Gosh! We’re in for a heat wave!!

Today on one of the TV morning programs the young woman reading the news announced that after a brief respite, the continent would be returning to heat wave conditions. Adelaide would soar to 39 tomorrow and 41 later in the week. This was after a ‘scorching’ Christmas and New Year, with everyone urged to stay indoors in the hottest part of the day, drink lots of water, and look after the old and the very young.

What a load of bollocks.

Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate. That is, dry, hot summers and cool, wet winters. Temperatures of 39 and 41 are par for the course. Every. single. year. We call it Summer.

There were warnings of a heat wave up the Australian East Coast over the holiday period, with Brisbane expecting temps in the mid-thirties. Ooooh. Shock-horror. We’d be surprised if the summer temperatures in Brisbane weren’t in the mid-thirties.

I lived in Perth, which also has a Mediterranean climate, between 1955 and 1996. The day our migrant ship arrived in Fremantle in 1955 the temperature was 100°F – it was 14th April, well into Autumn. During Summer Perth routinely has a week and more with temperatures over 40C every day. As I recall, February was the hottest month when cyclones building up North would push hot, humid air down to the city. Heavy cloud formed a blanket preventing the heat from escaping. We’d pray for rain which rarely came, while the temperature stayed over 40. We didn’t have air conditioning at home and neither did schools. That was how it was. You shrugged and went about your business.

Basically, I believe the ‘news’ broadcasters are sensationalising normal events. I also have to wonder why these announcements of heat waves are always accompanied by images of people sun bathing at the beach? Sun bathing in temperatures of 35+ is NEVER a good idea and never was, yet the footage is never accompanied by suggestions that keeping covered up and in the shade might be wiser.

The other day I received an email via a friend of a friend of a friend about REAL heat waves. The content was pretty much what you’ll read on this The Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page with a few bits highlighted and some changes to fonts to make it more dramatic. (I went looking for verification, you see.) This is a partial quote.

“The earliest temperature records we have show that Australia was a land of shocking heatwaves and droughts, except for when it was bitterly cold or raging in flood. In other words, nothing has changed, except possibly things might not be quite so hot now!

Silliggy (Lance Pidgeon) has been researching records from early explorers and from newspapers. What he’s uncovered is fascinating!   It’s as if history is being erased! For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.

In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days.

Links to documentary evidence (1)(2)(3) [Note – these links go to newspaper reports in the Australian Government’s public archives, Trove.] The maximum was at or above 102 degrees F (38.9°C) for 24 days straight!

Use the several links below to read the news reports at the time for yourself.

  1. By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets.
  2. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, thermometers recorded 109F at midnight.
  3. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F.
  4. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”.
  5. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels).
  6. Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains.

As reported at the time, the government felt the situation was so serious that to save lives and ease the suffering of its citizens they added cheaper train services.

What I found most interesting about this was the skill, dedication and length of meteorological data taken in the 1800’s. When our climate is “the most important moral challenge” why is it there is so little interest in our longest and oldest data? Who knew that one of the most meticulous and detailed temperature records in the world from the 1800’s comes from Adelaide, largely thanks to Sir Charles Todd. The West Terrace site in Adelaide was one of the best in the world at the time, and provides accurate historic temperatures from Australia’s first permanent weather bureau at Adelaide in 1856? Rainfall records even appear to go as far back as 1839.

Lance Pidgeon went delving into the National Archives and was surprised at what he found.

The Great Australian Heatwave of January 2013 didn’t push the mercury above 50C at any weather station in Australia, yet it’s been 50C (122F) and hotter in many inland towns across Australia over the past century.”

You can read more about Lance Pidgeon and the Adelaide meteorological station, at forgotten -historic hot temperatures recorded with detail and care in adelaide.

