Global Focus
Satellite image depicting showers and thunderstorms across the Philippines on December 20, 2003
Flooding And Landslides In The Philippines
Global Hazards and Significant Events
December 2003
Persistent heavy rains across the Philippines caused flooding and landslides during mid to late December. Additional information can be found below.

Drought conditions

Severe to extreme drought was widespread throughout much of the western United States. The most concentrated areas of extreme to exceptional drought classification were across the Northern Rockies and parts of New Mexico. Click Here for the Drought Monitor depiction as of December 23, 2003
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Hot temperatures were observed across Western Australia during early December. Temperatures on the 2nd were 42°C (108°F) at Port Hedland and 44°C (112°F) at Marble Bar. Normal high temperatures in this part of Australia in early December are near 36°F (97°F).

Long term drought continued across areas of Africa, including the Greater Horn and parts of Southern Africa (WFP). For the latest weekly weather impacts summary and forecast, see the Africa Weather Hazards Assessment from the Climate Prediction Center. CAMS precipitation anomaly estimates across Africa during December 2003
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Satellite image of wind-whipped duststorm affecting parts of Texas and New Mexico on December 15, 2003
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Wind gusts of 80 km/hr (50 mph) caused dust plumes in New Mexico, Texas and northern Mexico on the 15th. No fatalities occurred and the National Weather Service issued warnings for driving hazards near Lubbock, TX due to poor visibility and high winds.

Heavy rainfall and flooding
Map of flood-affected area of Macedonia on December 1, 2003
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Heavy rains in Macedonia on the evening of November 30 weakened a dam that burst on December 1, flooding parts of the town of Gradsko Baldovci. Floodwaters displaced 750 people who were evacuated to emergency shelters (IFRC).

In Venezuela, heavy rains during the 3rd-5th prompted flooding along the Limon River in the northwestern state of Zulia. The flooding displaced at least 4,000 people.

In the Malaysian states of Kelantan and Pahang, heavy rains caused flooding that was blamed for at least 2 deaths and the evacuation of 2,000 people (AFP). The months of December through February are characterized as a rainy season in this region with the presence of the Northeast Monsoon. Click Here for the CAMS precipitation anomalies across Indonesia during December 2003
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NASA/TRMM rainfall estimates during December 18-24, 2003 across Southeast Asia
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Heavy rains during December 17-23 resulted in flooding and landslides across the central and southern Philippines. At least 200 people were killed from flooding and landslides, while a ferry sank in rough seas that carried 75 passengers and crew. As of the 24th, only 25 people had been recovered (AFP).

In Bolivia, rising flood waters in the center of the county on the 22nd claimed 6 lives and widespread material damage to houses and roads. The government of Bolivia declared a state of emergency as the Chapare River rose above flood stage (AFP).

Heavy rains on Christmas Day affected areas of southern California that were just recently ravaged by wildfires in October. The downpour produced flash flooding that resulted in mudslides, taking the lives of 15 people at area campgrounds in San Bernardino (AFP).

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

Severe Storms

In Australia, severe thunderstorms affected Melbourne on the 2nd, dumping heavy rains and large hail on the city. The storm dumped more than 100mm (~4 inches) of rain on the city, generated high winds and produced golfball-sized hail. Hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged by flooding or from falling trees. Parts of the north and eastern suburbs of Melbourne received more than 100mm (~4 inches) in just two hours, which was described as a 100-year storm event by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (AFP).

Tropical Cyclones
Infrared satellite image of Tropical Storm Odette near the Dominican Rebulic on December 6, 2003
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Tropical Storm Odette formed in the Caribbean Sea on December 4th - the first tropical storm on record to have formed in the Caribbean Sea in December. Odette moved northeastward while strengthening slightly to a maximum intensity of 100 km/hr (55 knots or 65 mph), before coming ashore over the Dominican Republic on December 6th. Odette dumped up to 180mm (~7 inches) of rain on the Dominican Republic before moving off to the northeast and merging with a cold front off the coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, 8 deaths were attributed to the storm (Associated Press).
Tropical Storm Peter formed on December 9th in the eastern Atlantic and initially moved southwest and south over warmer waters. Peter then intensified rapidly to a maximum intensity of 110 km/hr (60 knots or 70 mph or just below hurricane strength) while moving north. However, Peter just as rapidly deteriorated to become a tropical depression on December 10th. The last time there have been two tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean of at least tropical storm strength during the month of December was 1887. Visible satellite image of Tropical Storm Peter on December 9, 2003
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Infrared satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Cela over northern Madagascar on December 9, 2003
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Tropical Cyclone Cela developed in the South Indian Ocean on the 5th moved across northern Madagascar on the 9th-10th producing torrential rains and maximum sustained winds near 85 km/hr (45 knots or 50 mph).
Tropical Cyclone 03B formed in the Bay of Bengal on the 12th and made landfall in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh by the 15th with maximum sustained winds near 100 km/hr (55 knots or 65 mph). The storm brought heavy rains which produced flooding that inundated 121,500 hectares (300,000 acres) of farmland. Around 8,000 families lost their homes and 50 people were killed (BBC News). Visible satellite image of Tropical Cyclone 03B on December 15, 2003
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Infrared satellite image of Tropical Cyclone Cela Debbie
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Tropical Cyclone Debbie developed in the Arafura Sea on the 18th and made landfall east of Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory on the 20th with maximum sustained winds near 120 km/hr (65 knots or 75 mph). Debbie produced heavy rainfall which contributed to the 3rd highest mean December rainfall in the Northern Territory since 1890 (Australian Bureau of Meteorology).

