Too many teardrops

This astonishing video was shot on Monday as flash flooding hit the Queensland town of Toowoomba after a reported 140mm of rain fell in only 30 minutes. 12 people are confirmed to have been killed in the region, and 90 more are missing according to state premier Anna Bligh. Floodwaters are rising in the state capital Brisbane, with the central business district closed down. Flood levels are expected to top out above the levels reached in 1974 — the previous record holder. I know that Hot Topic‘s readers will join me in wishing the people of Queensland well. This ABC page has a list of relief funds to which you can donate. I can confirm that Skeptical Science’s John Cook is OK, and not expecting any direct impacts. We’ll be talking to him about the floods in the next Climate Show, scheduled for recording next week.

Has global warming had an impact on this event? Watching the deniers quotes The Age saying that the floods are “consistent with (although not proof of) climate change predictions for northern Australia”, and that seems fair. The direct “cause” of the flooding is the current strong La Niña (possibly the strongest since records began, according to AMOS president Prof Neville Nicholls). This phase of ENSO causes warm water to pile up against NE Australia, helping to fuel large rainfall events. The record floods of 1974, for example, were associated with a La Niña event. To make matters worse, over the last year sea surface temperatures around Australia have been running at record levels, as this Bureau of Meteorology chart from their climate summary for 2010 shows:

The recipe seems clear enough: an intense La Niña and record sea surface temperatures combining to cause record floods. A more precise attribution of warming’s influence on the event will have to wait for the studies to be done, but for the time being it certainly looks likely that this is another extreme weather event which has been made worse by recent warming.

Update 13/1/11: Barry Brook at Brave New Climate considers the costs of the floods, and puts them in to the context of the last few years of Aussie weather extremes, and NASA’s Earth Observatory has an image showing rainfall in the Brisbane area, showing that over 200 mm fell in the flash flood regions.

[Nick Lowe]

87 thoughts on “Too many teardrops”

    1. The recipe seems clear enough: an intense La Niña and record sea surface temperatures combining to cause record floods.

      But wait, there’s even more!:

      NOAA Coral Reef Watch

      Looks like a huge bleaching event may be brewing on the Great Barrier Reef. Late February, when the summer water temperatures reach their maximum, will be telling. Note that areas within the Coral Triangle (north of Australia) are already at Alert level 2.

      Record Russian heatwave, record Pakistan floods, record Australian floods, all hot on the heels of the warmest year on record. I wonder what it all means?????.

  1. LOL … scooped me again ya bugger, I just bookmarked this one as an excellent example about how much better it’s going to be when climate change brings more rain to wet regions … or so the Deniers tell us.

    I am sure if we look closely we can see how much good that is doing for the crops.

    Good on ya 🙂

  2. Australians have hitherto lived in fear of El Nino and thought of La Nina as being the benign influence. This may make a considerable difference to the national psyche. I am very glad my brother’s family in Brisbane lives well above the river, and we all trust those missing will turn up healthy – if shaken.

      1. Australia’s a big country though

        You don’t say? I just counted 10 current BoM flood warnings for Victoria, which was in the south-east when last I checked. 14 for NSW. One warning and one watch for Tassie. There’s even a flood watch for dear old SA. And we had our December monthly average in less than 12 hours and resulting flash-flooding – devastating in some areas – only a month ago. Meanwhile there’s the bushfires south of Perth and a severe fire danger warning.

  3. I understand that Queensland’s coal exports rate it as one of the highest per capita GHG emitting regions on the planet.

    A clear case of “As you sow, so shall re reap…”?

  4. As Dana on another thread said it so well:
    ” It’s ‘common sense’ that when you add more energy and moisture to the climate system, extreme weather events are going to become more common. It’s a projected result in climate models, and there’s strong evidence that it’s already happening. If you don’t want to believe it, that’s your perrogative.”
    Unfortunately the “common sense” is not yet common enough. The kernel of this understanding is still held by too few. Those who have eyes to see – see well enough, but for the majority they see only the devastation.