All of this brought to mind the recent claims that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is fiddling with historical climate records. They’ve homogenised figures and glitches in their equipment have filtered out some of the lowest temperatures. Jo Nova is a climate change sceptic but it’s worth reading what she has to say about historical climate data. BOM scandal: “smart cards” filter out coldest temperatures. Full audit needed ASAP! By the way, it was Lance Pidgeon who noticed the Goulburn anomaly as the recorded minimum temperature changed from -10.4 to 10, then disappeared. [4]

I have to wonder, I really do, about when a normal summer became a shock-horror heat wave.

And just as a reminder – I don’t deny the world’s climate is changing. I just don’t believe we Humans did it, or that we can stop it. ‘Believe’ is the wrong word, since the reasons for climate change are supposed to be based on science. As far as I’m concerned the climate models are dodgy and based on insufficient and sometimes spurious data. There is sufficient scientifc evidence to suggest that climate change is dictated by large, slow factors, such as the sun’s cycles, the movement of tectonic plates and subsequent shift in ocean curents. We have to learn to adapt.




Is it time for a mass extinction?

Cane toads – nasty, poisonous, feral invaders that have decimated Australian native animals

Let me introduce you to Bufo marinus, known to many Australians as the cane toad. A government department introduced them to Australia from Hawaii in 1935 in an attempt to control sugar cane beetles. The toads mumbled ‘thank you very much’, had no impact on the cane beetles, and bred prolifically, quickly spreading along the coastal fringe of Queensland. The toads have poison glands on both sides of their neck which produces a toxin more than capable of killing just about every predator they might encounter. That is, lizards, snakes, birds, and toad-eating mammals like quolls and cats. All attempts to eradicate this noxious creature have been unsuccessful and the toad has spread into New South Wales and across the Northern Territory into Western Australia, where the invaders are making their way down the West Australian coast. This fact sheet includes a map showing their current range – and their potential range.

In short, they’re taking over the country, adapting to changed conditions as they move. There is some resistance. A number of bird species have learned to attack the toad’s belly, thus avoiding the poison glands. Some native species are not affected by the toxin, but all in all, the introduction of cane toads into Australia has been devastating. In some respects it can be likened to one other feral, invasive species, which has managed to decimate the whole damn planet.

Planet Earth is well overdue for a mass extinction. We have them here fairly regularly, you know.  The five main ones so far are

  • End Ordovician, 444 million years ago, 86% of species lost
  • Late Devonian, 375 million years ago, 75% of species lost
  • End Permian, 251 million years ago, 96% of species lost
  • End Triassic, 200 million years ago, 80% of species lost
  • Cretaceous-Paleogene, 65 million years ago, 50% of species lost

Everybody knows about the Big One, when the dinosaurs and just about everything else was wiped out in what is generally considered to have been a meteorite impact.  The reasons for all the other extinctions weren’t quite so obvious but it comes down to changes in climate (both cooling and warming), seismic activity, changes in the acidity of the ocean, and massive intrusions such as bloody great cosmic boulders dropping out of the sky. The massive extinction at the end of the Permian might also have been caused by an asteroid or comet but no crater has been found. [1]

It seems that we are living through another mass extinction and the perpetrators of this one are humans, two-legged cane toads of the planet. Everywhere we go we pollute, we squander, we murder each other and far too many of everything else. Try googling ‘extinctions in the past 100 years’ and you’ll get plenty of lists. Here’s just one. American passenger pigeons which existed in their millions, dodos which tasted too good, the iconic thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), Asian lions, English wolves. The world tiger population has plummeted. As recently as 100 years ago one hundred thousand tigers roamed Asia. Now it’s less than four thousand. [2] What about the many, many invertebrates, birds, small marsupials, sea creatures. And it’s all because of US. Homo ‘sapiens’ – I’m not sure we’re very wise. Otherwise why would we imagine ground tiger penis would give us virility?

