MY COMMENT: I am not one for scaremongering (eg. 2012 was I believe non-sense), however recent climatic events – flooding in Australia followed by massive, record-breaking cyclones in that country; current droughts in China; floods in Pakistan… All these make me wonder: Is nature adjusting itself in a ‘feedback loop’ and should be more aware/start to take positive action to adjust ‘our’ , human ways? Two stories from today’s newspapers suggest the answer is ‘yes’…
From the Independent
British floods result of climate change
The catastrophic floods of autumn 2000, which saw river levels reach 400-year highs and left 10,000 homes underwater across England and Wales, were most likely the result of global warming.
** Full article below
From The International Herald Tribune
Heavy rains linked to humans
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
** Full article below
The catastrophic floods of autumn 2000, which saw river levels reach 400-year highs and left 10,000 homes underwater across England and Wales, were most likely the result of global warming.
It is the first time scientists have been able to plot with any confidence the link between the extreme weather with man-made greenhouse gases. Researchers from Oxford University and the Met Office aided by thousands of volunteers online believe 20th-century industrial emissions made the natural disaster almost twice as likely.
While environmentalists have long pointed to the floods as early evidence of the impact man is having on the environment, concrete proof has been harder to find.
But Dr Pardeep Pall, who began the research while a doctoral student at Oxford University’s Department of Physics, said this has now changed. “This study is the first of its kind to model explicitly how such rising greenhouse gas concentrations increase the odds of a particular type of flood event in the UK, and is the first to use publicly volunteered computer time to do so,” he said.
In mid-October 2000, parts of Kent and Sussex were under water when the Ouse at Lewes burst its banks, along with the Uck at Uckfield and the Medway at Tonbridge in Kent. A few weeks later it was Yorkshire’s turn with the Ouse in York reaching its highest level since 1600 while the Severn at Worcester and Shrewsbury recorded its biggest flood since 1947.
The Thames, Trent, Wharfe and Dee also flowed after much of the country suffered its wettest autumn since records began. The final insurance bill for the damage was £1.3bn with motorways closed, train services cancelled and power supplies disrupted.
The research, published in Nature, reveals there was a two-in-three chance that the odds of flooding that year were increased by global warming by a factor of two or more. While unable to rule out the possibility that the floods could have happened even if the atmosphere had been unpolluted by greenhouse gases in preceding decades, scientists believe the study brings them closer to being able to work out the real-time impact of climate change rather than the long-term predictions which are normally used. Experts could soon be able to tell almost immediately whether an event was caused by the effects of man or not.
Researchers used a Met Office computer climate model to simulate the weather of autumn 2000 both as it was and how it might have been without the presence of man-made CO2. Volunteers around the world then repeated the experiment thousands of times by logging on to the website ClimatePrediction.net. The data was then fed into a flood model by Risk Management Solutions, which develops risk models for the insurance industry.
It was concluded that the chances of floods occurring in autumn 2000 had increased by more than 20 per cent; and perhaps as much as 90 per cent.
Professor Myles Allen, a co-author of the paper, said while scientists had been more easily able to link climate change to the European heatwave of 2003 – an event which resulted in 40,000 deaths, drought, fires and crop failure – establishing the link to floods had been a longer process. He said: “Whether or not a flood occurs in any given year is still an act of God but with the help of thousands of volunteers we are beginning to see how human influence on climate may be starting to load God’s dice.”
The research will be cited today by Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne in an address at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) calling for closer co-operation between governments to reduce emissions and cope with the effects of a changing atmosphere. He will say: “The evidence for human influence on climate is now even more compelling. Climate change is not a distant threat, it is a clear and present danger – and one that we can do something about.”
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.