  5. I came upon the graph of Australian Sea Surface Temp Anomalies the other day, and I’m pleased you have reproduced it here Gareth. If any one graph shows more clearly a continual and relentless rise in Temperature over the past 100 years that one does!

  6. R2D2, the broad pattern of Global Warming effects in Australia is this:

    The prevailing westerlies which bring winter rains to the southern states have shifted south, resulting in prolonged droughts, particularly in the southern corner of Western Australia;

    Increased ocean temperatures in the tropics result in warmer and wetter monsoon rains in the north of the Northern Territory and Western Australia durring summer.

    The increased warmth has resulted in a tendency towards more frequent and stronger El Nino events, which bring hot weather and droughts to Eastern Australia, particularly Queensland and New South Wales, but also effect Victoria. However, La Nina events still occur, and may also be reinforced. Regardless of whether they are reinforced, the warmer sea surface temperatues bring more rains with the La Nina events, so that the floods they produce (particularly in Queensland) are more extensive and intense. It is this that is responsible for the current floods in central and southern queensland, and northern New South Wales.

    The current floods in the Northern Territory, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania are due to a unusual weather pattern with a deep trough running east to west between two cyclones in the tropical north, and another deep trough running north/south through the center of Australia. So far as I know, there is no particular reason to connect that to Global Warming as yet, though the warm ocean will have increased the moisture content of the system. That system has not started influencing South East Queensland yet.

    1. So far as I know, there is no particular reason to connect that to Global Warming as yet, though the warm ocean will have increased the moisture content of the system.

      So how did the ocean get so warm, following the warmest year on record?.

      More intense droughts, more intense flooding. Didn’t I read about that in those IPCC reports?.

      Sorry Tom, didn’t mean to get at you. But this continued reticence while the Earth goes to hell in a hand-basket is frustrating.

      1. “More intense droughts, more intense flooding. ” You’ve provided evidence of nothing except the willingness of warmists to swoop vulture-like on any weather event as proof of “climate change”

        “We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.”
        Al Gore, 9/22/97

    2. Yes, Tom.

      Being from Adelaide I find the idea of flood warnings in the mid-north region (wine drinkers will have heard of the Clare valley) at this time of the year a bit disconcerting.

      I suppose a couple of bushfires a couple of weeks / months from now will get us all here back to normal.

  7. In addition to the increased SSTs (=> increased atmospheric moisture => increased precipitation) being part of the observed long-term global increase in SSTs (and temps generally), those westerlies have moved south due to the upward and outward expansion of the tropical troposphere that compresses the rest of the atmospheric circulation poleward. I find it bizarre how little attention this latter effect has gotten, given the consequences. The desertification of southern Oz is just the start.

    1. You might like to get in touch with Jim Renwick at NIWA. At a presentation about a year ago I gathered he was supervising some PhD and/or post-doc student(s) doing work on that very subject, or something very closely related to it.

    1. Can these gauge levels all be compared directly? Wouldn’t the construction of the Wivenhoe dam (1985 completion) change the flood characteristics? In fact, I believe that dam was built in part to mitigate events like the 1974 Brisbane flood.

      1. True Richard, a host of mitigation measures were taken after the 1974 floods, but Massey University employees like Steve Wrathall are too dumb to research these matters.

          1. I believe that some more measures could have been taken to mitigate the effects of the floods, but these were stopped because of environmental reasons.

            Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Wednesday said he made the interim decision to reject the controversial $1.8 billion plan to dam the Mary River because evidence showed it could kill off endangered species. He made the interim decision to reject the controversial $1.8 billion plan to dam the Mary River because evidence showed it could kill off endangered species

          1. Well, there is a quote going around the “deniersphere”:

            Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Wednesday said he made the interim decision to reject the controversial $1.8 billion plan to dam the Mary River because evidence showed it could kill off endangered species. He made the interim decision to reject the controversial $1.8 billion plan to dam the Mary River because evidence showed it could kill off endangered species

            “The project would have serious and irreversible effects on national listed species such as the Australian lungfish, the Mary River turtle and the Mary River cod – both of those endangered.

