Tag Archives: natural disasters

Extreme floods and climate change – the science

Taken from climateactioncentre.org

Is there any relationship between the massive Queensland floods and global warming? Scientific opinion seems to be that warmer sea surface temperatures due to climate change (and hence more water vapour in the air), as well as a very strong LaNina with warmer waters off eastern and northern Australia, are both likely contributors to the record flooding.
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On Wednesday the Fairfax press reported that: “Australia has been known for more than 100 years as a land of droughts and flooding rains, but what climate change means is Australia becomes a land of more droughts and worse flooding rains,” David Karoly, from Melbourne University’s school of earth sciences, said. Professor Karoly stressed individual events could not be attributed to climate change, “But the wild extremes being experienced by the continent were in keeping with scientists’ forecasts of more flooding associated with increased heavy rain and more droughts as a result of high temperatures and more evaporation””On some measures it’s the strongest La Nina in recorded history … [but] we also have record-high ocean temperatures in northern Australia which means more moisture evaporating into the air,” he said. “And that means lots of heavy rain.
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“Further comments have been reported by Reuters:
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“I think people will end up concluding that at least some of the intensity of the monsoon in Queensland can be attributed to climate change,” said Matthew England of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
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David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction at the Australia Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne: “The first thing we can say with La Nina and El Nino is it is now happening in a hotter world,” he told Reuters, adding that meant more evaporation from land and oceans, more moisture in the atmosphere and stronger weather patterns. “So the El Nino droughts would be expected to be exacerbated and also La Nina floods because rainfall would be exacerbated,” he said, though adding it would be some years before any climate change impact on both phenomena might become clear.
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Prominent U.S. climate scientist Kevin Trenberth said the floods and the intense La Nina were a combination of factors. He pointed to high ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia early last year as well as the rapid onset of La Nina after the last El Nino ended in May. “The rapid onset of La Nina meant the Asian monsoon was enhanced and the over 1 degree Celsius anomalies in sea surface temperatures led to the flooding in India and China in July and Pakistan in August,” he told Reuters in an email. He said a portion, about 0.5C, of the ocean temperatures around northern Australia, which are more than 1.5C above pre-1970 levels, could be attributed to global warming. “The extra water vapor fuels the monsoon and thus alters the winds and the monsoon itself and so this likely increases the rainfall further,” said Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
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In The Guardian, Prof Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said that as a general point, a warmer world is a wetter world. “As the average global temperature increases one would expect the moisture content of the atmosphere to rise, due to more evaporation from the sea surface. For every 1C sea surface temperature rise, atmospheric moisture over the oceans increases by 6-8%. Also in general, as more energy and moisture is put into the atmosphere [by warming], the likelihood of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes increases.”
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At Climate Progress, Joe Romm tells of his recent interbiew with Kevin Trenberth: “I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.” That’s Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the warming-deluge connection.
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An ACF Fact Sheet reports: “Recent scientific advice to the Queensland Government warned that the state would be threatened by higher flood levels from intense torrential downpours brought on by climate change. In 2010 the Scientific Advisory Group to the Queensland Government’s Inland Flooding Study advised that “an increase in rainfall intensity is likely” and “the available scientific literature indicates this increased rainfall intensity to be in the range of 3–10 per cent per degree of global warming”.

Protesters call for the coal industry to foot the bill for flood clean-up

A group of concerned citizens protested outside the BHP office in Melbourne today, and presented the coal industry with a giant invoice for part of the cost of the unprecedented floods in Victoria and Queensland.

Spokesperson for the group Pablo Brait said, ”we’re presenting this invoice to the entire coal industry on behalf of the Australian taxpayer, charging them for part of the flood clean-up and the increased insurance costs all Australians will have to pay due to the impacts of global warming.”

“Scientists have been telling us for 25 years that our greenhouse gas emissions are increasing the incidence of extreme weather events such as floods, bushfires and drought. We are seeing this here in Australia and all over the world.”

“BHP is Australia’s largest coal miner and coal is our biggest source of carbon pollution. If we are going to avoid ever worsening disasters like severe bushfires and floods, then we need to urgently shift from antiquated and polluting coal energy to clean renewable energy sources.”

According to both surface and satellite measurements the year 2010 was the equal hottest and the wettest on record worldwide. The last decade was the hottest decade ever recorded. A report released by the Queensland Government in November 2010, the Inland Flood Study concluded that as the Earth warms, flood risk in QLD grows too.