The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
From The Independent on Sunday
The suffering in the southern hemisphere grinds on. Torrential rain triggered fresh flood warnings in four Australian states yesterday just as the clean-up began in the Queensland capital, Brisbane. Meanwhile, 10 more people were reported dead in Sri Lanka’s floods, and in Brazil the death toll from floods and mudslides is now rising inexorably towards, and possibly beyond, 600. Uncommonly heavy rainfall – Sri Lanka’s hardest-hit area, the eastern port of Batticaloa, has had more rain in the past two weeks than its annual average – has saturated several parts of the southern hemisphere. Meteorologists have linked the floods in Australia and Sri Lanka with an unusually strong La Niña weather cycle, which has also been blamed for the current drought in Argentina. In Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology has also linked the current heavy rains in Queensland to La Niña, and said that 2010 was the third wettest year on record as a result. The miseries of Brazil, where much the largest loss of life due to flooding has occurred, are however not linked to the weather cycle. In fact, according to the Met Office, the country should be drier than usual. Australia The muddy waters that engulfed much of Brisbane last week had largely receded by yesterday, giving locals the chance to start cleaning up. On what the city’s mayor, Campbell Newman, dubbed “Salvation Saturday”, thousands of volunteers joined military personnel to shovel, mop and sweep away the thick, foul-smelling sludge left behind when the Brisbane River dropped. The city’s worst floods for more than a century had been forecast for Thursday morning, when the river was scheduled to reach its peak. While that prediction was not borne out – in the event, they were the worst since 1974 – scores of residential neighbourhoods were inundated, along with a large chunk of the city centre. And in a separate and entirely unforeseen event, a massive amount of rain on the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, sparked flash floods that killed at least a dozen people and left 28 others missing. The tsunami-like floods barrelled through a series of towns and hamlets, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.The loss of life, and the suddenness with which the tragedy unfolded, means traumatised locals may take longer to recover from the floods than their city counterparts. In the small town of Grantham, described by the Queensland premier, Anna Bligh, as the “absolute epi-centre” of those events, residents have not even been allowed back to view the damage to their houses. While Brisbane dodged a bullet, the floods – Queensland’s worst natural disaster – are not over yet. Vast swathes of the state remain inundated, and meteorologists warn that, with two months of the wet season left in northern Australia, and the effects of La Niña more pronounced, further serious flooding is a real possibility. And not only Queensland is affected. Northern New South Wales has suffered widespread flooding in recent weeks, and yesterday 7,000 people were still isolated by floodwaters. Further south, in Victoria, 2,500 residents have been forced to flee after flood warnings were issued for five rivers. Tasmania is also on flood alert after receiving the equivalent of an entire summer’s average rainfall in one day. In south-eastern Australia, continuing heavy rain and overflowing rivers have created a new flood danger in many areas. Conditions in Victoria, in particular, were expected to worsen overnight, with houses threatened in towns such as Glenorchy and Dadswells Bridge. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who said she was “very concerned” about Victoria, will visit flood-affected areas there tomorrow. Yesterday she was in Grafton, in northern New South Wales, where 7,000 people have been stranded by rising floodwaters. Entire towns have been evacuated, but in one welcome piece of news yesterday, the State Emergency Service said a cyclone off the Queensland coast was expected to spare New South Wales. While the floods have brought out the best in many people, with Brisbanites rallying round last week to help their neighbours pack up and leave ahead of the river peaking, there have also been isolated incidents of looting. The Queensland Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson, yesterday announced a 200-strong task force to protect evacuated suburban streets in Brisbane and the neighbouring town of Ipswich. The looters have been using boats to commit their crimes. In one incident, two men were arrested after stealing alcohol from a flooded pub. On Friday, two men in a red canoe tried to break into a convenience store in Brisbane but were chased away by security staff. Mr Newman, Brisbane’s mayor, expects the clean-up to be completed within months, but he warned that the rebuilding of Australia’s third-largest city could take up to two years. More than 30,000 homes and businesses have been flooded. Seventy towns and cities have been affected across Queensland, an area the size of France and Germany combined. With the state’s lucrative coalmining industry at a virtual standstill, thanks to waterlogged mines and transport routes, and agriculture production also in limbo, some economists believe the disaster has lost Queensland AU$13bn (£8bn). Mr Newman said yesterday that an inquiry into the disaster would review planning regulations and consider a programme for buying back homes in flood-prone areas. The Australian Local Government Association claims that during the drought years the state government and developers pressured local councils to approve building on land vulnerable to flooding. Brazil The death toll had risen to 598 by Saturday, and there were fears it would climb sharply higher once remote areas were reached. Mudslides have caused most of the fatalities in Brazil, where torrential rain sent avalanches of mud and boulders smashing through communities in the mountains outside Rio de Janeiro. Survivors complained yesterday that the government was being slow to rescue people trapped on remote hillsides and to find the bodies of the dead. In the face of official inaction, many people are undertaking that work themselves, according to Sergio Joaquin de Jesus, a construction worker who