Category Archives: Floods

Year of the flood: WMO confirms climate change has “accelerated” in the last ten years

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) released its statement on the status of the climate for 2011 in March, however I’ve only just had a chance to read it.

It confirms what most of us know: the impact of climate change is being felt. The WMO notes:

The year 2011 was a year of climate extremes around the world. Precipitation extremes, many of them associated with one of the strongest La Niña events of the past 60 years, had major impacts on the world. Significant flooding occurred in many places throughout the world, while major droughts affected parts of East Africa and North America. Global mean temperatures in 2011 did not reach the record-setting levels of 2010, but were still the highest observed in a La Niña year, and Arctic sea-ice extent fell to near-record-low levels. Global tropical cyclone activity was below average, but the United States had one of its most destructive tornado seasons on record.

The year was notable for disastrous flooding across the globe:

A major feature of 2011 was destructive flooding in many parts of the world, both long-lived flooding arising from major seasonal climate anomalies, and short-term or flash floods resulting from extreme events on timescales of days or hours.

Some may recall the floods in Brazil, the worst natural disaster in that country’s history:

In terms of loss of life, one of the most extreme single events occurred in Brazil on 11–12 January. A flash flood caused by rainfalls that exceeded 200 mm in a few hours in mountainous terrain about 60 km north of Rio de Janeiro caused at least 900 deaths, many of them as the result of a landslide. This was one of the worst natural disasters in Brazil’s history.

The report goes on to details record flooding in nearly every part of the world, detailing the lives lost and the billions of dollars of damage.

Sometimes a picture can paint a thousand words, as their map of the world highlighting extreme weather events:

And:

It’s only when you stand back, and look at the totality do you see the full picture.

 

To attribute, or not to attribute: that is no longer the question

Things that scare me: redux

How many of readers recall early 2011 when cyclone Yasi struck Brisbane?

At least 35 people died in floods across New South Wales and Queensland. The resulting rains and floods costed the Australian economy approximately $10 billion.

Or the flooding suburbs in Melbourne, which I captured on video. So extreme were these events that it caused one member of the Bureau of Meteorology to exclaim: “We’ve never seen anything like it in Australia”

Perhaps you may recall early 2011 fires raged in Western Australia (Black Sunday), while Sydney experienced a record seven-day heat wave.

Across the globe soaring temperatures saw record rains flood two-thirds of Pakistan, while at the same time fires raged across Russia.

Or perhaps your memory goes back to the 2010 records floods in China killed close to 400 people, destroying 1.3 millions homes and caused $54USD billion in damage?

Perhaps some might remember the fires that ripped through Israel in an event called that nations worst natural disaster in history?

Of course there where the floods in Niger and the record rain in the US that saw Nashville inundated.

Indeed in September 2010 I wrote about the things that scared me about the coming Australian summer:

Thus with 2010 looking like being the hottest year record, I think we should be deeply concerned about the coming bushfire season.

As noted by the IPCC, with rising temperatures Australia could be subjected to more floods and catastrophic fires…I earnestly hope some advanced planning is taking place.

While let me reiterate my concerns for the coming Australian summer of 2012-13.

I’m not claiming any prescience, just noting the obvious fact an increase in CO2 that traps more heat, raises temperatures and fuels more extreme weather events.

It makes sense because the science is pretty fucking solid.

The attribution debate is over

Back in 2010 and early 2011 “sensible” voices cautioned about attributing these events to climate change.  This is the so called “attribution” question, and we’re cautioned to not make simple linkages between a flood here and climate change: fair enough.

I recall Michael Tobis writing for the now defunct “Only in it for the gold” asking that very question in 2010 reflecting on the Russian heat wave:

But right now I feel like hazarding a guess. As far as I understand, nothing like this has happened before in Moscow….

…The formerly remarkable heat wave of 2001, then, is “the sort of thing we’ll see more of” with global warming. But it may turn out reasonable, in the end, to say “the Russian heat wave of 2010 is the first disaster unequivocally attributable to anthropogenic climate change.”

Tentative, hedging and qualifying like a good scientist and commentator on this issue should.

Still the blogger Eli at Rabett Run said Michael was asking a “scary question”, noting sardonically:

As Dirty Harry would say, at some point the bunnies have to ask not if the dice are loaded, but if the 44 Magnum is.