            Don’t know what effect the dam would have had on the floods. The water has to go somewhere. But it’s an issue that has been mentioned.

      2. The dam was built specifically to mitigate flood events following the ’74 flood. I’ll leave those of you with functioning brains to imagine what the water level in Brisbane would have been like, given this 2 sydharb (two Sydney Harbours) dam is currently at 187% capacity and will continue to release mind-boggling amounts of water…

        AUTHORITIES are continuing to make controlled releases of 215,000 megalitres a day from Wivenhoe Dam.

        The amount of water being dumped from the dam has dropped from a peak of 654,000 megalitres earlier in the week, and will be increased to 301,000 megalitres per day when the Brisbane River starts to drop.

        Authorities say this increase is unlikely to cause a second significant rise in the river.

        Wivenhoe Dam is at 187 per cent, and is dropping gradually with the releases through all five gates.

        However, before we come over all ‘The Australian’ and decide the only way to ‘get the Greenies’ now is to insist on the construction of a whole raft of new dams, you might want to read the inconveniently factual posting from Stu re Traveston below – this was to be sited in exactly the kind of idyllic rural country Wrathall and co. would scream about if it was to be targetted for a wind farm (yes, I’ve been there). And ponder what it would take to protect Toowoomba – a city at the top of the Great Divide at 700m and so virtually without a catchment – from events like this. Not to mention towns on the downs country below that no-one had even thought of as being at risk of such dramatic flooding…

        So much for ‘adaptation and mitigation’ as the strategy for dealing with AGW, I might add…

  8. Our Australian cousins have a real dilemma. They know what the problem is although their Climate Change forecast emphasises drought they predict increased tropical storms for Queensland http://www.climatechange.gov.au/climate-change/impacts/national-impacts/qld-impacts.aspx
    Their problem is that they have one of the highest standards of living in the World and it is underpinned by the mining and export of coal and iron ore.
    We are part of it as we buy the cars made from the steel they have supplied.
    We are all going to have to make some big changes to our lifestyle.

  9. This from an e-mail from my brother in Queensland. We’re the sons of a Geography lecturer and he works in GIS for the QLD state govt., so I’d credit the comments about Toowoomba and Grantham

    Monday’s flash flood in Toowoomba was amazing – mind-boggling volume of water there as there is virtually no catchment above the city. Must’ve been a phenomenal downpour.

    The water front that flowed out the other way (into the Lockyer Valley) was effectively beyond belief.

    Murphy’s Creek getting hammered was conceivable (in a tight valley) – but out at Withcott, Helidon, Grantham etc not on the radar. They’re in broad open farmland.

    Dismal timing that the afternoon floods on Monday were followed by a day of torrential rain throughout most of the Lockyer Valley on Tuesday.

    Just noticed a ‘cyclone forming off north QLD’ headline on the ABC’s ‘just in’ news section. Interesting times.

    With 2010 tying as equal warmest year AND being the wettest according to NASA and NOAA, and with 19 countries recording highest ever maxima – breaking the previous record of 14 – even R2’s jesuitical skills will be put to the test in claiming nothing unusual is going on 😉 …

    For the Wrathalls and John Ds of the world can I suggest ‘warming stalled in 2005’ or ‘Ice Age commences in Dec 2010’. But you might want to think about what will happen with the next major El Nino, and when the sun comes back in full force…

    1. I would like to not fill this thread with insensitive debate. You singled me out so I will reply. If you have further comments please make them at the de Freitas post.

      I have not said the world is not warming, or that an increase in the extremity of weather events will not occur. I only ask to try and separate the emotion from the facts. This flood will have still occurred without warming. The warming (since 1850) would have still occurred without CO2. The question is, how much worse is it because of any increased warming due to CO2. I believe neither of us can answer this question. The only thing I have ever asked is that, rather than using disasters and other people’s misfortune to promote your own agenda, you point to actual scientific studies showing an increase in extreme weather.

      The fact that so many of you can come on here and instead of feeling sad for the people of Queensland use this disaster to take cheap shots at myself, John D and SW tells us all we need to know about you.

