The Reality – Cyclonic Storms are Natural Climate Events

Opinion by Tony Orman

Cyclone Gabrielle came, conquered and left a path of destruction and devastation on the North Island’s east coast, particularly Hawkes Bay. Shocking as the destruction was, extreme weather events due to climate change are nothing new.

Recently a 2016 article in “New Zealand Geographic (issue 142)  of “New Zealand Geographic” by meteorologist Erick Brenstrum – a “severe weather” events specialist, was republished on-line.  In it, Erick Brenstrum recalled Hawkes Bay’s Esk valley flood of April 1938.

Fifty four bridges were washed away. Widespread slips buried houses. The Esk Valley hit hard just weeks ago by Cyclone Gabrielle, was in 1938 devastated by silt as deep as three metres. An estimated 12,000 cubic metres of slips blocked the Wairoa to Napier railway.

That 1938 cyclone brought intense rain reaching 420 mms (almost 17 inches) in just 24 hours hard on the heels of record rain late January due to another tropical cyclone.

Only two years earlier in 1936 the North Island was slammed by a tropical cyclone. Erick Brenstrum rated the 1936 storm as probably worse than the tropical cyclone storm that hit on April 10, 1968, killing 51 passengers on the ill-fated Wahine inter-island ferry. Yet the 1936 storm nearly had its own ferry disaster when the “Rangatira”, caught by the storm 9 kms off the port of Lyttelton ran onto rocks, damaging its front end, resulting in the ferry being forced to reverse back to Lyttelton.

The storm ravaged the east coast of both islands. At Coromandel Peninsula a house was washed out to sea, killing the sole occupant. Four train carriages were blown off the tracks south of Palmerston North.

Extreme weather turned up late July 1939. Incredibly snow fell from Cape Maria van Diemen in Northland to Southland. In Auckland, five centimetres of snow fell on  Mt Eden. The Bombay Hills shone white for most of the morning. In Gisborne, snow fell for nearly three hours. At Paremata, just north of Wellington, eight hectares of the harbour froze over while tidal waters also froze in the Bay of Plenty.

History has recorded other earlier storms even back to the 19th century. On 16 April, 1897, a severe storm struck the lower to central North Island  The ship Zuleika ran aground near Cape Palliser, east of Wellington, with the loss of 12 lives, and severe flooding. At Clive in Hawkes Bay, flooding caused the loss of a further 12 lives. There were six further unconfirmed reports of drowning, bringing the total loss of life directly related to the 1897 storm event to between 25 and 31.

In the 1980s, botanist and hydrologist Dr Patrick Grant of Hawkes Bay researched erosion in the Ruahine Ranges. The stimulus was reading of 19th century missionary-explorer William Colenso who recorded in his diary about massive land slips, lifeless tangled trees in forests and stream beds choked with shingle and dead trees. This was mystifying as at the time, Forest and Bird and catchment boards had blamed the erosion on wild animals such as deer, whereas Colenso’s diary writings of his Ruahine Range treks was well before the first deer were liberated.



William Colenso in 1840s wrote of his crossings of the Ruahine Range, describing “extensive land slips down which it was fearful to look” of “anciently fallen trees” and stream “beds so narrow and steep and partly choked with dead trees—and masses of stone.”  Motivated by Colenso’s descriptions, decades before wild deer were released, scientist Dr Patrick Grant in the 1980s, set out to research the causes.

Dr Grant wrote in his book “Hawkes Bay Forests of Yesteryear”, published 1996, that the erosion Colenso saw in the 1840s “was no doubt the effects of gales and heavy rainfalls.” He scientifically identified eight “warm erosion” periods stretching back to 350-450 AD. Between warm erosion periods generally being 50 to 100 years each, “are cooler, tranquil intervals.”

“Increased warmth and storminess — are linked to wide-scale changes in atmospheric pressure — where increased tropical cyclone frequency has also been recorded.”

Drought climate extremes also featured between the eight “warm erosion” periods. Historical photos in 1919 of the Ruahine Range showed standing dead tree trunks.  Dr Grant identified these as caused by droughts in 1907-08, and 1914-15 with the dryness aggravated by abnormally dry years between 1908 and 1914.

“The dry period culminating in 1914-15 was undoubtedly the greatest drought to effect the vegetation.” Drought or storms are simply part of the natural climate cycles.

In his book Dr Grant quoted another scientist as saying “The fact that our climate is changing is nothing new. Climate has always changed.”