Picture the clathrate gun hypothesis playing the role in Eli’s similes of bunnies playing with 44 Magnums. Go on click that link –but only if you’re prepared for the possibilities of loosing sleep.

On second thoughts, you will lose sleep.

So let me state this: it is now pointless wrangling over the question of whether or not to attribute individual events to climate change.

Reality makes that debate redundant.

We’re here: we’ve arrived at the point in history when our species has engineered a new climate. The point we knew was coming – that was inevitable – if we did nothing.  

Slouching towards the Anthropocene

Let’s recap the past few months shall we?

The North American heat wave with 40,000 temperature records broken; six million displaced in India due to monsoon rains, 150 dead in Russia as several months worth of rain falls in a matter of hours; Arctic and Greenland ice loss…

Need I go on?

It’s unfolding as if climate change was real… funny that huh?

I was going to muse on what this all means, but I’ve already did that in August 2010 in the post “Welcome to the Anthropocene”:

Being a blogger frees me from the usual reticence and qualified statements scientists usually (for good reason) make.

I may appear very foolish for saying this, but its time to call it: we’ve well and truly passed a threshold.

Call it climate change, or global warming. Or perhaps you could rename the planet as Bill McKibben suggests (Eaarth). Actually the name really doesn’t matter.

This is the new normal.

Even if we stopped all CO2 emissions tomorrow, there’s more than enough warming “in the pipe” for future “climate disruption”.

The Greenland ice sheet?

Most likely gone.

The Great Barrier Reef.

Most likely gone.

2010 is the year in which the climate news is getting worse: hottest year on record; the ocean’s phytoplankton dying off; the Russian heat wave; the floods in Pakistan (2).

Welcome to the anthropocene.

That’s the thing about the climate change debate. You end up saying the same thing over, and over again. Though who listens is another question…

Famously, one scientist called the climate an angry beast, and that our activities are provoking it. Permit me to run with that metaphor and repurpose the final lines of “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards the Bethlehem to be born?

And what a beast climate change is: slowly, almost methodically it slouches into perception and our lives.

There will come a time when all of us will be forced to stare into face of the beast, aghast and transfixed, like Saturn’s sons staring into the gaping maw of their father.

The new normal (part 2)

While we ponder the extreme weather events in the US, other parts of the globe suffer. In Bangladesh flash floods have killed 100 and displaced over 1 million:

DHAKA (Reuters) – At least 100 people have died and 250,000 left stranded by flash floods and landslides in Bangladesh set off by the heaviest rain in years, police and officials said on Wednesday.

The low-lying and densely populated country, which is in its wet season, has been battered by five days of torrential downpours.

 

The new normal

This:

Victorian floods: SES says “get out”; worst floods in state’s history; at least one death

Sadly, the floods in my home state of Victoria continue.

The State Emergency Service tells Kerang residents to “get out”:

Badly leaking levees are all that stand between Kerang residents and potential disaster as a one-in-100-year flood threatens to demolish the town’s defences.

And grader drivers are working frantically in tandem to keep an earth levy from giving way at Warracknabeal in the state’s north-west.

With Kerang residents told to get out of town via the last open road this morning, Gannawarra Shire Mayor Max Fehring today told The Age the levees were “starting to leak badly’’ as the Loddon River surged to a level beyond what the flood defences are designed to withstand.

And the river is expected to remain at dangerous heights for days, putting the levee under massive stress as floodwaters merge at Kerang from an overwhelmed northern Victorian river system.

“The water outside the levee is at horrendous levels and a section of that levee is now leaking very badly,’’ said Cr Fehring.

“Consequently, if that was to breach in any serious way the town has got very limited time to get people out. The offer for people to evacuate is now on.

‘‘We haven’t had had floods of any nature since 1996, and after such a dry period the levee is being tested. We’re now seeing cracks appear.’’

Raw footage of Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) helicopter delivering supplies:

Tragically, a young boy has lost his life:

As water swamped 58 towns and more than 4000 Victorians began counting the cost of the damage, police divers recovered the body of the Lachlan Collins, 8, who drowned while playing on a makeshift pontoon at Kialla near Shepparton. Police found the body 53 metres from where he disappeared on Monday morning.

Lachlan, whom police described as a limited swimmer, was sucked in by strong currents that flowed under the surface of the 800-metre billabong.

The currents hampered the search of divers, who found the boy’s body four metres under water among debris including logs, fences and cars.