      1. What a nerve – the other two have been taking cheap shots at climate scientists from the very start. And I summed you up pretty accurately, I believe. You’re just another troll wearing a different uniform.

      2. Dear me, R2, you are confused, aren’t you? The whole point is that “this flood” could not have occurred without the warming of the oceans (strong La Niña’s make Queensland wet, but not this wet), and the ocean warming most certainly is a consequence of the increase in GHGs in the atmosphere.

        You say “the warming would still have occurred without CO2” — and that’s complete nonsense.

        You have asked for references repeatedly over the years, but show no signs of having read them. Your behaviour is exactly as described in the “Skewed science” video. The fact that you are being called out for it is unsurprising, since you’ve been pulling the same trick since you started commenting here.

      3. Good on you, Gareth!

        With regards to our ‘wounded innocents’ I will also point out that Wrathall’s first contribution was to claim the Brisbane flood was not as extensive as 1974 because it didn’t climb as high on the flood markers, oblivious to the huge volume of water being held back by a dam constructed specifically post ’74 for the purpose. And what happened at Toowoomba and Grantham clearly is unprecedented.

        And John used the ‘I’m just saying’ technique to run the ‘Environmentalists are responsible because they stopped us building the dam on the Mary River’ meme that by his own statement is circulating in the deniosphere, showing remarkable sensitivity indeed. And the usual lack of hamstringing by mere fact. Oh, and he dragged his ‘fatwas’ stuff over to this post; you know, because we’re all Nazis, apparently (no, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.)

        I also note, R2, that you have raised not one peep in the face of John’s ridiculous repeated Godwinning of us all. Rather a confirmation of Doug Mackie’s thesis, don’t you think?

        I’m also amused by the idea that R2 would ever credit a peer-reviewed, or any other, report even if he doesn’t like it – 0% probable, in my experience, despite 100% consistent claims that he will! I could send him off to the US EPA but he’ll only complain.

        And, R2, I have friends AND family in QLD AND in the flood zone. I can do without your manipulative ‘self-riotous’ness, thank you.

      4. You know, R2, your “honest broker” routine would be just a tad more convincing if you didn’t routinely slander climate scientists.

        Tell you what, you apologise for and retract your latest slander about Trenberth, and we will pretend to take you seriously for a while. Deal?

        1. Cheers Bill. Note that not only was 2010 the warmest year on record in many datasets, but NOAA has it as the wettest year on record too.

          NOAA: 2010 Tied For Warmest Year on Record

          “According to the Global Historical Climatology Network, 2010 was the wettest year on record, in terms of global average precipitation. As with any year, precipitation patterns were highly variable from region to region.”

          And note the link to the ABC news item provided by CTG. Finally someone’s getting it right – not a crank in sight.

          1. Funny how normal it looks, really – ‘all the actually qualified people think this’ – because if the ‘logic’ that’s been operating in the media for the last decade was applied consistently…

            ‘ASTEROID’ TO ‘SLAM INTO EARTH’, SCIENTISTS CLAIM

            NASA, astronomers and the major national academies of sciences of the world have combined to warn that a large asteroid, dubbed ‘Nemesis’, is more than 95% likely to slam into the earth unless we develop the techniques to deflect it.

            However, 3 petroleum geologists, a host of right-wing think-tanks, several PR companies associated with the Tobacco Industry, The Libertarian Disassociation, The Coterie of Blog Scientists, the Southern Baptist Hellfire Ministry, and the Society of Astrologers Necromancers and Long-Range Weather Forecasters all heatedly disagree.

            “Not so”, they say, citing a dazzling array of counter-arguments – “These so-called ‘Asteroids’ are only made up to get funding” “This is a NASA/UN conspiracy to establish Global Socialism” “Asteroids don’t exist” “Only scientists we hate say this sort of thing” “But look, it might not hit so then we’ll have spent all that lovely money for nothing” “Asteroids have struck the Earth before, and yet we’re here now, right?” “It’s too expensive to deflect the asteroid, we should be concentrating on building wealth so we can adapt to the boiling seas or whatever after it’s landed” “Calculated over the next several millenia it’s actually cheaper to let the asteroid strike” “Asteroids have always been a valuable source of new metals – and these ‘scientists’ drive cars, right?” “Oh yeah, what about Asteroidgate? Ass-teroids, more like!…” and “This is God’s will and will only affect the unrighteous, so nyaah nyaah nyaah!”

