast were reportedly much higher, with speeds up to 200 km/hr (~110 knots or 125 mph) observed in the city of Vatomandry (IFRC/OCHA). There were 265 fatalities and 85 percent of the buildings were destroyed in the District of Vatomandry (OCHA/GVA).
Tropical Cyclone 01B developed in the Bay of Bengal on the 11th and drifted slowly northward. Locally heavy rain bands affected Sri Lanka northward across the east central coast of India during May 12-17. The cyclone made landfall along the west central coast of Burma on the 19th with maximum sustained winds near 85 km/hr (45 knots or 50 mph). Click Here for an infrared satellite image of Tropical Cyclone 01B on May 13, 2003
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Click here a satellite image of Tropical Storm Linfa near the Philippines on May 27, 2003 larger image Tropical Storm Linfa developed in the South China Sea west of the Philippines on the 25th and crossed Luzon island during the 27th-28th with maximum sustained winds of 100 km/hr (55 knots or 60 mph). Torrential rains were blamed for 37 deaths across the northern Philippines (Reuters/Associated Press). Linfa crossed into Japan during the 30th-31st, along with flooding rains and winds gusting to 80 km/hr (45 knots or 50 mph).

Extratropical Cyclones

No reports of significant extratropical cyclones received during May 2003

Severe winter weather
Click here for the snowfall for May 1-14, 2003 across the United States larger image Snowfall in the United States was primarily confined to the Rocky Mountains, with locally over a foot (30 cm) of snow across the higher elevations of Colorado during May 1-14.
By the end of May, snow cover across Europe and Asia was confined to a small area of Siberia, as the seasonal retreat of snow cover continued. Click Here the Europe/Asia snow cover loop for March through May 2003
Seasonal Animation


Basist, A., N.C. Grody, T.C. Peterson and C.N. Williams, 1998: Using the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager to Monitor Land Surface Temperatures, Wetness, and Snow Cover. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 37, 888-911.

Peterson, Thomas C. and Russell S. Vose, 1997: An overview of the Global Historical Climatology Network temperature data base. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 78, 2837-2849.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Global Hazards for May 2003, published online June 2003, retrieved on July 18, 2024 from