Australian floods now cover an area “the size of France and Germany combined.” Yesterday, their government’s Bureau of Meteorology released its “Annual Australian Climate Statement 2010,” which helps explain why — record sea surface temperatures:
Based on preliminary data (to November 30), sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were +0.54 °C above the 1961 to 1990 average. This is the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October and November. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Ni±a, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring. The most recent decade (2001ˆ’2010) was also the warmest decade on record for sea surface temperatures following the pattern observed over land.
Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of NCAR’s Climate Analysis Section, has explained the connection between human-caused global warming and extreme deluges: “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.”
Brad Johnson reports on one of the ironies of this warming-fueled flooding:
In Australia, record floods caused by unrelenting months of rain are threatening the nation’s economy, with global repercussions. Global manufacturers have been shocked by the shutdown of Queensland’s rich coal mines, with as much as 10 million tons of high-grade metallurgical coal taken off the market:
“BHP, Rio, Macarthur Coal Ltd. and Anglo American Plc are among producers that have declared force majeure, a legal clause invoked by companies when they can’t meet obligations because of circumstances beyond their control. Record rainfall has spread floods across an area the size of France and Germany, forcing the evacuation of towns, closing mines and spoiling crops.”
About fifty-nine percent of seaborne metallurgical coal comes from Queensland, bound for steelmakers in Japan, India, and China. The price of metallurgical coal may surge by 33 percent to $300 a ton, a price not seen since before the global recession.
“In many ways, it is a disaster of biblical proportions,” Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser told reporters in the flooded city of Bundaberg. “The extent of flooding being experienced by Queensland is unprecedented and requires a national and united response,” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. “Australia recorded its third-wettest year on record in 2010,” and the torrential rains are “set to last another three months.”
The floods are powered by the hottest atmosphere and oceans in recorded history, which have been warmed by the very coal extracted from Australia’s mines. Although these rains are devastating on a national scale and have global repercussions, the shutdown of Queensland mines for a few months “” and the 29 million tons of carbon dioxide that won’t be released “” is only one one-thousandth of the 29 billions tons of carbon dioxide pollution produced globally each year.
Australi’s BoM notes, “Big wet results in coolest year since 2001 but nonetheless the warmest decade on record.” They explain, “Temperatures were generally cooler than average in the interior of the continent where rainfall was particularly high.”
- 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
- Hansen: Would recent extreme “events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 ppm?” The “appropriate answer” is “almost certainly not.”