“Climate change” advocates in 2023 blames human related causes for extreme weather i.e. cyclones and droughts. But science shows the extremes have been happening over decades, centuries and millenia.  Warnings were there in meteorological history. 

Unfortunately myopic urban development has led to building towns on flood plains and sprawling over productive fertile soils.

But questions remain. To what extent have humans changed the climate?

As for assessing exactly the human contribution to global warming, politicians and climate change adherents need to apply the equation – Natural Climate Change plus or minus Human Induced Climate Change equals the  Actual Climate Change.


Footnote: Tony Orman (MNZIS) is a Marlborough-based author, conservationist, journalist and former town and country planner


Tony Orman

Author, Journalist, Editor
4 Stratford Street
Blenheim 7201 NZ
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Tel: 03 577 7875
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7 Responses to The Reality – Cyclonic Storms are Natural Climate Events

  1. Dave Rhodes says:

    Climate Change: Global Cooling: 2020s, 2030s & 2040s
    The Sun’s Grand Minimum
    ‘Winter Storms Rage Coast to Coast’
    by Theodore White, astromet.sci
    In our new climate era of global cooling, under our Sun’s emergence into its Grand Minimum phase, the early 2020s are merely baby steps of what is to come later in the years and decades ahead.
    While the ‘man-made global warming’ establishment continues to struggle to prove that ‘man-made climate change’ exists (it doesn’t) the world’s weather and climate here in the real world continues to prove that the Earth is entering deeper into a new climate era – global cooling.
    For many years I have forecast and written extensively on my long-held prediction of global cooling and the Sun’s Grand Minimum and I continue to urge everyone – on Earth – to prepare for the future.
    Solar, lunar and planetary transits are always the cause of our geophysical effects here on Earth. It is called the weather and climate.
    Meanwhile, those who chuckled at my forecast for snow in the most unlikely regions of the world, are now stunned to have witnessed the first significant snowfalls in urban regions of southern California, as well as snow and cold in Barcelona, Spain.
    Consider this:
    Los Angeles – a city famed for its palm trees and sun-kissed boulevards – has been under its first blizzard warning in more than 30 years through last weekend and into this week.
    On Friday residents were shocked at the sight of snow falling around the ‘HOLLYWOOD’ sign on Mount Lee.
    Elsewhere in Los Angeles, floods trapped cars in North Hollywood, and officials warned of widespread flooding throughout the surrounding county.
    Fox News reported on February 28th that beleaguered Californians weathered yet another storm Tuesday, as blizzard warnings blanketed the Sierra Nevada range in the northern half of the state.
    And even more snow was on its way to the southern mountains like the San Bernardino range, making travel dangerous.
    On the eastern flank of the Sierra, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office bluntly tweeted:
    “The roads are closed. All of them. There is no alternate route, back way, or secret route. It’s a blizzard, people.”
    San Bernardino County has declared a state of emergency, with mountain residents trapped in their homes and motorists stranded.
    More snow was expected in many communities where residents, unable to drive through deep snow on roads that were closed anyway, largely got around on foot.
    This has been just the latest storm in California (one of two bookending the United States and Canada) with snow closing or delaying the opening for hundreds of schools in the Northeast, which saw the most significant snowfall Tuesday of what had been a relatively snowless winter.
    And Michigan again fought a battle with ice after a storm Monday left thousands of customers without power in the central part of the state.
    To the southeast, around Detroit, some customers still lacked power for a sixth day after a prior storm.
    The storms have delayed travel, shuttered schools and overwhelmed crews trying to dig out of the snow and repair downed power lines.
    Nationwide, there were about 500 commercial flight cancellations and more than 2,000+ delays on Tuesday reported by airlines.
    In the West, the weather was expected to last into Wednesday, March 1st with winter storm warnings stretching from the Oregon coast to many of Southern California’s already-snow-laden mountains.
    In the San Bernardino mountain community of Running Springs, the entire town is covered in snow with some mounds piling more than six feet (1.8 meters) high.
    Some residents walked to a grocery store to stock up on food and carried back the bags atop a plastic sled.
    In nearby Crestline, a man said his family’s grocery store was running low on key inventory even though they stocked up before the storm.
    Authorities are escorting two full grocery trucks up to the mountain community, he said, and then added: “and just in time for the new storm to add as much as a foot of snow.”
    “We’re completely out of bread. Milk is getting really light. We’re almost completely out of produce,” he said. “And Beer – domestic beer – is really, really low.”
    With a reported five (5) feet of snow on the ground; many of the workers are snowed-in and those seeking food are walking to stores hoping they are open.
    For California’s skiers and snowboarders, the parade of storms was too much of a good thing.
    Most resorts around Lake Tahoe suspended operations Tuesday.
    Big Bear Mountain Resort opened, but all roads leading there remained closed. Mount Baldy Resort on the massive peak that looms over greater Los Angeles opened but also anticipated an early closure.
    Since Friday, February 24th, snowflakes have been falling in Los Angeles, including around its iconic Hollywood sign, as a winter storm tightened its icy grip on southern California.
    The city of San Francisco broke a 132-year record low temperature, dipping to 39 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius on Friday morning.