Extratropical Cyclones
Infrared satellite animation of a powerful storm system that affected France during December 1-3, 2003
Click for Animation (~2MB)
A powerful mid-latitude storm system brought strong winds and flooding rains to southern France during December 1-3. Torrential rains and winds gusting up to 150 km/hr (90 mph) lashed southern France, causing 7 deaths and leaving a quarter of a million people without drinking water (AFP). Numerous rivers went above the flood stage, with some of the worst damage along the Rhone River.
Much of the northeastern United States that had received significant snow cover during the 5th-7th had soaking rains on the 10th-11th as a storm system trekked up the Eastern Seaboard. Strong gusty winds and heavy rains caused accelerated snowmelt, which produced flooding along some rivers and streams. Storm system that brought heavy rains to the Northeast United States on December 10-11, 2003
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Severe winter weather
Photo of the heavy snow accumulations in Boston, MA (Public Garden) on December 6, 2003
Nor'easter Buries The U.S. Northeast With Snow
A major winter storm impacted parts of the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States during the 5th-7th. Snowfall accumulations of one to two feet were common across areas of Pennsylvania northward into New England. Boston, MA received 16.2 inches while Providence, RI had the greatest single snowstorm on record with 17 inches, beating the previous record of 12 inches set December 5-6, 1981. Boston's Logan International Airport was closed briefly on the 7th as heavy snowfall made regular airport operations impossible (AFP).
In Iran, subfreezing low temperatures in the capital city of Tehran on the 9th resulted in the deaths of 40 homeless people (AFP). Temperatures across the Middle East on December 9, 2003 at 0000UTC, from NCEP GDAS analysis
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Temperatures across Europe at 0600 UTC on December 23, 2003
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Cold, snowy weather across parts of the United Kingdom during December 15-23 was blamed for as many as 2,500 deaths (BBC News). Subfreezing temperatures and snow on the 22nd resulted in as much as 30 cm (12 inches) of accumulation across the Yorkshire Moors.

A storm system brought strong winds and heavy snow to Sweden on the 6th. One person was killed by a falling tree and 90,000 homes were left without electricity. In neighboring Norway, power cuts were reported in the southern part of the country, where train traffic was also disrupted (AFP).

In Germany, snow and ice caused numerous traffic accidents, resulting in one fatality and 17 injuries (AFP). Police reported at least 100 road accidents in the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg on the 16th.

A major snow storm in Utah occurred on the 26th causing several fatalities due to avalanches. As much as 61cm (2 ft) of snow fell in parts of the state, particularly south of Salt Lake City. Three people that were seen snowboarding in the Aspen Grove recreational area have been presumed dead, all others managed to escape or be rescued (Reuters).

A severe snow storm hit northern California and southern Oregon on December 28. As much as 61cm (2 ft) of snow fell along Interstate 5 closing a 150-mile (240 km) stretch of the interstate, stranding hundreds of travelers. Winds from the storm caused power outages to more than 200,000 customers in California and Oregon. One man died of a heart attack after helping other drivers, no other fatalities occurred (CNN). Snow depth estimate on December 30, 2003
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Temperatures anomalies across India during December 2003 from NCEP Reanalysis
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A cold wave claimed the lives of 157 people in northern India as of December 31. Temperatures in the region were between 2-5°C (35.6-41°F) over the past two weeks and dense fog also caused several traffic fatalities. The cold weather has been blamed for the deaths of many homeless and elderly people in the area, prompting the government to provide shelter to the homeless and people suffering from sicknesses (AFP).


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, State of the Climate: Global Hazards for December 2003, published online January 2004, retrieved on September 28, 2022 from