Canary in the coal mine: Australia’s summer of locusts, floods, heatwaves and drought

Everyone is talking about the weather in Melbourne.  

And the locusts… the worst plague in 30 years 

Some of us listening to the news, or reading the papers about the floods devastating rural communities across Queensland and NSW. Thousands have been isolated by flood waters. Thousands have been evacuated.  

Let’s not forget that Perth has experienced its first November heat wave in 30 years 

“How strange?” people ask each other. “We seem to be going from one extreme to another!” 

The combined impact of locusts, floods and drought will wipe out $3bn worth of wheat exports 

Nor is Australia alone…. 

In Japan over 170 people diedin their hottest summer on record. Or that earlier this year Russia burned, while most of Pakistan found most of itself under water.  

I’m not claiming all these events are linked to climate change. As the Bureau of Meteorology notes, La Nina has kicked in 

But it’s a reminder of what this new age – the Anthropocene – is going to look like.  

It’s not like we weren’t warned. 

A 2009 study by Chinese researchers has linked increase locust plagues with warmer temperatures:

“…Analysis of Chinese historical records stretching back for over a thousand years show that locust outbreaks are more likely to occur in warmer and drier weather, especially in the country’s northern provinces, researchers say.

“The results are an alarm bell for yet another serious consequence of climate change,” says Ge Quansheng, deputy director of the Beijing-based Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was not involved with the study.”

Or that due to increased temperatures, water vapour in the atmosphere has increased:

LIVERMORE, Calif. –Observations and climate model results confirm that human-induced warming of the planet is having a pronounced effect on the atmosphere’s total moisture content.

Those are the findings of a new study appearing in the Sept. 17 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“When you heat the planet, you increase the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture,” said Benjamin Santer, lead author from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison. “The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that it’s due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.”

More water vapor – which is itself a greenhouse gas – amplifies the warming effect of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. This is what scientists call a “positive feedback.”

What goes up, comes down.  

Or the section from the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report for Australia suggested an increase in “heatwaves and fires” and that we’d see an increase in “floods, landslides, droughts and storm surges”.  

But I’m sure it’s all a coincidence to the average climate sceptic.  

Nothing to worry about.

5 thoughts on “Canary in the coal mine: Australia’s summer of locusts, floods, heatwaves and drought

  1. Sou says:

    I do attribute all this to climate change. To me record drought and heat followed by record rain intensity and duration is what is expected in a changing global climate. Climate change is already happening, even with this relatively small rise in global temperature. What happens in the next few decades is up to us all.

    And the rain keeps coming. Many farmers are struggling, while the animals, birds, insects and fish are relishing the extra food and water. Unfortunately, the rains will provide good fodder for fires in the next hot dry spell.

  2. DaveMcRae says:

    The Royal Society has allowed this issue of their journal Philosophical Transactions out of the paywall.

    It looks likely we will not act before 2C and may possibly be in a 4C world, and what this probably means.

    Meanwhile, the denier spin is, just as Oreskes paints it, is still manufacturing doubt within the public even as the researchers and scientists are reducing error bars and are revising their models and forecasts to be more severe.

  3. Nick says:

    At the moment,the “average climate sceptic” is convinced by the onset of the northern winter and the presence of La Nina that the Earth is entering another Ice Age. Even after all these years of obsessing, they still can’t distinguish seasonality and noise from climate.

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