Tropical Storm Benilde formed over the southern Indian Ocean on December 28, 2011. On December 30, the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that Benilde, now a cyclone, was located roughly 545 nautical miles (1,010 kilometers) southeast of Diego Garcia. Benilde had maximum sustained winds of 50 knots (95 kilometers per hour) with gusts up to 65 knots (120 kilometers per hour).
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on December 30, 2011. Benilde sports both a distinct eye and spiral shape characteristic of strong storms.
In early June 2011, Chile’s Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcano erupted explosively, sending volcanic ash around the Southern Hemisphere. In late December 2011, activity at the volcano had calmed, but volcanic ash and steam continued to pour through the fissure that opened several months earlier.
The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on December 23, 2011. The active fissure lies northwest of the Puyehue caldera, and a plume blows from the fissure toward the west and north. This image shows not just ash but also snow on the volcano surface, including the caldera. Because volcanic ash regularly coats the land surface, the pristine snow probably fell recently.
In a bulletin issued December 26, 2011, Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) characterized the activity over the previous 24 hours as a minor eruption of low intensity.
Reaching an altitude of 2,236 meters (7,336 feet), Puyehue-Cordón Caulle is a stratovolcano, a steep-sloped, conical volcano composed of layers of ash, lava, and rocks released by previous eruptions. This volcano comprises part of the largest active geothermal area in the southern Andes.
Tropical Storm Thane formed over the Indian Ocean on December 25, 2011. By December 28, Thane had strengthened into a cyclone and was headed toward southern India. On December 28, the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that Thane was located roughly 270 nautical miles (500 kilometers) southeast of Chennai. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 knots (120 kilometers per hour) with gusts up to 80 knots (150 kilometers per hour).
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on December 28, 2011. Thane lacks a distinct eye but still sports the spiral shape characteristic of strong storms. Skies are clear over Chennai but storm clouds extend over other parts of the Indian coast.
The JTWC forecast that Thane would continue moving toward the west, making landfall south of Chennai on December 30.
An eruption occurred in the Red Sea in December 2011. According to news reports, fishermen witnessed lava fountains reaching up to 30 meters (90 feet) tall on December 19. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites observed plumes on December 20 and December 22. Meanwhile, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite detected elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, further indicating an eruption.
The activity in the Red Sea included more than an eruption. By December 23, 2011, what looked like a new island appeared in the region. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured these high-resolution, natural-color images on December 23, 2011 (top), and October 24, 2007 (bottom). The image from December 2011 shows an apparent island where there had previously been an unbroken water surface. A thick plume rises from the island, dark near the bottom and light near the top, perhaps a mixture of volcanic ash and water vapor.
The volcanic activity occurred along the Zubair Group, a collection of small islands off the west coast of Yemen. Running in a roughly northwest-southeast line, the islands poke above the sea surface, rising from a shield volcano. This region is part of the Red Sea Rift where the African and Arabian tectonic plates pull apart and new ocean crust regularly forms.
The blizzard hit on December 19 and 20, lashing the American Southwest and Southern Plains with strong winds and snow up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) deep. Drifting snow and poor visibility closed roads throughout the region, including parts of two major interstates, 25 and 70. The storm was responsible for six deaths.
Even as the clouds from the first storm moved off, another moved down the spine of the Rocky Mountains, dropping moderate to heavy snow. In Denver, snow forced more than 100 flights to be cancelled in the middle of the busy holiday travel season. The storm is forecast to intensify as it moves south over New Mexico on December 22 and 23, where a winter storm warning is in effect.