was rounding up a crew of colleagues to dig for bodies. Mr de Jesus, whose wife’s brother and sister are both missing, plans to carry provisions up to survivors stuck high in the mountains. The mudslides hit an area of nearly 900 square miles in lush, forested mountains about 40 miles north of Rio. The deaths are centred in Teresopolis and three other towns, where many wealthier citizens of Rio have weekend homes. Rio state’s Civil Defence department said yesterday that 260 people were killed in Teresopolis and 267 in Nova Friburgo, a 45-mile drive to the west that draws hikers and campers to mountain trails, waterfalls and dramatic views of lush green slopes. Fifty-three died in neighboring Petropolis and 18 in Sumidouro. In the centre of Teresopolis, hundreds of homeless are sheltered in a local gymnasium in the town, where food and medical care are abundant. While the disaster has destroyed the homes of rich and poor alike, the deaths are overwhelmingly seen in humbler areas, where homes are flimsier, most lacking foundations, and located in steep areas known to be at high risk of mudslides. In those areas, horror stories are trickling out as survivors make it to town. Fernando Perfista dug out the body of his eldest child from the mud, then looked for the 12-year-old’s three missing siblings. He sheltered the boy’s remains in a refrigerator to keep scavenging dogs at bay while he searched. After failing to find his other children in the Fazenda Alpina area of Teresopolis, the 31-year-old ranch hand built a gurney from scrap wood, carried his son’s body down a mudslide-wrecked slope before dawn on Friday and buried him in a homemade coffin. Then Mr Perfista waited with a crowd in the rain outside the Teresopolis morgue for a chance to plead with officials to help him continue his search. He clutched plastic-covered pictures of his three other children: a chubby one-year-old and two smiling girls, ages 6 and 10. “My children are in there, in that river bank, under that mud,” he said blankly. Sri Lanka In Sri Lanka the death toll from floods caused by unusually heavy monsoon rains rose to 38 yesterday. The UN is planning to issue an appeal for emergency aid, saying that funds are required, in particular, to replant waterlogged rice fields and to compensate farmers. More than a fifth of the country’s staple rice crop, which was ready to be harvested, has been destroyed. Money is also needed for mosquito nets, clean water and food, according to the UN. More than 390,000 people have been made homeless by the floods, which destroyed 3,744 houses across a third of Sri Lanka, as well as setting off mudslides, swamping roads and bursting hundreds of dams and reservoirs. Forty-nine people have been injured, and 12 are missing.
A series of floods have been affecting northeastern Australia, primarily in the state of Queensland and its capital city, Brisbane, since October 2010. The floods have forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities. At least 22 towns and over 200,000 people have been affected. Damage initially was estimated at around AU$1bn (£650m). This estimate was later revised up to AU$10-11bn.
Vast areas of Southern and Central Queensland, an area the size of Germany and France combined, were affected by the flood. About 300 roads were closed, including nine major highways. Coal railway lines were closed and numerous mine sites flooded. The floods have boosted fruit and vegetable prices.
The floods were a result of heavy precipitation caused by Tropical Cyclone Tasha that combined with a trough during the peak of a La Niña event. The 2010 La Niña weather pattern, which brings wetter conditions to eastern Australia, is the strongest since 1973. Isolated flooding started across parts of the state in early December. On 24 December a monsoonal trough crossed the coast from the Coral Sea, bringing torrential rain that fell in a broad swath from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Gold Coast. By 28 December the worst of the rain had passed. The conditions also led to a large influx of snakes, as well as some crocodiles.
While flooding has been widespread across Queensland, major flooding has mainly occurred in the three river basins.
- Fitzroy River basin, including the Dawson and Nogoa Rivers
- Burnett River basin
- Condamine River/Balonne River basin, part of the Murray-Darling basin.
A later flood event affected the Mary River basin
Fitzroy River basin
The flooding initially forced the evacuation of 1,000 people from Theodore and other towns, described as unprecedented by the acting chief officer of the Emergency Management Queensland. The military transported residents by helicopter to an evacuation centre at Moura.
Emerald was cut-off by road on 29 December as the Nogoa River rose. By the next day, the river surpassed the 2008 flood peak level of 15.36 m (50.4 ft). At the peak of the flooding, 80% of the town was flooded, the worst the town ever experienced. 1,200 Emerald residents registered as evacuees.
Rockhampton had nearly a week to prepare for an expected flood peak from the Fitzroy River, which courses through the centre of the city. The airport was closed on 1 January. A metal flood barrier was erected around the terminal to prevent flood-borne debris from causing damage to the structure. An evacuation centre was set up at the Central Queensland University. The Bruce Highway leading south out of Rockhampton was closed to traffic. The river peaked at 9.2 m just short the of the predicted 9.4 m maximum.
The Port of Gladstone reduced its export capacity because the coal stockpiles at the port were saturated and further coal deliveries could not be made by rail. The Goonyella railway line which services a number of coal mines in the Bowen Basin was closed for one week and shipments of grain were also delayed.
Burnett River basin
The swollen Burnett River at Gayndah, 350 kilometres (220 mi) north west of Brisbane.
The central Burnett towns of Gayndah and Mundubbera saw major flooding on 28–29 December. The Burnett River peaked at 18.25m at Mundubbera—the highest river height since 1942—inundating more than 20 houses. Downstream at Gayndah, the river peaked at 16.1m with floodwaters reaching two houses. Both towns were isolated for several days and there was major disruption to the potable water supply and local agricultural production.