            Confused? Don’t worry – because we strictly adhere to the principle of ‘Balanced Reporting â„¢ ‘ you can expect years of ‘he said /she said’ debate from us (unless Nemesis strikes in October, as scientists predict.)

  10. I can well imagine a revisionist historical debate in about 20 years. What did people really know about climate change in the 1990s, early 2000s? Werent the worst possibilities withheld from them? Wasnt it the case that there were conflicting reports. Wasnt it communicated all wrong so people did not understand the issue? Etc etc. The denier legacy is gonna be long and rich and we should get used to it and move on.

    We are well over the falls in a barrel now. As for lifestyle change, we are currently renting after recently selling a house. Might keep it that way. That is, unless we get a call from our currently Brisbane-based landlords ….

  11. For those asking about the dam that was stopped for environmental reasons – look up Traveston Dam. It was stopped for more than environmental reasons, it was deeply unpopular with a wide range of people for a variety of reasons, and as it was planned for storage rather than flood mitigation meaning it would have already been full and would have not mitigated the effects of these floods. What’s more, I’m fairly sure that the majority of the water didn’t come from that catchment anyway.

  12. I’d like to suggest that whatever the cause of the climate fluctuations that have given rise to the terrible events we are seeing in Queensland, it is not appropriate for either side of the climate debate to be attributing cause to these events. The terrible reality is that people are dying, homes are being written off and it is nothing less that a huge human tragedy. There is plenty of time later to debate the causes. At the moment, the people of Queensland deserve our support, sympathy and humanism. That is my view.

      1. What about the proposed Mary River dam that was blocked to save endangered species?

        But it’s an issue that has been mentioned

        Mantras or Fatwas. Your choice.

        Yep, Mr Reasonable…

    1. Keith, this is only a glimpse of the future, it can and it will get much worse. Greater droughts, greater floods – that is global warming.

      The scientific community should be ramming home this message to the mainstream media loud and clear. You ain’t seen nothing yet!.

      And no, I don’t look forward to the time when tropical cyclones beat a regular path to our doorsteps either.

    2. As a person of Queensland, and indeed, a Brisbanite whose entire close familly live in Brisbane or Toowoomba, I’ld rather we dispose of the idiotic suggestions about natural variability as soon as possible. When the government turns to planning how to avoid or mitigate against a recurrence of 2011, I want them to clearly understand that this is not a 1 in 200 year event and just part of natural variability. I want them to know, and to plan for the fact that floods like this will become more and more common in the future as a result of Global Warming – becoming by the end of this century not 1 in 200 year events, but 1 in 10, or 1 in 20 year events.

      Respect for the dead and suffering is no reason to brook the fools whose advice would just result in a multiplying of the number of dead and suffering in the future.

      1. Tom, did you see this piece on how Brisbanites have forgotten how to build for the wet? My feeling is that those areas at the river edge should be reverted to market gardens, parks and other facilities that *support* housing rather than be used directly *as* housing. Losing a crop, or even a season of crops, is a great deal easier to manage than people losing homes and cities losing important infrastructure.

        http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/01/14/3112645.htm?site=thedrum

        1. Adelady, no I hadn’t seen it, and thank you for bringing it to my attention. I think the article is largely wrong, however.

          It is true that many modern housing designs do not have the features of the old Queenlanders. However, in most of the flooded suburbs, the majority of the houses were built in the 1930’s to 1950’s. This is certainly true of Chelmer, West End, Rosalie, the residential area of Milton (most of the flooded area of Milton was commercial). You will have noticed this if you recall the various videos of K Rudd helping out in his electorate.

