Monday, January 28, 2013

Queensland 2013 bigwet floods, tornados and climate change

Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald has left a trail of damage and destruction from it's origins in the Gulf of Carpentaria to crossing Cape York and working it's way down the Queensland Coast. The storms brought destructive winds, tornados, rough seas, storm surge and torrential rain, followed by flooding. Quite a few rain records were broken for 24 and 48 hour periods in Rockhampton, Gladstone and Bundaberg with some rain gauges recording well over one metre of rain in 48 hours. Now flood level records are being broken for many river basins and towns like Bunderberg and Gympie.

Although the flood levels in Brisbane city may be lower than the devastating floods in 2011, largely due to better management of water storage in the Wivenhoe Dam, in many regional towns and areas these floods are much much worse and are at record levels.

While the Brisbane CBD may be spared flooding damage, many low lying suburbs around Brisbane will feel the force of the muddy dirty water swirling through their yards and houses. And regional towns are faring much worse in these floods than in 2011.

Thousands of people are being displaced, and hundreds are requiring rooftop emergency rescues from rapidly rising floodwaters especially around Bundaberg. Thousands will utilise emergency disaster assistance provided by State and Federal governments.

Asking whether climate change 'caused' these storms and floods is the wrong question. As climatologist Kevin Trenbeth outlines below, all weather events now have a component of climate change in them. It is now a part of our weather system contributing to all extreme weather events.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Torrential rain, tornados on Queensland coast causing flash flooding and damage

Monday night: Significant flooding events are ocurring at Bundaberg, Gympie, Maryborough, Ipswich, Warwick and in the Lockyer Valley. Rockhampton is expecting significant flood from the Fitzroy river on the weekend. There have been four deaths so far confirmed and two people missing. Nearly 180,000 properties across SE Queensland are still without power Monday night reports Energex. Storm system now bringing torrential rain and flooding to NSW coast, expected to be over Sydney Tuesday dawn and the Illawarra during Tuesday morning before heading out to sea.

In Bundaberg the Burnett River is at 9.2 metres and rising fast, with flow speeds of about 40knots (70km/hr). It is expected to peak at a record level of 9.5 metres late on Tuesday. There was mandatory evacuations carried out today affecting about 5000 people, with over 1500 people from 1000 properties are in evacuation centres. 16 helicopters were brought in, including 4 Black Hawks from the Australian Defence Force to rescue people from house roofs after flood waters rose rapidly today. Patients from Bundaberg hospital are being evacuated to Brisbane.

Sunday 6pm: Rain Likely to continue overnight then subside as the system moves south into NSW. Substantial flooding is occurring in Gladstone, Bundaberg, and Gympie much higher than the 2011 floods. Moderate flooding is expected Monday and Tuesday on the Bremer and Brisbane rivers with up to 3,600 Brisbane properties likely to be impacted, significantly less than the 2011 floods. Brisbane City Council have released flood maps for people to prepare. Flood waters will peak on Monday in Ipswich and Moggill and Tuesday night in Brisbane, where another peak is expected on Wednesday afternoon.

It was reported by Energex at 6.08pm Sunday 27 January that nearly 100,000 customers were without power in south east Queensland. By 7:48pm the number had climbed to 124,845. At 10:18pm 154,497 customers were without power. Just after midnight on Monday 12:28am power was off for 179,835 customers.

Related: Official alert information: | Emergency QLD media releases | Climate change now affects all weather events

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Australian political responses to Obama's climate change Inauguration speech

The parliamentary leaders of the Labor Party, Liberal Party and the Greens all responded to Barack Obama's statement on the necessity to act on climate change made during his 2013 inauguration speech.

The Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the statement and also reiterated government policy on carbon pricing, and the trend for more extreme weather events due to climate change as articulated by climate scientists.

Tony Abbott was more combative, attempting to use his press conference question for taking a cheap shot at President Obama not being able to get climate legislation passed through congress, and attacking the Government's carbon pricing policy.

Greens leader, Senator Christine Milne, also welcomed the change in priority on climate change by the US administration and said that "the proof of President Obama's commitment will be in what the US does in the global negotiations" over the next two years.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama: "We will respond to the threat of climate change..."

President Obama at his 2nd term inauguration as the 44th President of the United States has announced that tackling the issue of climate change will be a priority. In his 20 minute speech he devoted an entire section to the climate issue:

"We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise.

"That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared."