    Tens of millions of residents California remain under blizzard, wind and flood warnings as the powerful winter storms have blacked out nearly a million properties from coast to coast.
    The National Weather Service said it was one of the strongest storms to ever hit southwest California and even as the volume of wind and rain dropped, it continued to have significant impact including snowfall down to elevations as low as 1,000 feet (305 meters).
    Hills around suburban Santa Clarita, north of Los Angeles, were blanketed in white, and snow also surprised inland suburbs to the east.
    Rare blizzard warnings for the mountains and widespread flood watches were ending late in the day as the storm tapered off in the region. Forecasters said there would be a one-day respite before the next storm arrives.
    After days of fierce winds, toppled trees and downed wires, more than 120,000 California utility customers remained without electricity.
    Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, remained closed due to heavy snow and ice in Tejon Pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles.
    Multiday precipitation totals as of last Saturday morning included a staggering 81 inches (205 centimeters) of snow at the Mountain High resort in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles and up to 64 inches (160 centimeters) farther east at Snow Valley in the San Bernardino Mountains.
    Rainfall totals as of late Saturday morning were equally stunning, including nearly 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) at Los Angeles County’s Cogswell Dam and nearly 10.5 inches (26.6 cm) in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles.
    “Quite a remarkable storm the last few days with historic amounts of precip and snow down to elevations that rarely see snow,” the LA-area weather office wrote.
    The Los Angeles River and other waterways that normally flow at a trickle or are dry most of the year were raging with runoff Saturday. The Los Angeles Fire Department used a helicopter to rescue four homeless people who were stranded in the river’s major flood control basin. Two were taken to a hospital with hypothermia, said spokesperson Brian Humphrey.
    In the Valencia area of north Los Angeles County, the roiling Santa Clara River carried away three motorhomes early Saturday after carving into an embankment where an RV park is located. No one was hurt, KCAL-TV reported, but one resident described the scene as devastating.
    The storm, fueled by low pressure rotating off the coast, did not depart quietly. Lightning strikes shut down LA County beaches and scattered bursts of snow, showers and thunderstorms persisted.
    Derek Maiden, 57, who lives in a tent in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood, collected cans in the rain to take to a recycling center. He said this winter has been wetter than usual. “It’s miserable when you’re outside in the elements,” he said.
    Meanwhile, populations farther east were struggling to deal with the fallout from the winter storms.
    More than 350,000 customers were without power in Michigan as of early Saturday afternoon, according to reports from the the two main utilities in the state, DTE and Consumers Energy.
    Both said they hope to have the lights back on for most of their customers by Feb. 28th.
    Brian Wheeler, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, said half an inch (1.27 centimeters) of ice weighed down some power lines – equivalent to the weight of a baby grand piano.
    “People are not just angry but struggling,” said Em Perry, environmental justice director for Michigan United, a group that advocates for economic and racial justice:
    “People are huddling under blankets for warmth.”
    She said the group will demand that utilities reimburse residents for the cost to purchase generators or replace spoiled groceries.
    In Kalamazoo, Michigan, Allison Rinker was using a borrowed generator to keep her 150-year-old house warm after two nights in the cold and dark.
    “We were all surviving, but spirits were low on the second day,” she said. “As soon as the heat came back and we were able to have one or two lights running, it was like a complete flip in attitude.”
    After driving to a relative’s home to store food, Rinker, 27, compared the destruction of trees to tornado damage.
    “The ice that was falling off the trees as it was melting was hitting our windshield so hard, I was afraid it was going to crack,” she said.
    “There’s just tree limbs everywhere, half of the trees just falling down. The destruction is insane.”
    Back in California, the Weather Prediction Center of the National Weather Service seemed surprised at the amount of heavy snow over the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada through the weekend.
    An avalanche warning was issued for the Sierra Nevada backcountry around Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California-Nevada border.
    Nearly 2 feet (61 cm) of new snow had fallen by Friday and up to another 5 feet (1.5 meters) was expected when another storm moves in with the potential for gale-force winds and high-intensity flurries Sunday, the weather service said.
    In Arizona, the heaviest snow means up to a foot of new snow possible in Flagstaff, Arizona.
    Weekend snow also was forecast for parts of the upper Midwest to the Northeast, with pockets of freezing rain over some areas of the central Appalachians. The storm was expected to reach the central high Plains by early Monday, Feb. 28th.
    At least three people have died in the coast-to-coast storms, according to reports.
    A Michigan firefighter died Wednesday after coming into contact with a downed power line, while in Rochester, Minnesota, a pedestrian died after being hit by a city-operated snowplow. Authorities in Portland, Oregon, said a person died of hypothermia.
    Much of Portland was shut down with icy roads after the city’s second-heaviest snowfall on record this week: nearly 11 inches (28 centimeters.)
    While the city saw sunny skies and temperatures approaching 40 degrees Saturday afternoon, the reprieve – and thaw – was short-lived as even more snow fell Sunday.
    This is the weather and climate of global cooling, as I’ve long forecast. And it is time to begin to search for higher ground, considering what I know of the future to come.
    ~ Theodore White, astromet.sci