As a parent, this kind of news hits me hard. I can think of nothing worse than losing a child.

My deepest sympathies to the family.

These floods are now being described as the “biggest in the state’s history“:

THE state government is bracing for ”a significant whack” to the economy as a result of Victoria’s worst floods in decades, Premier Ted Baillieu said yesterday at the launch of emergency flood relief funds.

Mr Baillieu announced $7 million in immediate disaster relief and recovery funds for ”undoubtedly one of the biggest flood events in Victoria’s history.”

”This is confronting for vulnerable people, it is a confronting thing for anyone,” he said.

If you can help, please do.

Of maps and coincidences: how floods are devastating the Southern Hemisphere

Let’s look at the “bigger picture”, as words fail to adequately convey the scale of what is taking place.

I’ve marked the current floods against NASA’s global temperature anomalies map released on January 14 2011.

This is what conveys the scale of the disaster unfolding across the Southern Hemisphere (click to enlarge):

 

 

You’ll note how much “red” appears around the globe. There are temperature anomalies measured against the global average for the 1880-2010 period.

We are drowning and burning.

Of course, to the climate “sceptics” nothing unusual there.

Just a co-incidence. 

Victorian floods; highest rainfall recorded in 40 stations; towns evacuated; 17,000 without power

Source: The Age

Distressingly, this is becoming a regular occurence across Australia. This time Victoria has been hit with flooding following record rainfall overnight:

Flooding on the Wimmera and Loddon rivers has exceeded Victoria’s devastating September floods after a night of torrential rain, the State Emergency Service says.

The worst flash floods in decades are expected in the Western part of the state, with over 100m anticipated:

More than 40 of the state’s weather stations have recorded their highest-ever rainfall levels.

The towns of Kyneton, Maryborough and Inglewood have all recorded their highest-ever monthly rainfall record.

Residents from Halls Gap, a town I’ve been to many times,  have been evacuated:

About 100 people reportedly left Halls Gap this morning and moved to shelter in Stawell after up to 130mm of rain in the Grampians. Fears of flash flooding at Great Western, near Stawell, prompted locals to evacuate to the Seppelt Winery.

The State Emergency Service evacuated about 70 people from 30 homes in Beaufort, west of Ballarat, about 5am today amid fears a reservoir had breached its banks.

Video footage of the flooding from YouTube:

With the floods, blackouts:

About 17,000 homes are without power across the state’s west and central regions, including 2500 in Gisborne, 2100 in Ballarat and Ballan, more than 1700 in Macedon and Wood End and 1000 in Maldon.

The floods are expected to be worse than those experienced in September:

EMERGENCY crews are on standby to combat flooding expected to be worse than the devastating September floods in regional Victoria, as mudslides and flash floods hit parts of the state last night.

The SES and police warned people in the popular Grampians holiday centre of Halls Gap to evacuate, fearing the last bridge out of the town would be cut off overnight. One bridge was already under water, while mud and rocks were blocking the other road out of the town.

It is going to be a long summer.

I fear this is not the end of it.

I’ve heard reports of flooding in South Australia, anyone got an update? (Tim?)

Queensland catastrophe Part 2: relief as peak falls below 1974 flood; but sadly 13 dead, fears for more; 120,000 without power; Queensland to suffer “post war” conditions

It is with some relief to note the flood waters peaked at 4,46 meters last night, therefore not matching the 1074 floods. But the devastation and loss of loss is tragic.

Please spare a thought for our fellow Queenslanders and give what you can. To any Queensland readers, my deepest sympathies. I hope you and your loved ones are safe.

The areas affected in Brisbane:

Video footage of Brisbane:

Source: Brisbane Times

 

 

I’m both mortified and saddened.

 But a glimmer of hope as Brisbane river peaks at 4.46 metres, not the 5.5 that was feared:

Brisbane residents this morning awoke to the good news that the river has peaked at 4.46 metres, more than a metre below the predicted peak of 5.5m.

The 1974 flood, the worst of last century, was 5.45 metres.

Tragically, there are fears of a “mass under water grave“:

Source: Herald Sun

“You’d have to think with 30-odd cars here, we’re about to find some pretty unpleasant things,” a police officer said.

Within the once 300-strong community, some 43 people are missing. Another three have been confirmed dead.

The once vibrant Grantham has become a ghost town, the ground zero of Queensland’s crisis.