          Second, in Brisbane already most of the lowest lying areas have been turned into parks or school ovals. This has been done for a reason, and I see no particular sign that it has been cut back in recent years. In West End, for example, the entire riverbank back to about 15 meters from the river or more is parkland. You may wish to argue that the entire area should be parkland, but no city modern city can afford for several square miles immediately across the river from the City Center to be converted to parkland or market garden; particular in an area with a long history of inhabitation (since settlement) and a vibrant community culture. That is what your dictum would require as in large floods the entire West End goes under.

          I think there is a role for building codes to play a role in limitting damage, but simply requiring that one fifth of Brisbane, or one third of Ipswich be surrendered to park land is simply not viable. All the hills around Brisbane which are not national parks or state forests are already heavilly populated, so people displaced by such parklands would of necessity simply move onto other flood plains.

          However, I would appreciate a building code requiring any new construction to have at least one story above the 1974 flood level, with the 1974 flood level clearly marked. I would also appreciate that any contract for sale of lease of property should have its height above the ’74 flood level, and that for each level of the building, clearly markd, in large print on the front page.

          There is a limit to what should be attempted in contraining peoples lives. The regions flooded were inhabited for very good reasons, and you will notice from the reports that many residents went through the ’74 floods and are still there, and very few of the flood victims are talking about selling up and moving out. So ensuring that everyone goes in with their eyes open; and for new construction, have at least one place of refuge on their property (for valuables and at need themselves) should largely be the limit of action in that regard.

          1. I’ll bow to your local knowledge. Being from a place that is in very little danger of flooding, my approach is probably dominated by our experiences with fire.

            I just cannot believe that people are building houses on the same street that a friend of ours died on in 1983. There has been *no* redesign of the streets to allow for easy escape. I realise that we now have ‘Bushfire Plans’ and all the rest of it, but I think it is dreadful folly.

            1. I perfectly understand that sentiment.

              Given a choice between the Tropic’s risk of cyclones, the south’s risk of bushfires, and Brisbane’s risk of floods, I’ll take Brisbane every time. (It probably helps that I live on a hill.)

              And Dappledwater, thanks.

  13. Could some one please explain how the present Queensland flooding is caused by global warming /climate change when it is less than the 1974 flood and apparently a lot less than some earlier floods. Couldn’t this just be a weather event that happens at times. Travel around Queensland and look at the old markers, the height of them is amazing. I dont see much difference to what is happening now to what has occured historically in this state.

    1. Baz, the post above goes to some lengths to be reasonable, and makes no such claim, and the link to Brave New Climate also puts the whole issue in context.

      We’ll never know if any one event was ‘natural’ or ‘man made’ because such distinctions cannot actually be made – what we can say is that AGW ‘loads the dice’ in favour of events like this becoming more frequent and more devastating. As described by Gareth above.

      Furthermore if we have to wait until someone can definitively prove AGW ’caused’ any such specific event to a ‘proof’ level- well, let’s just say no one is ever likely to; so if that’s what is required we’ll never be taking any action, then. Maybe we’ll be lucky!…

      Whether this event was bigger than ’74 is a calculation based on having to work out how much water would have torn into Brisbane had Wivenhoe not been there to hold mind-boggling masses of it back. My understanding is that BoM currently maintains this is the biggest flood since 1894. Certainly what happened at Toowoomba and Grantham is unprecedented.

      If you refer to Brave New Climate via the link above you’ll see the BoM’s statement that this flood was actually building on a series of remarkable rainfall events, including eastern Australia’s wettest Spring, and QLD and eastern Australia’s wettest December. We all hope that we’ll get enough of a ‘summery’ break to have the ground not water-logged before any further major storms might arrive…

    2. Baz. One thing to bear in mind is the Wivenhoe dam. It was built because of the 1974 flood. Some reports I’ve seen suggest that the dam saved Brisbane from 1 or 2 metres more of flooding, *and* delayed it by at least one week.

      So, having responded effectively to prevent 1974 style flooding, and a possible metre more, it’s pushing things a bit to say the event is not as serious or severe as 1974.

      The other remarkable issue is the lack of any cyclone driving the rainfall.