  2. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Theories for centuries have been tossed about, since Noah was heading out for a paddle, regarding storms. Anything from God to homosexuals have been blamed. Recently some scientists including UK’s Richard Dawkins have waded in on science vs maori knowledge as science, Even filtering into schools curriculum. said to be needing both.
    But the latest loony idea broadcast on RNZ was that had the authorities listened to matauranga maori & Tikanga knowledge , the Cyclone Gabrielle could have been avoided!!
    ! A normal person would never be tolerant of racism at this level, but ignorance seems unlimited. in modern NZ.

  3. Lew says:

    Climate change has been going on for millions of years, all the Fiords in Fiordland were created by glaciers millions of years ago, in many valleys coming from the main divide on the east coast of the Sth Island the remnants of ancient glaciers in the form of tussock terraces are easily visible in the high country. Climate change will continue regardless of humans.

  4. Bud jones JonesQSM says:

    Avoided, that’s a good one. I presume maoris, yet to invent the wheel , had a plan to move the country out of harm’s way by speeding up continental drift, details of “how to”, being hidden in the fine print of He Poo Poo apartheid. document?? Definitely a culture to respect.
    in the words of Bill Maher,”I don’t need to make up stuff to laugh at this, they provide all the material of a complete joke. Just witness the last week’s tea Matt a teeny Festival’s eyeball rolling & tongue poking obscenities” from a troupe of blubber specimens we’ve been instructed to respect even though the group has announced they will be taking over the country, [one way or ANOTHER].

  5. Dave says:

    If you can all see Counterspin and Professor Duffy on the climate he makes a lot of sense as he explains what is happening

  6. Barry Day says:

    536 AD, when Krakatoa blew its top and caused the most dramatic climate change for a decade.
    It’s impossible for us advanced chimpanzees to beat that one.
    In one day the earth spewed enough sulphuric ash around the globe to block the sun and bring on a decade of winter.
    My question is.
    Are there any records in New Zealand from that time? Perhaps a Moa drumstick bone carved with” very bloody cold, no can cook.”

    I’d be more concerned about a major eruption than a good wind blow.

  7. golde says:

    ~mod – abridged for relevance
    Nature has been nature forever…As an aside, the difference is man-made poisons are spewed upon the land via chemicals being sprayed out of airplanes/jets. The ones crying “Climate change” were no where to be found at recent catastrophic chemical spill events, eg. Ohio – No GreenPeace, No Greta, no visit by the the US President.
    What just happened in Ohio is being call the US Chernobyl….the chemicals spilled are that deadly toxic. All part of “The New World Order” Globalist agenda, WEF….. which is where the“lovely” Jacinda took NZ in these past years. She was their “darling.” The man-made Covid pandemic was just the start.
    The climate change BS is just another “tool” they will try to use for more lockdowns and control…..The aim is CONTROL. They saw how their scare tactics worked with the covid pandemic.
    Wake up people. Stand up NOW against their phony agendas.

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