70 Responses to High Water: Hottest year ends with unprecedented, “biblical” Australian floods covering an area the size of France and Germany combined.
3-month rainfall totals for Queensland
(1200 mm = 4 feet)
One of the most basic predictions of climate science is that global warming will cause more intense precipitation. As Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained it, “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.”
Last year appears to have been the hottest year on record — and it saw an astonishing amount of intense rainfall from Nashville’s ‘Katrina’ to the great Pakistani deluge.” And so it should be no surprise that the year ends with another unprecedented deluge of “biblical proportion.” Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters has the tale of the tape:
Unprecedented flooding has hit the northeast Australian state of Queensland, thanks to a week and a half of torrential rains and the landfall of Tropical Cyclone Tasha on Christmas Day. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated yesterday, “Some communities are seeing flood waters higher than they’ve seen in decades, and for some communities flood waters have never reached these levels before [in] the time that we have been recording floods.” The worst flooding occurred where Tropical Cyclone Tasha made landfall on Christmas Day. Though Tasha was a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds and lasted less than a day, the cyclone dumped very heavy rains of 8 – 16 inches (about 200 – 400 mm) on a region that was already waterlogged from months of heavy rains. According to the National Climatic Data Center, springtime in Australia (September – November) had precipitation 125% of normal–the wettest spring in the country since records began 111 years ago. Some sections of coastal Queensland received over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain from September through November. Rainfall in Australia in December may also set a record for rainiest December. The heavy rains are due, in part, to the moderate to strong La Ni±a event that has been in place since July. While the rains have eased over Queensland over the past few days, some rivers will not reach peak flood stage until Friday. Approximately 1000 people have been evacuated from the affected area so far.
The top chart is the 3-month rainfall totals for Queensland. Here is the 7-day total via Masters:
Rainfall in Queensland, Australia for the 7-day period ending December 29, 2010. Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Flood warnings are in effect for over twelve rivers, and the flooding has closed approximately 300 roads across Queensland, including two major highways into the capital of Brisbane. Evacuations are underway in Rockhampton, a city of 50,000 people on the coast. Damage to infrastructure in Australia has been estimated at over $1 billion by the government, and economists have estimated the Australian economy will suffer an additional $6 billion in damage over the coming months due to reduced exports, according to insurance company AIR Worldwide…. Damage to agriculture is curently estimated at $400 million, and is expected to rise.
The one upside: “Queensland is Australia’s top coal-producing state, and coal mining and delivery operations are being severely hampered by the flooding.”
Here is a photo from the NYT story, “Australia Floods Show No Signs of Retreating“:
Floods over an area the size of France and Germany combined included the Queensland town of Emerald, shown Friday.
That is bigger than Texas and almost two Californias. The Daily Mail scores it this way:
“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Queensland State Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in flood-hit Bundaberg.
See also TP’s “2010 Closes With Yet More Killer Climate Disasters” and Reuters, “Now coastal Queensland braces for 30-foot flood waters.”
Here are two more photos:
- The year of living dangerously. Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”; Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”
- In other UK news: “Rain like this happens once every 1,000 years”
- Australian Scientists: Contrary to media reports, “our paper does not discount climate change as playing a role in this most recent drought, the ‘Big Dry’. In fact, there are indications that climate change has worsened this recent drought.”
- President Obama explains the science behind climate change and extreme weather
- Northeast hit by record global-warming-type deluge
- Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its second 500-year rainfall in 11 years