Climate

Coal prices soar as warmest sea surface temperatures on record fuel ‘biblical’ Australian floods

Annual Australian sea surface temperature timeseries

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 record flooding is expected to cause Australia’s gross domestic product to fall by $2.5 billion.

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.”

Annual Australian mean temperature timeseries

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29 Responses to Coal prices soar as warmest sea surface temperatures on record fuel ‘biblical’ Australian floods

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Brad Carter Major of Rockhampton : “The Thing we need to appreciate, we are starting to see the impacts of climate change in this region!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kSYSF60K7Y&feature=player_embedded

  2. Esop says:

    The flooding is all due to the La Nina, according to the deniers. The ironic part is they are admitting that it took an extremely strong La Nina to cause this…
    And here we are, most likely setting a new global temperature record for 2010 in an extremely strong (denier verified) La Nina.

    Not a good year for the disinformers.

  3. Leif says:

    Let me guess. ~1C increase has given us “bibical” floods in a number of places around the world in the last year alone. I must assume that in another 40 years when we are looking at another 1C increase we will be looking at the likes of this year with fondness.

  4. Michael T. says:

    Heavy rains hit Australia’s flood-drenched northeast

    ROCKHAMPTON, Australia (AFP) – Heavy rains threatened further flooding in Australia’s drenched northeast Thursday as besieged Rockhampton cut supplies to “irresponsible” residents who refused to leave water-bound homes.

    Torrential downpours could cause flash-flooding and worsen existing floods, the weather bureau said, as water levels slowly started to recede in regional centre Rockhampton, a town virtually surrounded by a brown inland sea.

    Australia’s coal-mining and farming belt near Brisbane is suffering “biblical” floods across an area the size of Texas, after La Nina, a weather system, deluged Queensland state with its wettest year on record.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110106/wl_asia_afp/australiaweatherfloods#mwpphu-container

  5. Prokaryotes says:

    My guess is that maybe coal mining or mining in general will be rendered almost impossible from climate change weirding. Same goes for oil extraction, transportation etc. Renewable Energy will be also negatively impacted, just it has the advantage to produce infinte energy once locally established.

    From a Security standpoint, from a national security viewpoint, to sustain civilization under climate weirding, the infrastructure must be decentralized. Just for example the Israel backed Better Place project aims for.

    Wind and solar devices can deliver during tuff times and save the local communities, prevents total chaos.

    Just think of the situation of isolated flooded homes in the Australian Outback and what they are up against. The rainy season just started so even if the floods recede, there will be a devastated infrastructure.

    How long will nations wait before they adapt their cities and industries?

    The coal mines in Australia will be out of order for month and the rainy season is just firing up ( The rainy season did not even started when the biblical floods hit).

    Preventing climate action, casting denial & delay, resembles a national security threat. If a nation does not update their systems in time, anarchy, collapse and doom will rule. It’s time for the Denialist to STFU.

  6. Bob Lang says:

    Soaring coal prices -> renewables more competitive -> more planned coal-fired generation bites the dust.

    Got to look for a silver lining.

  7. Michael says:

    One can see the current SST anomalies here – outside of the Pacific, they are pretty warm almost everywhere, not just around Australia:

    http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/ocean/sst/anomaly.html

    Also, the Great Barrier Reef has another threat besides flood runoff – coral bleaching, if the current anomalies persist:

    http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/ml/ocean/cb/hotspots.html

  8. Mike says:

    Two questions.

    1) We have rased atmospheric CO2 by 40% and this has cause a 4% increase in H2O vapor. When we double CO2 what will the H2O level be? 10%, or is the relationship nonlinear or do we know?

    2) Measuring atmospheric CO2 is easier since CO2 is well mixed. But H2O is not. It’s distrabution in the atmosphere is very non-uniform. How is the average absolute humidity estimated? Anyone know?

  9. Robert says:

    Has anyone noticed all of the recent news stories about rising food prices on the internet? Google “rising food prices”.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Real world reports of the last 9 months of record sea surface temps –
    15 countries , and Australia is coming into it’s season, it isn’t on the list.

    Global Reports of the 2010 Coral Bleaching Event

    http://coloradobob1.newsvine.com/_news/2010/11/12/5457136-global-reports-of-the-2010-coral-bleaching-event-

  11. Yvan Dutil says:

    #8 Mike

    1) We have rased atmospheric CO2 by 40% and this has cause a 4% increase in H2O vapor. When we double CO2 what will the H2O level be? 10%, or is the relationship nonlinear or do we know?

    Increase is driven by the increase in temperature. This is this classical Classius-Clapteron relation. Basic physics from XIXth century steam engine. Other factors may contribute, but they are less significant.

    2) Measuring atmospheric CO2 is easier since CO2 is well mixed. But H2O is not. It’s distribution in the atmosphere is very non-uniform. How is the average absolute humidity estimated? Anyone know?

    From what I could tell, this comes from satellite measurement. In the past, this might comes from the ground measurement. Also, oxygen isotopes might be used as a proxy.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Robert –
    Argentina is on the bubble now with drought. It’s the last great breadbasket / rice bowl in the cycle, before the spring North American crop comes in. It’s dawning on everyone just how bad it’s been for world wide food production.

  13. MarkB says:

    Extreme weather events usually only get reported in populated areas. Makes sense. While the AO has been strongly negative, places like the U.K. and eastern U.S. have been fairly cold.

