Climate Change Shows its Teeth: Australia

Ready to jump as fire closes in

Ready to jump as fire closes in

Tim Holmes said he and his wife and their five grandchildren sought shelter in the water under a jetty for three hours.

“We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us and the next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere all around us,” he said.

Later on, he managed to make his way to shore and fetch a dinghy to transport his wife and the children.



More than 100 separate fires are burning in New South Wales. Some 3,000 sq km of land has been razed.

One of the fires is encroaching on a disused army range littered with unexploded bombs, though fire crews are confident they can tackle the blaze.

Dozens of homes have been destroyed, but no-one is believed to have died.

Wildfires plague Australia most years during the hot, dry summers.

The worst fires in recent memory killed more than 170 people in early 2009.

This year, a spell of record-breaking hot weather across the south-east has helped fan the fires.



Weather Weather Everywhere and Not A Plan in Sight

It is hard to get people impressed with the size of the disaster flooding over Australia’s north east province of Queensland. Should Texas and California be similarly flooded Americans would think the world was coming to an end. That’s about the equivalence in territory affected, some 350,000 square miles, or half of the entire province.

Weeks of rain destroyed cotton crops, halted coal deliveries, shut mines and prompted BHP Billiton Ltd., Xstrata Plc, Rio Tinto Group and Peabody Energy Corp. to declare force majeure, a legal clause allowing them to miss contracted deliveries.

Missed Royalty Payments

In addition to the rebuilding cost, the state will miss royalty payments from those mines, with Fraser estimating it may take three months for some to resume normal production.

Queensland, which accounts for about 20 percent of Australia’s A$1.3 trillion ($1.3 trillion) economy, expects the impact on the state’s finances to eclipse the A$800 million it spent on natural disasters last year, Fraser said on Jan. 1.

Maybe flooding of such proportions is too abstract? Maybe it’s just water? How about this to get some reality embedded?

Stranded Kangaroo in Queensland Flooding

From Climate Progress

One of the most basic predictions of climate science is that global warming will cause more intense precipitation. As Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained it, “there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.”

Last year appears to have been the hottest year on record — and it saw an astonishing amount of intense rainfall from Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ to the great Pakistani deluge.” And so it should be no surprise that the year ends with another unprecedented deluge of “biblical proportion.”

Oh, and by the way, New Zealand is not doing so well, either. The north end of the South Island has had it’s worst flooding in 150 years.

Motueka River in New Zealand five hours apart on December 28, 2010

Australian Fires Add to CO2 Load

Besides the immediate death (180) and destruction from the fires raging in south eastern Australia there is this:

VICTORIA’S bushfires have released a massive amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – almost equal to Australia’s industrial emission for an entire year.

Mark Adams, from the University of Sydney, said the emissions from bushfires were far beyond what could be contained through carbon capture and needed to be addressed in the next international agreement.

“Once you are starting to burn millions of hectares of eucalypt forest, then you are putting into the atmosphere very large amounts of carbon,” Professor Adams said.

Australia's Hell on Earth

The always interesting WunderBlog by Jeff Masters has a good post about the horrific fires in south east Australia.

Spectacular nocturnal heat burst

On the morning of January 29, an exceptional nocturnal heat event occurred in the northern suburbs of Adelaide around 3 a.m. Strong northwesterly winds mixed hot air aloft to the surface. At RAAF Edinburgh, the temperature rose to 107°F (41.7°C) at 3:04 am. Such an event appears to be without known precedent in southern Australia.

Australia: Greatest Natural Disaster – Death Toll Mounts

australiafire The wildfires that have so far claimed more than 170 lives in Australia highlight vulnerabilities in a country where the population is spilling into rural areas already under stress from sometimes extreme weather conditions.

Police suspect arsonists played a role in starting the blazes in Australia, one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history.

Officials struggled to contain the flames, which obliterated at least two towns over the weekend and continued to burn Monday in grasslands and forests north of Melbourne, the capital of the southeastern state of Victoria.