The North Drowns While the South Burns

I guess most of you know that I live in the beautiful state of Queensland in Australia. What you may not know though is that recently more than half the state has been under water! Flooding is certainly very normal at this time of year in north Queensland, however the extent and duration of the flooding this year has been extraordinary—some towns have been flooded since the beginning of the year! And while flood waters are now receding in many locations, there is apparently still more to come.

While this has been going on, southern Australia has been experiencing a record drought, which just recently produced a record heat wave. Adelaide has experienced more than a week of temperatures over 40°C (over 104°F), and Melbourne went for 11 days with temperatures over 40°C—both cities’ morgues filled up due to heat related deaths. The heat wave has now ended, but it did so with utterly disastrous results in the state of Victoria. The exceedingly dry conditions resulting from the record drought, and the strong winds that came in ahead of the cool change combined with a 46°C (115°F) day, produced the worst fire conditions on record. And they certainly delivered—untold properties have been lost to ferocious, uncontrollable fires, and the death toll is currently at 181 and counting.

Bush fires are a fact of life in Australia, so much so that major loss of life is quite rare, as we are well prepared for them. But the ferocity and scale of the fires in Victoria are the worst Australia has ever experienced, and such loss of life is unprecedented here. Hence, Australia is in shock and mourning at the moment. Still, in a sense I guess that shows how lucky we are: most other countries’ worst natural disasters produce far greater loss of life and property than even these terrible fires. Living as I do in southeast Queensland, I have avoided the heat wave, the fires and the floods. Lucky me!

All over the world, we seem to be getting record heat waves, record cold spells, record storms and record floods. It is hard to believe that climate change is not occurring given such extremes. This—combined with the current economic crisis—has really made me think that mankind’s excesses are now finally coming back to haunt us. I am deeply concerned that things are only going to get worse.

Oh, and there’s even more human destruction behind this: many of these fires were deliberately lit.

For the latest updates on these crises, see ABC News: Bushfire EmergencyQueensland Floods.

Photo courtesy of AAP: Simon Mossman

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Sachiko: In Canada, we are alarmed by the fact that the North Pole is melting so quickly. I think I heard that by 2050 the Pole itself is expected to be ice-free in the summer.

Warmer winters have contributed to a pine-beetle epidemic in the forests of British Columbia, which in turn to could lead to a big forest fire problem in the near future (all the dead and dying pine trees make good kindling).

Who deliberately lit the fires? People looking to get work firefighting, or just arsonists?

  
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The heat wave in Mellbourne and other parts of south Australia was amazing. Checking weatherunderground, at the end of January, there were 3 consecutive days in Melbourne with maximum daytime temperatures reached about 110 degrees fahrenheit (43 degrees celsius). Then, there was a lull for a few days. And, then, on February 7th, day time temperatures shot up again to 45 degrees celsius (115 degrees fahrenheit) and then just as quickly collapsed to 20 degrees celsius by midnight.

http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/YMML/2009/2/10/MonthlyHistory.html

I can’t imagine what standing outside in 45 degree heat must feel like. In the 2 and half years I have lived in Beijing, China, the highest temperature I have ever experienced outside here has been 36 degrees celsius. Which is hot. In the capital of India, New Delhi, temperatures heading towards 45 degrees celsius I think are quite common at the end of April, May and the beginning of June. Even temperatures approaching 50 degrees are possible.

No doubt there is global warming. I think the scientists are telling us that worldwide temperatures have risen by an average of 2 degrees so far due to human activity.

In Beijing, we have been experiencing a months-long drought. There may be water shortages here if it continues. Many farmers in nearby central provinces of China, like Hebei, Shaanxi and Shanxi I think, have been adversely affected by this drought.

  
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We’ve been having a much more severe winter than usual here in the UK, too. Record snowfalls have closed numbers of roads around London and elswhere. So much so, in fact, that there are shortages of salt & grit to spread on the ice. The climate is changing, no doubt: how much of it is due to human activity is still to be seen.

I hope that the droughts or floods haven’t affected Rosewood, Thagoona, or Ipswich up there in Queensland, as I so enjoyed my time spent there as a schoolboy, I would hate to see that place destroyed. I imagine though, if it hasn’t affected where you live too much, Sachiko, I would think that area would be safe as well.

  
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Hi Sachiko,

I hope that your place doesn’t get affected much. I also hope that Australia to be normal as soon as possible.

  
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In southeast Queensland (which includes the areas Sagredo mentioned), we’ve had a very severe storm season, which caused some serious localised damage, but that’s all – we only had property damage in the suburbs hardest hit by the storms, and no loss of life. Luckily, I’ve avoided all of it.

  
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Originally Posted By Mark Crawford
Who deliberately lit the fires? People looking to get work firefighting, or just arsonists?

Just arsonists. People like them are the reason so many people want to believe there’s a hell: that’s what they deserve. Our Prime Minister described their actions as mass murder, and I have to agree.

  
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Sorry for being a stranger lately. The past 8 months have not been kind to me. I have been really worried about you when I hear about your country in the news recently. I is good the find that you have been spared Sachiko. I can only hope that this comes to a end soon and that the death count stops. You and your countrymen will be in my thoughts.

Happy belated New Year!

“W” is history and he has left one hell of a mess for Obama. I have a good feeling he will do a better job. Sorry to get off topic. I plan on being a active member in the future.

Be good.

  
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Hi Joe,

It’s great to hear from you again! I am very sorry to hear that you’ve been having such a difficult eight months. I too am sure Obama will do a better job than Bush (who wouldn’t?), but the country (and the world) is in such a huge mess that poor Obama seems to have an almost impossible job.

  
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The fires in Australia was the front page story on the Los Angeles Times yesterday. I am greatly saddened by the lost of life that has occurred in Victoria and I hope that the arsonists who started any of the fires are caught. In California we too are in a drought and in 2007 and 2008 we had major fires that have destroyed hundreds of homes. There has also been some debate over whether we should have large scale evacuations when these fires occur (the way California currently does it), or whether to stay and defend (like Australia).

  
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I’m glad to hear you’re okay, Sachiko! I was just about to email you to find out how close you were to the fires. This is absolutely horrible. I hope they catch the assholes who started them.

  
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Thankyou to everyone for their concern. More and more, I am coming to feel I am very lucky indeed.

  
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