While our oceans are becoming more and more polluted and we destroy wild habitat to fuel our obsession with ‘stuff’ which  so often ends up in landfill, we hold useless meetings so that far too many delegates can discuss ‘climate change’ and come up with sanctimonious resolutions and unachievable targets that ‘world leaders’ have no intention of even attempting to meet. I’ve made it clear enough on this blog that I don’t think humans are responsible for climate change. That’s dictated by much larger, slower forces, like plate tectonics and the cycles of the sun.

But we’re sure as hell responsible for plastic and other items of the throw-away mentality encouraged by the retail corporations which control too much of our society. I’d much prefer discussions about how to clean up the oceans, stop overfishing, and prevent idiots from cutting down and/or burning rain forest. Those things we can change.

About here I’ll make my own prediction based on not a single computer model. Even so, iIt’s probably almost as accurate as those computer-generated predictions about sea level rises.

I think we’re overdue for a catastrophic mass extinction of the dominant destructive infestation on this world. Gaia will awaken and scratch her itching skin. The San Andreas Fault hasn’t slipped in a while. The super volcano bubbling quietly under Yellowstone National Park could erupt at any time. Vesuvius is simmering. Indonesia’s volcanoes are skittish. Just the other day earthquakes shook New Caledonia and Norfolk Island in the Pacific. Volcanic activity can have immense global effects. Here’s what happened when Krakatoa blew its top in 1883.

“In the year following the 1883 Krakatoa eruption, average Northern Hemisphere summer temperatures fell by as much as 1.2 °C (2.2 °F). Weather patterns continued to be chaotic for years, and temperatures did not return to normal until 1888. The record rainfall that hit Southern California during the “water year” from July 1883 to June 1884 – Los Angeles received 38.18 inches (969.8 mm) and San Diego 25.97 inches (659.6 mm) – has been attributed to the Krakatoa eruption. There was no El Niño during that period as is normal when heavy rain occurs in Southern California, but many scientists doubt that there was a causal relationship.

The Krakatoa eruption injected an unusually large amount of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas high into the stratosphere, which was subsequently transported by high-level winds all over the planet. This led to a global increase in sulfuric acid (H2SO4) concentration in high-level cirrus clouds. The resulting increase in cloud reflectivity (or albedo) reflected more incoming light from the sun than usual, and cooled the entire planet until the suspended sulfur fell to the ground as acid precipitation.” [3]

And all it needs to decimate human populations is a virus. It happened once before around 1350. Somewhere between a quarter and a half of the population in the known world was wiped out. It took centuries for the population to recover. More recently, the influenza that spread through the world after the first world war killed more people than had died in the war itself. In today’s world with so much travel on aircraft, an infection could spread all over the planet in days.

Add some catastrophic fires, cyclones, earthquakes, and eruptions, and Gaia could rid itself of this pesky species like a dog being given tick control.

Frankly, it’s all we deserve.

Welcome to December

Here it is December already. Who’d a thunk? Actually, one giveaway is the faux snow in windows, a fat guy with a red coat on having his picture taken with kiddies, and endless repeats of Bing’s dreaming of a white Christmas. Good luck with that in Queensland, old man. Then again, in places the country is covered in white – but that’s ash from bushfires.

We live near that large island at the bottom of the photo. Taken by the Himawari 8 Japanese weather satellite

This has been a freakish week or two weatherwise. A thick blanket of snow (yes, real snow) fell in the Australian Alps. Sydney received 120mm (a little less than six inches) of rain in a day, causing flooding. Up North in drought-ravaged Queensland bushfires are burning out of control. Something like one hundred and forty fires, fuelled by the tinder-dry bush and urged along by strong winds. The fires are very similar to those which ravaged California last month. The BIG difference is that the area under threat in Australia is sparsely populated, so while vast swathes are burnt/burning, fewer properties are affected.

Hats off to the magnificent people who fight these monster fires. So far, only one man has died – killed by a falling tree in a back-burning operation. But thousands have been evacuated and a handful of homes have been destroyed. The fires are rated as ‘catastrophic’ – which means they can’t be controlled. Weather conditions have worsened today, with hot, dry winds fanning the flames. And there has been looting. Low-life scum.