Condamine/Balonne River basin
Flooding in Dalby was the worst since 1981. The town’s water purification system was flooded, resulting in water restrictions that have hampered clean-up efforts. 112,500 litres (24,700 imp gal; 29,700 US gal) of water were transported to the town of 14,000 residents. Warwick was isolated when all roads into the town were cut-off.
Floodwaters are passing downstream along the Balonne River and threaten the towns of Surat and St George. The river is expected to peak at 12.5m at Surat and 14m at St George. The New South Wales towns of Angledool, Goodooga and Weilmoringle are expected to be isolated when floodwaters from the Balonne reach the Culgoa and Bokhara Rivers.
Mary River basin
Heavy rain in the Mary River catchment on 8-9 January 2011 lead to flooding at Maryborough and Gympie. The Mary River at Maryborough was expected to initially peak at 8.5m at midday 9 January with some houses and businesses inundated. A second peak is expected to arrive from rain falling upstream later that day. At Gympie, the Mary River is expected to peak at 16m, possibly increasing to 17m—over the major flood level—if rain continues to fall.
Toowoomba flash flood
In the Darling Downs, the city of Toowoomba was hit by flash flooding after more then 160 millimetres (6.3 in) of rain fell in 36 hours to 10 January 2011; this event caused four deaths in a matter of hours.
Nearby, Gatton saw voluntary evacuations as the Lockyer Creek rose to a record height of 18.92m, exceeding the previous record set in the 1893 Queensland floods. The surge passed through the Lockyer Valley town of Withcott, where the force of the water pushed cars into shops and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people. The scene was described by an onlooker as “like Cyclone Tracy has gone through it … If you dropped an atom bomb on it, you couldn’t tell the difference.” Grantham was also hit hard by the flooding rains. Houses were left crumpled by what Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh described as an “inland tsunami“. Nine people were confirmed dead, with the toll expected to double that figure, and 66 were missing.
In South East Queensland, the Wivenhoe Dam filled to a level equivalent to 122% of its supply capacity, leading operators to open all five flood gates on 29 December. Brisbane experienced its wettest December since 1859.
On 11 January 2011 at around 2:30 pm EST, the Brisbane River broke its banks leading to evacuations in the Brisbane CBD and the suburbs of Fortitude Valley and West End. An evacuation centre was established for flood-affected residents at the RNA Showgrounds in Bowen Hills.
Floods and landslides in China….fires across Russia…. Nature telling us something? I think yes!
China braces for more floods as heavy rains predicted
Forecasters warn water levels could rise further and cause more destruction as rescue teams continue search for survivors
Survivors of the landslides in north-western China are braced for further misery as forecasters predict more heavy rains.
At least 702 people died when mud and debris swept through Zhouqu, in Gansu province, late on Saturday night and 1,042 are missing. There is little hope of finding more survivors among what are thought to be the hundreds who were buried alive in metres of sludge.
The 10,000 rescue and relief workers are continuing to search for bodies but attention is turning to the threat of disease.
Crews in protective suits have sprayed chemical disinfectant across the ground and over machinery. State media has reported numerous cases of dysentery and warned of a serious shortage of drinking water, with most local sources destroyed or polluted.
One survivor, Yang Jianjie, gave a graphic description of the moment landslides engulfed the county seat. He stood hand in hand with his parents and grandfather on the roof of their home as the tide of mud swept towards them – only to be separated as the two-storey building collapsed.
“Mud and rocks slammed my parents and grandfather in the face and buried them,” the 20-year-old told the China Daily newspaper.
The Bailong river burst its banks, sending water coursing through the narrow valley.
Shen Si watched as troops dug at the site of her buried home to reach the bodies of her relatives. “My mother and father were in their 60s and my younger brothers, all three of them, are buried here in our house still,” she said.
Torrential rains on Saturday night triggered the landslide and flooding. Experts have said 2008′s earthquake in neighbouring Sichuan loosened rock faces. But government reports show that officials had been warning for years that deforestation and rapid hydro development were increasing the risk of landslips in the area.
“This has happened before. The government knew it could happen again and did nothing to prevent it,” said a farmer called Yang, who did not want to give his full name. Five of his relatives were buried in the mudslide and he was digging to find them.
There are concerns the barrier lake that has formed could overflow or burst, especially if there is further rain. Soldiers have been blasting explosives at the barrier to clear debris and help reduce water levels. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated.
Separately, a Chinese paper reported that residents along the north bank of the Yellow river in Henan province fear for their lives after heavy rain gouged holes in a newly built flood control dam.
“Every time when we hear the rain is coming we are too scared to sleep in the evening,” a party secretary from one village was quoted as saying in Dahe Daily.
Wang Dayong, head of the Yellow River Affairs Bureau of Yuanyang, acknowledged the dam had been damaged but told the Global Times reports were exaggerated and the structure was strong enough.