Related: Australian political responses to Obama's climate change Inauguration speech

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tour Down Under sponsor Santos told 'on ya bike' over CSG in the Pilliga

The Santos sponsored Tour Down Under was visited today by anti-CSG activists from the Pilliga Forest near Gunnedah in New South Wales. The protesters on bicycles took their protest to Santos Head Office in Adelaide today. Santos is the major sponsor of the Tour Down Under, so activists such as @thepilligamouse and several koalas hoped on their bikes to ride around Adelaide this morning to protest Santos’s destructive and toxic coal seam gas operations in Eastern Australia’s largest remaining temperate woodland and surrounding farmlands. They were joined by NSW politician and grazier David Quince.

Related: Total Fire Ban exemption for Santos CSG plant riles Pilliga residents

Planners need to allow for Coastal wetlands migration due to sea level rise, climate change

Coastal Wetlands are under pressure. They face rising seas from climate change, but their biggest obstacle to migrate naturally inland is human development with roads, houses and other infrastructure blocking their way. And our urban planners are largely unaware of this tricky situation.

We all love to live beside the sea, but coastal urban development and rising seas will increasingly threaten sensitive coastal wetlands with no room to move and imperilling the survival of their unique plants, birds and fish.

Our urban planners have taken a stable sea level for granted with development to date, often destroying wetland environments for coastal development, agriculture and aquaculture.

More recent urban planning incorporating sea level rise predictions places an emphasis on the threat to peoples houses, roads, railway embankments and other human infrastructure. But planning also needs to encompass the coastal wetland environments that share our coastlines. These ecosystems will also need to migrate inland as the ocean rises.

See also: Mangrove Alliance | Mangrove Action Project | Mangrove Watch Australia | Coastal ecosystems suffer 100 fold decrease in capacity to store carbon mitigating climate change

Friday, January 18, 2013

Glaciers continue losing mass adding to sea level rise

Figure 2: Mean cumulative mass balance of all reported glaciers (blue line) and the reference glaciers (red line), from glaciers in the Americas and Eurasia.

Preliminary figures for glacier mass balance for 2010/2011 have just been released and show that data from more than 100 mountain glaciers from around the world continue a strong trend of losing mass. The melt water from glaciers flows into the oceans and adds to sea level rise.

The report says:

"The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term observation series around the world continues to be negative, with tentative figures indicating a further thickness reduction of one metre water equivalent (m w.e.) during the hydrological year 2011. The new data continues the global trend in strong ice loss over the past few decades and brings the cumulative average thickness loss of the reference glaciers since 1980 at more than 15 m w.e."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Australian Heatwave part of global warming trend says IPCC head Pachauri

The IPCC chairperson is visiting Australia and commented that the Extreme heatwave and catastrophic bushfires that Australia is experiencing is an 'unmistakeable' part of a global trend of an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Indeed, researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have just released a new study - Global increase in record-breaking monthly-mean temperatures - which clearly shows the present Australian heatwave records being broken and the US recording it's hottest year in 2012, are both part of this global trend.

Obama urged to use Clean Air Act after USA experiences hottest year on record

Taking action on Climate Change is looming for President Obama. The United States experienced it's warmest year on record in 2012 according to NOAA. 2012 was also the second most extreme year on record. Over 70 environment organisations have urged Obama to use the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide clean energy jobs.

The contigous United States had an average annual temperature of 55.3°F which was 3.2°F above the 20th century average. The 2012 annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record warm year of 1998. Read a quick summary by the World Resources Institute: By the Numbers: The Hottest Year on Record

"In 117 years of data the record low temperatures to 1998's previous record high average, all sit within a four degree Fahrenheit band, 2012 is 1 degree Fahrenheit above that band," said Jake Crouch, climate scientist, NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

The extent of heat records broken in 2012 is a disturbing trend globally. Australia is currently experiencing an extreme heatwave with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology saying that many temperature records exceeded and requiring an extra two colours added to the top end of the temperature scale.

Shaye Wolf, climate science director with the Center for Biological Diversity made a brief statement in reaction to the NOAA announcement calling for President Obama to use his powers through the Clean Air Act to fight greenhouse gas emissions.

"This disturbing news puts the heat on President Obama to take immediate action against carbon pollution," said Dr. Wolf. "The blazing temperatures that scorched America in 2012 are a bitter taste of the climate chaos ahead. Science tells us that our rapidly warming planet will endure more heat waves, droughts and extreme weather. The president needs to start making full use of the Clean Air Act to fight greenhouse gas emissions, before it's too late."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Time to cease expansion of coal to reduce climate change says Ad

Prominent scientists and environmental organisations have published a full page ad in today's Australian Financial Review calling for the cessation of the expansion of coal exports from Australia.