      1. Between them, Somerset Dam and Wivenhoe Dam held back 2.65 times the volume of Sydney Harbour. That is 1.65 times the volume of Sydney Harbour more than was held back by Somerset alone in 1974. In addition, since 1974 Brisbanes drainage systems have been vastly improved, speeeding the rate at which water drains to the sea. On top of that, the 1974 flood was brought about (as you note) by a cyclone coming on top of weeks of rainfall. The additional effect of the cyclone was a significant storm surge that added at least 0.2 meters to the flood height. (I believe the tide was also higher in ’74, but am not certain.)

        Just the effects of the dams held back about 90% as much water as passed through Brisbane durring the days of peak flooding of Brisbane in 1974.

        What this all works out to without modelling, I am not sure. It seems certain that 2011 would have been deeper than 1974 without Wivenhoe, and I believe probable that it would have set a new record for Brisbane without both Wivenhoe and Somerset (and the drainage), but cannot be certain on the later.

        I have more detail at my blog.

  14. Keith, Baz

    You are forgetting that this issue is not politics. Its science.

    You need to address any questions and requests for apologies to the Australian scientists who both predicted the frequency and intensity of these events and are connecting the dots even now. Joe Romm as usual has good links:

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/12/deadly-flash-flood-hits-australia-rain/#more-40231

    Unfortunately, Brisbane is just a curtain raiser. So we need to talk urgently about these scientific matters. Queenslanders and others need to prepare for the next onslaught. A big issue is where and how to build dwellings that deal with both the coming extreme heat and precipitation. And how to get them insured given predicted further extreme weather events. Queenslanders need understanding and answers right now as they rebuild.

    I agree, the politics should wait.

    1. How to get them insured? Don’t rebuild where they are now. Have a look at a couple of those aerial views. Now mentally shift all the housing 2 streets further away from the river.

      I saw a bloke on a teev interview tonight saying that he had been a bit peeved with his council insisting that the renovations to his house had to meet certain height from the ground requirements. Whaddya know, the flood waters missed his floorboards by 30cm.

      Many of those low-lying areas should be subject to much stricter limitations on how houses are built – or not built at all.

  15. I disagree about moving the houses. There are reasons for building the houses in those locations, and so long as purchasers are clearly informed of the flood potential, the buyer beware. I would, however, like to see an ordinance requiring every property to have clearly marked the 1974 flood level.

    My preffered approach would be engineering. Pipelines allowing an additional 20% of current spillway capacity from Somerset to the Pine River, and from Wivenhoe to the Logan River would go a long way to prevent future instances of flooding. An additional underground “spillway” from a weir at Mount Crosby to the sea would provide additional protection, as would further improvements to Brisbanes drainage system.

    Toowoomba itself just needs an upgraded drainage system capable of handling 400 mm rain in an hour for three hours.

    Out west, artificial channels with twice the normal capacity of the relevant river bypassing each town should significantly reduce flood levels at the towns. (Nothing reasonable can be done to reduce flood levels in general in what is essentially an imense and very flat flood plain.)

    1. Tom, I suppose the thing in the back of my mind is SLR.

      Considering how vulnerable Brisbane is to the occasional king tide, it won’t take very much SLR to make many of the usually / currently flood vulnerable areas subject to more frequent inundation. Your approach would of course be very helpful for all inundation, but I’m getting the feeling that we should get really serious about avoiding marina, seaside and riverside developments everywhere.

      That paleo paper from Climate Progress is absolutely breath-taking. http://climateprogress.org/2011/01/13/science-kiehl-ncar-paleoclimate-lessons-from-earths-hot-past/

      Hopefully someone will come up with something to reduce these estimates and set my mind at ease.