    The map of last week’s temperature anomalies is interesting:

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/images/rnl/sfctmpmer_07a.rnl.html

    The areas mentioned above were back to “normal”, but extraordinary high winter temperatures persist over Greenland and northeast Canada. They actually need to move the scale up, as 12 C isn’t enough. In the last couple of days, the Quebec town of Lvujivik (in the dark red area above), has seen temperatures 30-40 degrees F above average, beating daily records by what looks to be around 20 F. By Arctic winter standards, it’s downright balmy. From a meteorological perspective, this is by far more unusual than any cold lower latitudes have been experiencing, although the two are connected by the AO behavior.

    http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/CYIK/2011/1/6/MonthlyHistory.html

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    The shorter your food supply the better.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    MarkB –
    The numbers from Narsarsuaq when they were setting records, were 30F 34F over averages, They were almost directly under this drifting hot spot.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    The Great Greenland Heat Wave rolls on .

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    Narsarsuaq has cooled back down , but only to just above the averages.

  18. Colorado Bob says:

    All this is really epic stuff. The scales involved are what is mind blowing. The President of Columbia said at Christmas time, their floods were worse than Katrina, because a whole country had been flooded , not just a city.

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Right now , in just the past two weeks, about a million people are fleeing flood waters.

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Most of this, is RE-Newed flooding on places that have blow up the record books weeks and weeks ago.

  21. Wes Rolley says:

    But pay attention to Boehner, Cantor, et. al. Regulation is stifling jobs. Cut back the regulation, especially of energy and we will have more jobs. They make the same argument regarding health care.

    If you were out of work. worried about lay offs, who would you vote for?

    We have a lot of work to do to win this political battle and the continued reference to weather problems in other parts of the world does not appeal to the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    Mike said “We have rased atmospheric CO2 by 40% and this has cause a 4% increase in H2O vapor. ”

    Is the precipitation uptake primarily from the thaw process or averaged.

    Mike said “When we double CO2 what will the H2O level be? 10%, or is the relationship nonlinear or do we know?”

    Once the ice is gone, how long will it take for the clathrates to bubble up? We have already current and oscillation anomalies and several positive feedbacks. I read somewhere the ocean methane takes awhile, because of the ocean temperature? But if you look at the current anomalies, you can come up with an underwater landslide and tsunami in the region. Things which recently did not could happen, will likely happen. Permafrost thaw might also be already unstoppable and the effect of this is exponential.

  23. Colorado Bob says:

    (Reuters) – Lakes and rivers emit far more of a powerful greenhouse gas than previously thought, counteracting the overall role of nature in soaking up climate-warming gases, a study showed on Thursday.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70555620110106

  24. From Peru says:

    Follow coral bleaching around Australia – the direct consecuence of record high SST, here:

    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/e50/e50_baa.html

    The outlook for this Austral Summer is scary:

    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/bleachingoutlook/index.html

    And a zoom for Bleachalia (sorry, Australia):

    http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/satellite/bleachingoutlook/outlook_images_current/bleachingoutlook4month_ese.gif

  25. Solar Jim says:

    Colorado Bob:

    . . . than previously thought

    Epitaph for a civilization.

    What were they thinking? That the three phases of matter in the lithosphere were “energy?” Flooded fools. Dug themselves to death by melting eight million cubic miles of land ice.

    Best regards,
    Solar Jim

  26. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The floods have provoked a furious reaction from the redneck Right here. The idea of increased atmospheric water vapour secondary to global warming being involved, let alone responsible, is anathema, but every other ecocidal idea is getting pushed furiously. The floods apparently prove that scientific predictions of the southern part of the country drying out and droughts growing longer and harder secondary to climate change were wrong. In fact, of course, they were ‘green lies’. The Right cannot conceive of honest differences of opinion or mistakes-the other side, the side of rationality, is always lying. It’s the crassest projection, of course, and no less entertaining for that.
    The floods would have been less severe if the evil ‘green extremists’ had not stopped us building more dams, which must now be built everywhere to harvest the flooding rains. That the country’s dams have spent much of the last five to ten years empty is irrelevant, as the facts always are when ideological correctness has the Dunning-Krugerites in its coils.
    The carefully crafted plan to safeguard the ecological and agricultural sustainability of the Murray-Darling Basin, once bi-partisan policy, is out. The science behind it was just ‘wrong’ quoth the leader of the rural branch of the perpetually ruling Dunning-Kruger Party, Warren Truss, autodidact and self-confessed expert in hydrology, ecology and agricultural economics. In other words, as always, rank imbecility, political opportunism and general ignorance are running amok. No matter how dire the calamity you can rely on the Right to draw the very worst and most damaging conclusions from it, and they will run with it-it’s all they know.

  27. ToddInNorway says:

    What poetic justice for the coal industry, which is the main contributor to global climate weirding (warming and otherwise changing wildly), that their operations would be severly and perhaps permanently impacted by a 1000-year deluge. I am very sorry however for all the innocent victims, whose suffering will be much larger than what a few coal mine operators will endure.
    In any case, the supposed cheap and reliable coal-based energy will lose more customers, as they start to develop better alternatives.

  28. David B. Benson says:

    $300 per ton is alot!

  29. espiritwater says:

    Mulga, someone with a name similar to yours sent me an email. At the time I had no idea who it was and clicked, “spam” to get rid of it. Later, I realized it possibly could have been you. If it was you, please try again as I had no idea who the person was at the time. Chow!