More and more people are speaking up on the cost of coal expansion to the climate and biodiversity of the planet. Development of new coal mines, new coal export terminals and growing Coal exports are being done with the support of State and Federal Governments. Yet this is at the expense of and driving climate change producing more intense extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, storms, and bushfires. Coal exports are Australia's biggest contribution to climate change. They need to stop.

Read Melbourne University Associate Professor Peter Christoff's article on Why Australia must stop exporting coal. Or watch this 2010 lecture by Dr. Guy Pearse from the University of Queensland on Queensland's coal addiction.

The full text of the ad says:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Mangrove forests threatened by Climate Change in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and India

A new study has found the Sundarban coast retreating up to 200 metres in a single year due to rapidly deteriorating health of the world's largest Mangrove forest in the Sundarbans, the Ganges delta region of India and Bangladesh.

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) researcher Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, senior author of the paper says: "Our results indicate a rapidly retreating coastline that cannot be accounted for by the regular dynamics of the Sundarbans. Degradation is happening fast, weakening this natural shield for India and Bangladesh."

In the Bengali language 'Sundarban' can be literally translated as 'beautiful forest'. The area is the largest block of continuous mangrove forest in the world, being home to almost 500 species of reptile, fish, bird and mammals, including the endangered Bengal tiger.

See Also: Mangrove Alliance | Mangrove Action Project | Mangrove Watch Australia | Planners need to allow for Coastal wetlands migration due to sea level rise, climate change

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Greens Leader says 'Look at the damage to humanity being caused by people who bankroll coalmines'

Jonathon Moylan's ANZ Bank hoax letter over the Maule's Creek Project open cut coalmine continues to produce reverberations. Greens Leader Christine Milne has now come out in his support arguing that we are in a climate emergency and we need to have a very serious 'Look at the damage to humanity being caused by people who bankroll coalmines'. Independent Economist Rod Campbell implies that the real hoax being perpetrated on small and institutional investors in Whitehaven coal is by Gillespie Economics and NSW Planning Department who massively overestimated the benefits and underestimated the social, environmental, health and climate costs of the project.

Jonathon Moylan may become Australia's first high profile climate civil disobedience activist jailed as a result of an ASIC investigation. A somewhat similar case ocurred in the USA in 2011 when climate activist Tim DeChristopher was jailed for two years and fined $10,000 for climate civil disobedience for exposing the rorts in an auction of public lands for mineral exploration. Clive Hamilton on The Conversation website article - ANZ imposter takes up new climate tactic - also draws our attention to the parallels with the Tim DeChristopher case.

Take Action: Sign the ANZ Stop the Loan e-petition

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Total Fire Ban exemption for Santos CSG plant riles Pilliga residents

While firefighters were battling over 137 fires across NSW, over 40 uncontrolled, and with a total fire ban in place on Tuesday and Wednesday in record temperatures, Santos Gas at it's Pillaga CSG processing plant were able to vent and burn gas as usual in the middle of a tinder dry forest. Local residents have complained about this exemption saying it poses an unacceptable fire risk for the local community and for the Pilliga forest.

Background: The Global Mail - Pillaging the Pilliga (October 2012)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Records tumble in heatwave as Julia Gillard links bushfire to climate change

On Tuesday January 8 the Bureau of Meteorology released an interim special climate statement on the Extreme January heat Australia is currently experiencing. Record temperatures both day-time maximum and night-time minimums continue to be broken. The extraordinary heatwave has also been the scene for catastrophic fires, especially in Tasmania. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard saw the devastation in Dunalley and amoung her many interviews and press conferences made a brief statement connecting the intensity of bushfires with climate change.

The Extreme Heatwave had its origins in late December, but seriously started on January 3. It covers an extensive part of the continent mainly affecting inland areas but occasionally impacting the coast. Dr Braganza described it has "It's just an extensive dome of heat over the continent," in a Sydney Morning Herald report. Dr Karl Braganza is Manager of Climate Modelling at the Bureau of Meteorology.

The Bureau statement says the spatial extent of the heatwave is highly unusual resulting in many individual station temperatures and national average temperature records being broken, "To date (data up to the 6 January 2013) the national area-average for each of the first 6 days of 2013 has been in the top 20 hottest days on record, with 6 January the fifth hottest on record and the first time 5 consecutive days over 39 °C has ever been recorded for Australia." says the statement.