Just one street of houses remains intact – everything else has been flattened.

120,000 are still without power.

Queensland Anna Bligh compares the devastation to the aftermath of a war:

QUEENSLAND Premier Anna Bligh has warned that some Brisbane residents may not be able to move back into their flood-affected homes for months.

With the Brisbane River now peaking, more than 11,000 homes are expected to be totally ravaged by the flood disaster.

Ms Bligh said the state was facing a reconstruction effort of “post-war proportions”.

Ms Bligh said people in evacuation centres may be able to look at their inundated homes “some time” over the weekend.

“They won’t be able to get in to clean them until they’ve had electrical certification and are made safe,” she told ABC Radio.

Next week, they may be able to begin the “heartbreaking business” of cleaning up and rescuing possessions.

“But they may not be able to move back into their homes for literally months.

“So, there is a very big dislocation effort we have to manage very carefully.”

Brisbane is going under (part 2): how the city may flood; if you can, please give

Computer simulation of how the flood waters may impact Brisbane:

Flood waters are expected to peak tomorrow morning around 4am.

These floods are set to surpass the 1974 Brisbane flood:

The Brisbane River is predicted to reach 3 metres tonight, 4.5 metres tomorrow, and by Thursday it is expected to rise above the 1974 peak of 5.45 metres.

The Bremer River at Ipswich is now expected to reach 22 metres tomorrow morning – 1.5 metres above the 1974 level.

Ms Bligh says the situation in Brisbane and Ipswich is continuing to deteriorate.

“We are now in a very frightening experience,” she said.

Large parts of Brisbane are already affected by flooding. A number of shops in the CBD have been evacuated and the State Library has closed because of the extreme weather conditions.

A steady stream of debris is floating down the swollen Brisbane River, including boats ripped from their moorings by the force of the current, and a whole ferry pontoon.

Let’s hope no more lives are lost.

If you can, please give to any of the major charities:

Regular reader of this blog – and fellow blogger – Sue has some good ideas.

The costs to business and the community are in the billions of dollars.

It will take months – if not longer – to rebuild infrastructure, homes and business dwellings.

Queensland catastrophe: looting in Ipswich; evacuation centres overwhelmed; thousands without power; fears of disease; 30,000 people to be effected in Brisbane; a “gruesome day” is predicted; whole families missing

This does not look good, reports of looting in Ipswich:

The city of Ipswich has been shut down and more residents evacuated as the Bremer River rapidly rises towards its expected peak of 21.5m, due about 11am today.

Ipswich’s entire CBD has been shut down and streets cordoned off while residents and tourists, as well as onlookers caught off-guard, rush to vacate the city.

The speed of the rising flood has dramatically picked up since 5am.

It is expected to increase by another two metres by 11am.

Meanwhile, anger is mounting over reports of looting in the city.

Evacuation centre are overflowing, Mayor Paul Pisasale said.

The mayor was furious after hearing of several reports of looting taking place in flood-affected areas.

More than 50,000 are without power in Queensland:

UPDATE: More than 50,000 customers in the southeast are without power this morning as flooding begins to swamp homes in Brisbane and Ipswich.

An Energex spokesman said 22,000 customers in Ipswich and 15,300 in Brisbane were currently without power, with the Bremer and Brisbane rivers expected to peak today and tomorrow.

As a proactive measure, Energex cut power to homes in Milton, Auchenflower and Ipswich last night as floods inundated the areas.

To add to concerns, the flood waters increase the risk of waterborne disease:

QUEENSLANDERS are at high risk of deadly disease outbreaks in coming weeks as mosquito populations boom and dangerous bacteria proliferate, health experts warn.

The Queensland Department of Health is urging residents to protect themselves against mosquitoes and potentially contaminated drinking water.

It said yesterday there was increased risk of wound infections, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, and ear, nose and throat infections from polluted water. And there was a possibility of melioidosis, a disease caused by bacteria in soil, and leptospirosis, a serious illness caused by bacteria in animal urine.

Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh predicts today will be a “gruesome day”:

She said it would be a “gruesome day for rescue workers and a heartbreaking day for families’’ who are still missing loved ones.

“I think we will all be shocked by what they will find,’’ she said.

The number of missing in the devastating Queensland floods has now risen from 72 to 90, she said, with the confirmed death toll at 10. The missing include entire families. 

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