      1. Adelady, your point about SLR is a good one, and might suggest that my proposals for protecting Brisbane are really solving the wrong problem. However, although we have probably already locked in sufficient temperature increase to generate a sea level rise of 4 to 6 meters, no one really knows whether that will occur over one century or five. In the meantime, the marina lifestyle is so pleasant that we will not be able to prevent the development of Marina’s at anytime in the next 20/30 years. My attitude is that we should prepare for the floods that we know will happen, because that preperation will also stand us in good stead when we deal with SLR. SLR itself we can deal with in the next decade, or the following when we have a better idea of what we are dealing with. (Of course, priorities may well differ at other places, Bangladesh and the Netherlands come to mind, around the globe.)

        The linked article is interesting, but I am very dubious. His measured values for both temperature and CO2 levels are significantly different for other values obtained for the same period. More typical are values of 1000 ppm 50 million years ago, with polar temperatures 12 degrees warmer, and presumably global temperatures 6 degrees warmer which is well inside the IPCC range.

        My personal prefference is that politicians and policy makers accept the IPCC position as the consensus view and base their policy on that. There are reasonable outliers arguing in both directions from that position. That is as it should be, and when they can persuade the IPCC, then government should give them head. Until then politicians should not reveal themselves to be fools by pretending that they can adjudicate who is right and who wrong in a scientific dispute from reading one or two position papers.

  16. Current events in Queensland remind us all how vulnerable humans are to sudden and extreme “act of nature”. Only through careful research can society assess the risk of such events and plan accordingly. Indeed, it appears that in both the case of the Queensland floods and the Canterbury earthquakes, loss of life has been reduced because of such planning. We can never eliminate the risk of Earth hazards, but we can study them and make responsible decisions in light of the best information available. Such decision-making often entails economic and social costs that are not fully appreciated prior to the events, but are long forgotten afterward. Only fools ignore these lessons.

  17. “loss of life has been reduced because of such planning. ”

    Absolutely. I saw the Lord Mayor this morning ticking off a list of what people should do when returning, home, what people with equipment and time to volunteer should do, what concessions and benefits are available for water use and dumping fees for householders and free diesel for those who volunteer their trucks, graders etc. Clearly well thought through long before today.

    And listening to the radio in the car, a local presenter said that he had cut out an article from the newspaper contributed by the LM. He was publicising a ‘flood preparedness’ leaflet produced by the council and talking about the issues involved.

    So much better for everyone living in a modern, wealthy, well-organised city than those poor people in Brazil. (Of course no-one can really ‘prepare’ for the kind of instantaneous raging torrent that devastated the Lockyer Valley.)

  18. It is of course very important not to look at any single event and pretend that it is unequivocal evidence of climate change. But it is perhaps interesting to note that 2010 has been declared the wettest year on record according to the NOAA:

    http://blog.al.com/live/2011/01/2010_wettest_year_on_record_ti.html

    And this may well just be nature’s hors d’ouerve.

    Now as for predictions of cooling over the next two years, this seems to me to be an unnecessary attempt to delay action for no reason. If there were cooling it is neither here nor there to us warmists, and if there is further warming, then the denialists would rule out such a short period as a basis to assign a trend.

    Aside from the heavy costs on human life and other damages, agriculture will suffer with drier periods, and when rains do come, they are heavier and of shorter duration. Floods also mean extensive loss of topsoil, and that means organic matter, and NPK which get washed out to sea. To restore fertility, requires considerable investment capital, and yet more fossil fuels! The loss of soil organic matter adds to GHG burden and is an alarming global trend that spells danger for food security and biodiversity.

    Denialists should take their heads out of the sand and realise this is no way to run a planet. Having done nothing with stalling tactics, and feeding the populace misinformation, all that has been achieved is that an extra notch has been added to the degree of difficulty required to now solve the problem.

        1. Bill, that’s only since records were kept. All climate “skeptics” know weather was much more extreme during the time of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum………..hey wait as minute!, isn’t that where we’re headed??????.

  19. And now we see TC Yasi bearing down on the QLD coast

    TOWNS from Cooktown to Cardwell are on alert as the Far North makes final preparations today as one of the largest cyclones in Queensland’s history bears down on the coast.

    One can only trust that the fact this is (unsurprisingly) being taken very, very seriously will minimise any risk of casualties, and that the ‘bigger than Larry’ fears will remain unfounded.

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