“Our political leaders express their concern over the victims of the floods, and yet they continue to support the expansion of the coal power and coal export industries. This disgusting hypocrisy condemns more lives in future disasters and shows contempt for the victims of the floods.”

“How many more people need to lose their lives and homes before the state and federal governments stand up to the coal industry?”

“How much economic damage must the Australian economy sustain before the fossil fuel sector stops campaigning against action on climate change?”

“Shifting out of fossil fuels will save lives and help shield our economy from further shocks.” Mr Brait concluded.

How much proof do the global warming deniers need?

“When you stare out over the wave of Weather of Mass Destruction we are unleashing, who looks crazy – the protesters, or the people who have yet to join them?”

Originally published in the UK Independent, by Johann Hari

Thank God man-made global warming was proven to be a hoax. Just imagine what the world might have looked like now if those conspiring scientists had been telling the truth. No doubt Nasa would be telling us that this year is now the hottest since humans began keeping records. The weather satellites would show that even when heat from the sun significantly dipped earlier this year, the world still got hotter. Russia’s vast forests would be burning to the ground in the fiercest drought they have ever seen, turning the air black in Moscow, killing 15,000 people, and forcing foreign embassies to evacuate. Because warm air holds more water vapour, the world’s storms would be hugely increasing in intensity and violence – drowning one fifth of Pakistan, and causing giant mudslides in China.

The world’s ice sheets would be sloughing off massive melting chunks four times the size of Manhattan. The cost of bread would be soaring across the world as heat shrivelled the wheat crops. The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be fizzing into the oceans, making them more acidic and so killing 40 per cent of the phytoplankton that make up the irreplaceable base of the oceanic food chain. The denialists would be conceding at last that everything the climate scientists said would happen – with their pesky graphs and studies and computers – came to pass.

This is all happening today, except for that final stubborn step. It’s hard to pin any one event on man-made global warming: there were occasional freak weather events before we started altering the atmosphere, and on their own, any of these events could be just another example. But they are, cumulatively, part of a plain pattern where extreme weather is occurring “with greater frequency and in many cases with greater intensity” as the temperature soars, as the US National Climatic Data Centre puts it. This is exactly what climate scientists have been warning us man-made global warming will look like, to the letter. Ashen-faced, they add that all this is coming after less than one degree of global warming since the Industrial Revolution. We are revving up for as much as five degrees more this century.

Yet as the evidence of global warming becomes ever clearer…

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Costs of the climate crisis multiply in lives and dollars

Two excellent articles in today’s Age describe the increase in natural disasters caused by global warming, and the economic cost of last year’s bushfires.

The calamities are upon us as the world warms

THEY are the extreme weather events that climate scientists have been warning about – the simultaneous catastrophes of flooding in Pakistan, wildfires in Russia and landslides in China.

Many scientists say these events are all unprecedented and that such disasters, taken together, are proof of climate change. They warn that widespread and devastating flooding will become more frequent and could be considered normal by the middle of the century.

Almost 14 million people have been affected by the torrential rains in Pakistan, and more than 1600 have died, making it a greater humanitarian disaster than the south Asian tsunami and recent earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti combined, the United Nations says.
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In Russia, firefighters and soldiers were battling to stop wildfires from engulfing key nuclear sites while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took to the air in a water-bombing plane to join the effort. Morgues in Moscow are overflowing as officials estimate 5000 have died in the worst heatwave in 130 years.

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Climate change will cost us all

You don’t have to be Lord Stern to see how the costs of climate change are already compounding and spiralling, out of control.

Some costs are relatively benign – such as the devaluation of waterfront properties in Byron Bay as sea levels rise – a process starting in earnest whether estate agents like it or not.

Other costs are terrible, such as the conservative $4.4 billion figure put on last year’s Black Saturday fires by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, including insurance claims of $1.2 billion (property and vehicles), $1.1 billion spent by the Victorian Bushfires Reconstruction and Recovery Authority, $658 million in destroyed timber, 173 lives lost worth $645 million according to established formulae (not counting injuries) and about $593 million spent on firefighting (not counting volunteers).

Climate change features minimally in the Commission’s final report, handed down a fortnight ago. That is interesting in itself, because when he announced the inquiry the Premier, John Brumby, said everything would be on the table, including climate change.

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