There’s no sign of rain in our region any time soon – although a cyclone is forming off the Solomon Islands, predicted to head our way in the coming days.  That’ll be out of the frying pan into the washing machine, and the risk all the top soil will be washed away. According to the current predictions (always a dicey business with tropical cylones) it won’t hit the coast until later in the week.

And that’s all I have for this week.  Have a good weekend – or what’s left of it.

The science of climate change

Crimson sunset after a day of rain

Crimson sunset after a day of rain

Not so very long ago, before we embarked on our trip around Australia, I put forward my position on climate change ‘the religion’. Confessions of a climate change denier.

Just the other day I was sent a link to a presentation about CO2 and global warming. It was made in 2007 by the BBC, and I wish I’d watched it years ago. Whether you’re a ‘believer’ in man-made climate change or not, I urge you to give up the time to watch this program. It’s 75 minutes long but worth every second. Please ignore the rather sensational title. Scientists, eminent in their fields,  present hard scientific facts to explain what really causes climate change on planet Earth. And it isn’t the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I have closed comments on this post. But I’ll post a few pictures anyway.

A rainbow in a rain cell, dawn, Hervey Bay

A rainbow in a rain cell, dawn, Hervey Bay

A summer storm piles up on with a tornado touching down on the horizon

A summer storm piles up on with a tornado touching down on the horizon

A red dawn at the beach

A red dawn at the beach

Mammary cloud under a huge summer storm at sunset - fortunately tracking away from us

Mammary cloud under a huge summer storm at sunset – fortunately tracking away from us


Climate change isn’t new

picture of Pevensey castle from the airThere’s a tendency for we humans, living in the here and now, to think things were always like that. Oh, we might acknowledge that once there was a place called Gondwana, and that it sat over the South Pole, and that continents drift on a lava ocean. But that was eons ago. Sure, geological change happens, but only over an unconscionably long time period. Recorded history isn’t like that. England was always there. Australia hasn’t moved, not really. Even the pyramids haven’t shifted much, apart from drowning in wind-blown sand.

It can be quite a shock to the system to discover that this is simply not the case.

Last year, I visited the United Kingdom, went here and there, as one does. One of the places we visited was Pevensey Castle (pictured left, from the air), down on the channel coast of England, not too far from Eastbourne. To get there, you drive along the A27, passing by Beachy Head and Dover and the Long Man on his hillside.

Like many, many fortifications, Pevensey castle has been built on over the years. A good place for a defensive structure has remained pretty much the same over the centuries and Pevensey started life as one of the nine Roman forts on the Saxon shore, standing, as it did, on an island, protecting a large harbour. Rest assured, the Celts before them would have felt the same way, as did the later Saxons. The Roman walls, for the most part, still stand. A local historian told us that attempts to break up the wall and use the pieces for later building projects were abandoned because it was too difficult, a testament to the quality of the stonework.picture of Roman walls

William the Conqueror also recognised the value of the fort. He constructed a keep within the Roman walls. It takes up a fraction of a corner, near where a bridge crossed the moat into the town.

So what makes this ruined castle so extraordinary? In 1066, the road we travelled along the sea coast would have been under water. The castle’s moat was picture of The sea gateocean, and the gate into the castle was called the ‘sea gate’. Prisoners, we were told, were disposed of by dropping them down into the walls near the gate, where they would drown, and be swept away with the tide.

The town of Battle, said to be the site of the Battle of Hastings, is not on the coast. Not anymore. It’s about 8km (5 miles) inland. Pevensey castle itself is about 1.5km from the sea.

Think on that. We’re not talking geological ages, here. Pevensey castle was on the coast less than one thousand years ago. And I think you can be reasonably sure the rise in sea level had very little to do with carbon in the atmosphere.