Category Archives: Queensland Floods

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.

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. 

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. 

Queensland floods are “consistent with climate change predictions”



Deniers "You can't handle the truth"


First let me clarify my position on the Queensland floods: climate change is not solely to blame.

Attribution is a tricky business. However, what is happening in Queensland is line with predictions made by scientists.

Don’t believe me?

Then read on.

At least the media are drawing the connection, as today’s The Age editorial notes:

A disturbing aspect of the floods is that they are consistent with (although not proof of) climate change predictions for northern Australia. Meteorologists accurately forecast that intense monsoonal rains would hit Queensland this season, under the influence of a strong La Nina event in the Pacific Ocean. They also warned that up to six cyclones could hit the state (the most ever to cross the coast in a season is three)

Which is my personal view: the floods are not “proof” per se, but are consistent with predictions about the impact of climate change on Northern Australia.

Flooding and increased precipitation events predicted

 A 2010 publication released by the Queensland government titled “Climate change in Queensland: what the science is telling us” notes:

Extreme rainfall is defined as the amount of rain falling in the top one per cent of rainfall days.

Projections based on 15 climate models and a medium emissions (A1B) scenario indicated that Cape York can expect up to a four per cent increase in extreme rainfall across all seasons, and that western Queensland and the Gulf Region can expect up to a four per cent increase in summer and autumn (CSIRO & BoM 2007).

Climate change is also likely to affect extreme rainfall in south-east Queensland (Abbs et al.2007). Projections indicate an increase in two-hour, 24-hour and 72-hour extreme rainfall events for large areas of south-east Queensland, especially in the McPherson and Great Dividing ranges, west of Brisbane and the Gold Coast. For example, Abbs et al. (2007) found that under the A2 emissions scenario, extreme rainfall intensity averaged over the Gold Coast sub-region is projected to increase by 48 per cent for a two-hour event, 16 per cent for a 24-hour event and 14 per cent for a 72-hour event by 2070. Therefore despite a projected decrease in rainfall across most of Queensland, the projected increase in rainfall intensity could result in more flooding events. 

The report notes the greatest risks to the state:

In Queensland the major risks to communities and their supporting infrastrature are cyclines and flooding. In addition, poor building design will place an increasing load on mechanical cooling to manage the effects of higher temperatures, increasing the need for fossil-fuelled electricity generation and thereby increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change will affect settlements through direct and indirect impacts resulting in damage to buildings and other infrastructure. These climate changes include: 

> increased intensity of rainfall events
> increased temperatures
> more frequent extreme weather events
> increased extent and frequency of coastal flooding due to sea level rise and storm surges.

 The science is well understood, and so are the impacts. 

Even the gods were afraid: a flood of truly “Biblical” proportions

The “Flood Tablet”, Epic of Gilgamesh

Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, has called the floods devastating the state “biblical”:

Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser warned yesterday there would be serious economic consequences from the flood crisis, with costs running beyond $1 billion

”In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” he said from the flood-hit city of Bundaberg.

When ordinary language fails to convey the enormity of a tragedy, we reach for metaphors, symbols and poetry.

So it has always been…

More than 4000 years ago, the Epic of Gilgamesh described a universal flood that shattered the world.

Even the gods were afraid and fled the world:

The… land shattered like a… pot.

All day long the South Wind blew …,
blowing fast, submerging the mountain in water,
overwhelming the people like an attack.

No one could see his fellow,
they could not recognize each other in the torrent.

The gods were frightened by the Flood,
and retreated, ascending to the heaven of Anu.

The gods were cowering like dogs, crouching by the outer wall.
Ishtar shrieked like a woman in childbirth,
the sweet-voiced Mistress of the Gods wailed:

‘The olden days have alas turned to clay,
because I said evil things in the Assembly of the Gods!

How could I say evil things in the Assembly of the Gods,
ordering a catastrophe to destroy my people!!

No sooner have I given birth to my dear people
than they fill the sea like so many fish!’

The gods–those of the Anunnaki–were weeping with her,
the gods humbly sat weeping, sobbing with grief(?),
their lips burning, parched with thirst.

Six days and seven nights
came the wind and flood, the storm flattening the land.

When the seventh day arrived, the storm was pounding,
the flood was a war–struggling with itself like a woman
writhing (in labor).

Empires rise.

Empires fall.

Who will read our poetry in four thousand years?

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