Happy New Year guys, I hope you all had a great break.
I wish I could start the New Year off more positively, but as you may know Queensland is suffering devastating floods.
This morning I woke to see the news that the town of Toowoomba suffered a horrific “inland tsunami“:
At least eight people have died in the latest wave of flooding in Queensland – described as an “inland tsunami” – and more than 70 are missing.Others are stranded on rooftops waiting for rescues that could not start before first light today.
Police this morning confirmed that 72 people were still missing in the Toowoomba region.
Looks like locals have been posting YouTube videos… they give some sense of the scale of the devastation.
It’s surreal, watch the second video with the car being swept down the street:
Helicopters rescuing stranded people from roofs, dozens dead…
The costs are enormous, in the billions:
FLOODWATERS have destroyed produce and farming equipment valued at more than $1.5 billion in south-east Queensland, and road repairs will cost at least the same, as the region braces for the start of the wet season.
Ratings agency Moody’s yesterday warned that the cost of worldwide steel production could double because of the floods that have closed several mines and damaged transport routes. Queensland supplies almost half the world’s metallurgical coal, and prices have risen by $US50 a tonne since flooding started.
”The flooding has closed several of the region’s mines indefinitely and damaged rail lines that connect the coal to terminals, potentially delaying 8-15 million metric tonnes of coal exports from entering the seaborne market,” Moody’s analysts wrote in a weekly credit outlook.
The “once in a 100 year” event that’s happened twice this year
The flooding itself has been described as a “once in a 100 year event”. And yet they’re happening a bit more regularly than that…
DESCRIBING a severe weather event as a ”one-in-100-year flood” is misleading and the term should be dropped, a Queensland academic has said.
The term doesn’t mean a flood will occur once in 100 years, but that there’s a 1 per cent chance of a flood happening in any given year, said Associate Professor Dann Mallet, of the faculty of science and technology at the Queensland University of Technology…
Professor Mallett said the term was confusing and might mean people did not take precautions against flooding…
”They may think there is no longer any need to worry as we have already had our one flood in 100 years,” he said.
”The fact is that we are not at any lesser risk of flooding in 2011 because of the floods we have had in the past year.’
‘Professor Mallet said the misunderstanding might mean people did not heed the advice of police or meteorologists.
‘‘Although you may have a one-in-a-million chance of winning a lottery, most people never win, but some people win twice – there are no guarantees,” he said.
“In the same way, we have seen our state devastated by 100-year flood events twice in the space of just 12 months.”
Things that scare me: first Black Saturday, now Queensland drowns
Recall that only a few years ago, Victoria suffered the horrific Black Saturday fires in which close to 200 people were killed.
Back in September I wrote how much I feared the coming Australian summer, thinking the risk of another catastrophic fire.
These thoughts we’re prompted devastating floods in Victoria. Other readers noted flooding was a real risk.
I’d not considered flooding of this scale, but I did fear a large natural disaster given that 2010 was looking like the hottest year on record.
I feared it would create conditions for a catastrophe.
I thought it might be another mega-fire. But then again, the fire season has a few more months.
While the rains may seem to reduce the risk of fire, paradoxically it might make it worse. The “tropical” conditions we have been experiencing (warmer temperatures and more rain) have seen an explosion in vegetation that may fuel larger fires.
We’re not out of the woods yet.
As I’ve said, Australia is the canary in the coal mine:
“…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.”
Welcome to the Anthropocene (part 2)
The Bureau of meteorology helps explain what is driving the floods in Queensland:
Based on preliminary data (to November 30), sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were +0.54 °C above the 1961 to 1990 average. This is the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October and November.
Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring. The most recent decade (2001−2010) was also the warmest decade on record for sea surface temperatures following the pattern observed over land.
However we are not alone.
All over the world, extreme weather events took place all through December.
During the first two weeks of December floods in Columbia killed 257 people and at one point 1.9 million people (5% of the country’s population) were affected. On December 6-8 the Panama Canal was closed because of flooding.
This was only the 3rd time in history that the canal was closed and the first time as a result of weather.
A heat wave in Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay sent temperatures as high as 44.3°C (111.7°F) at Prats Gil, Paraguay, near the all-time record for the country (45°C/113°F also set at Prats Gill), on December 11th. Jujuy, Argentina peaked at 42°C (107.6°F) the same day. Huge wildfires near Valparaiso, Chile blackened 14,000 acres of forest.
Meanwhile out West waves of Pacific storms drenched California under record rainfall with stupendous snows in the Sierra Nevada.
Floods and mudslides ruined the Christmas Holidays for some in the southern portions of the state. Bakersfield, California recorded its single wettest month on record (any month) with a 5.82” total (old record 5.36” in February 1998).
To put this in perspective Bakersfield normally receives a seasonal total (July 1-June 30) of just 6.49”. Bishop, California was drenched with 4.93” of rain between December 18-20, equivalent to what it normally receives in an entire year!
Again, I’m calling it: the floods in Queensland are what you would expect if climate change was real.