Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cyclone Rusty Shuts Down 20% of World Iron Ore Shipping (BHP; RIO)

I'm sure some in the industry have noted the cruel irony of a tropical cyclone named Rusty hitting the world's largest iron ore ports. The ports ship $120 million (A) per day and have already lost a half-billion in revenue.
So far ore prices have not jumped (actually trading down) but 175 mph winds could change that.
Projected landfall is 1p.m. EST (18:00 UTC)
From Wunderblog:
Australia's most dangerous tropical cyclone of the season so far is Tropical Cyclone Rusty, which has intensified to Category 1 strength and is lumbering southeastwards towards the northwestern coast of Australia at 6 mph. Rusty is expected to intensify further into a powerful Category 3 storm, and is predicted to make landfall near the town of Port Hedland (population 15,000) on Tuesday near 18 UTC (1 pm EST in the U.S.) 
Rusty formed on Saturday evening when westerly winds blowing near the Equator combined with easterly winds blowing south of New Guinea to create an unusually large tropical storm with a huge, 100-mile diameter cloud-free center. Ordinarily, a storm this large takes a long time to wind up, but Rusty intensified quickly, taking advantage of low wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and near-record warm ocean temperatures of 31 - 32°C (88 - 90°F). It's not often that a tropical cyclone gets 31 - 32°C waters to feed off of; these temperature are about 1.5°C (2.7°F) warmer than average for this time of year. The hot ocean temperatures are largely due to Australia's hottest month in its history--the nationally-averaged monthly maximum temperature during January 2013 was the highest ever recorded....MORE

Figure 1. Radar image of Rusty showing the large cloud-free center and an intense band of precipitation to it southwest moving ashore over the coast of Australia near Port Hedland. image credit: Bureau of Meteorology.

Figure 2. Tropical Cyclone Rusty at 0555 UTC on February 24, 2013 as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite. At the time, Rusty was a tropical storm with 50 mph winds, and had an usually large cloud-free center more than 100 miles in diameter. Image credit: NASA.

Here's the official Government of Western Australia resource map. Besides BHP's massive Port Hedland operation (top, slightly right) and Rio Tinto's Port Walcott there are hundreds of mines, offshore natural gas wells and support infrastructure directly in the path of the cyclone. Via WA Today (tremendous coverage):


Click to enlarge