Read Previous article: Extreme Heatwave for Australia January 2013 - bushfire strikes.

Listen to Alasdair Hainsworth from the Bureau of Meteorology being interviewed on the ABC 7.30pm on 8 January 2013 (Youtube)

Here is the text of the BoM statement in full as updated by BOM on 14 January:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Uncovering the real hoax: ANZ Bank greenwash while financing coal and climate change

For a moment farmers, conservationists and climate campaigners in the north west of New South Wales thought one of the big four banks - the ANZ Bank - was living up to it's sustainability charter and taking a lead: acting ethically with regard to not destroying agricultural land, maintaining biodiversity and preventing climate change.

A media release purportedly from the bank said it was withdrawing it's $1.2 billion loan for Whitehaven for development of a new coal mine at Maules Creek on agricultural and forrested land near Narrabri, New South Wales. Further, the letter said that "ANZ is currently undertaking a review of coal and gas investments on productive agricultural lands and areas of high biodiversity."

But it was not to be.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

England experiences wettest year on record, second wettest for UK

According to provisional data by the UK Met office 2012 was the second wettest year in the UK national record dating back to 1910, and just a few millimetres short of the record set in 2000. Four of the top five wettest years have now occurred since 2000. The year was the wettest year on record for England, and third wettest for Wales.

2012 saw Britain come out of one of the severest droughts on record in 2011. March was the driest for more than half a century leading to activation of hosepipe bans across much of England. While the year started dry it then set new rainfall records for the wettest April, and the wettest June for the UK causing widespread flooding.

The persistent wet weather resulted in total 2012 rainfall for the UK of 1330.7 mm, which is just 6.6 mm short of the record set in 2000.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Grounding of Shell drilling platform highlights dangers of Arctic Oil Drilling

Shell has plans for drilling several exploratory wells in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas area off the north coast of Alaska. The grounding of the Kulluk circular oil drilling ship while being towed in heavy seas must call into question whether safety measures by Shell and Coast Guard response capabilities are adequate to allow Arctic drilling to proceed.

Initial approval for oil drilling by Shell Oil was given by the Obama administration in August 2012 despite opposition by numerous conservation groups and a petition of over a million US citizens. To preserve a safe climate based upon the simple climate maths of how much fossil fuels we can afford to burn, we need to Go Fossil Free through divestment, start taxing carbon and leave the oil reserves beneath the Arctic alone.

Related: Greenpeace - Save The Arctic | Sierra Club - Chill the Drills: Protect America's Arctic! | Center for Biological Diversity - Arctic Oil Development | Alaska Despatch - U.S.: Shell’s grounded drilling rig raises questions | July 2011 - Smears on integrity of Polar wildlife scientist a prelude to Arctic Oil Drilling

Extreme Heatwave for Australia January 2013 - bushfires strike

Note: article may be updated over coming days.

Jan 18: Sydney swelters setting new record temperature of 45.8C Friday 18 January while fires across southern states continue to burn out of control.

Jan 5: A heatwave covering 70 per cent of Australia that started on January 3 has sparked catastrophic bushfires. Tasmania has so far been the most devastated by fire with more than 100 houses and businesses razed, the Tasman peninsula cutoff, without power, and thousands evacuated by boat to Hobart. The Temperature soared in Hobart setting new records for highest daily minimum overnight temperature of 23.4C and a new maximum temperature of 41.3C.

Other states are also experiencing bushfires, but have so far brought the fires mostly under control. The heatwave is expected to last over a week with elevated temperatures particularly in inland areas. It is very unusual that a heat wave covers such a large area of the continent at one time, according to Karl Braganza, manager of climate monitoring at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Australia's weather has switched to hot and dry after one of the wettest two year periods in Australia's history influenced by an extremely strong La Nina event.

Related: Scientists outline health limits of heat stress with Climate Change (May 2010) | Flooding rains now burning plains - Bushfire risk and climate change (Oct 2011) | Logging of Victorian mountain ash forests increases bushfire risk (Oct 2011) | Intact native Forests mitigate bushfire in a warming climate (Nov 2011) | CSIRO - Climate change impacts on fire weather

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Climate Feedback: Arctic sea ice changes increase light absorption and ocean warming

A new study has examined the impact of changing sea ice and light absorption in the Arctic to reveal another climate feedback mechanism.

As multi-year sea ice is replaced with thinner first year sea ice, the properties of the sea ice change to allow more light through to the water beneath increasing ocean warming and more melting of sea ice.