Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time to chill from the doom, some further hornbags..

Yes, once again I am pleased to purvey some more fotographic efforts, compliments of Amsterdam Bier, and some brand of Vodka I,er, forgot.

Poles apart but warming greater than thought

Marian Wilkinson Environment Editor

February 27, 2009

A TWO-YEAR research effort by the world's leading scientists has uncovered evidence of global warming's widespread effect.

Snow and ice continue to decline in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica, affecting sea-level rise and weather patterns, as well as human, animal and plant life.

The findings of International Polar Year, a global research project involving 60 nations, were released yesterday. They confirmed that warming in Antarctica was greater than previously understood and the rate of ice loss from Greenland was increasing.

Dr Ian Allison, of the Australian Antarctic Division, who co-chaired the project told the Herald the effect of global warming in Greenland was clear.

"In Greenland the rate of ice loss is getting greater over the last 10 years and the surface [ice] melt is definitely related to the warming," Dr Allison said.

The project's scientists summed up their findings, saying: "It now appears certain that both the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and thus raising sea level, and that the rate of ice loss from Greenland is growing."

They also warned "the potential for these ice sheets to undergo further rapid ice discharge remains the largest unknown in projections of the rate of sea-level rise by the [United Nations] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change".

Projections for the NSW coast released by the State Government suggest sea levels are expected to rise up to 40 centimetres by 2050 and 90 centimetres by 2100. One centimetre of sea-level rise can have erosion effects of up to one metre in low-lying areas.

The popular belief that Antarctica may be resistant to global warming has been undercut by International Polar Year's research. Data from satellites and weather stations confirmed that for the past 50 years it has been warming at the same rate as the rest of the planet.

Until recently it was only the fragile Antarctic Peninsula that juts up from West Antarctica, which was considered vulnerable to global warming. The peninsula is warming more rapidly than much of the rest of the world with temperatures rising 2.5 degrees in the past 50 years and ice loss increasing 140 per cent in the past decade.

The recent research confirms the Arctic sea ice shrank last year to its second-lowest extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979. The previous low was the summer of 2007. Some scientists are predicting there will be an ice-free Arctic in summer by 2012.

Since the findings by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, it has been widely accepted that the planet's warming is almost certainly due to greenhouse gases being released from the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing and cement manufacturing.

The new research warns greenhouse emissions could rapidly increase from the Arctic warming. The Arctic contains large amounts of greenhouse gas that has been locked in permafrost and below the Arctic Ocean.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Time to relax, some further hornbags..

Chinese New Year in town, and a few quick grab shots whilst taking a somewhat circular route to the pub.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Climate change may be even worse: expert

No, and expert is not the Prophet of doom himself...he's only bringing the message lah...
Read on!

It seems the dire warnings about the oncoming devastation wrought by global warming were not dire enough, a top climate scientist warned.

It has been just over a year since the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a landmark report warning of rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and the extinction of up to 30 per cent of plant and animal species.

But recent climate studies suggest that report significantly underestimates the potential severity of global warming over the next 100 years, a senior member of the panel warned.

"We now have data showing that from 2000 to 2007, greenhouse gas emissions increased far more rapidly than we expected," said Chris Field, who was a co-ordinating lead author of the report.

This is "primarily because developing countries like China and India saw a huge upsurge in electric power generation, almost all of it based on coal", Field said in a statement ahead of a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Without decisive action to slow global warming, higher temperatures could ignite tropical forests and thaw the Arctic tundra, potentially releasing billions of tons of carbon dioxide that has been stored for thousands of years.

That could raise temperatures even more and create "a vicious cycle that could spiral out of control by the end of the century."

"We don't want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot," said Field, a professor of biology and of environmental Earth system science at Stanford University.

The amount of carbon that could be released is staggering.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and estimated 350 billions tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) has been released through the burning of fossil fuels.

The new estimate of the amount of carbon stored in the Arctic's permafrost soils is around 1,000 billion tons. And the Arctic is warming faster than any other part of the globe.

Several recent climate models have estimated that the loss of tropical rainforests to wildfires, deforestation and other causes could increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 10 to 100 parts per million by the end of the century.

The current level is about 380 parts per million.

"Tropical forests are essentially inflammable," Field said. "You couldn't get a fire to burn there if you tried. But if they dry out just a little bit, the result can be very large and destructive wildfires."

Recent studies have also shown that global warming is reducing the ocean's ability to store carbon by altering wind patterns in the Southern Ocean.

"As the Earth warms, it generates faster winds over the oceans surrounding Antarctica," Field explained.

"These winds essentially blow the surface water out of the way, allowing water with higher concentrations of CO2 to rise to the surface. This higher-CO2 water is closer to CO2-saturated, so it takes up less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere."

Field is co-chair of the group charged with assessing the impacts of climate change on social, economic and natural systems for the IPCC's fifth assessment due in 2014.

The 2007 fourth assessment presented at a "very conservative range of climate outcomes" but the next report will "include futures with a lot more warming," Field said.

"We now know that, without effective action, climate change is going to be larger and more difficult to deal with than we thought."

AAP 15/2/09

Friday, February 13, 2009

Record rain in Bourke, floods to hit

A record 200mm of rain has fallen in Bourke as the top end of NSW prepares for floods.

The weather bureau has issued a flood watch and a severe weather warning for the area, just days after flooding claimed lives and forced dozens of evacuations in Queensland.

Heavy falls are expected to continue over the central north of NSW on Saturday, followed by a deluge over the mid-north coast.

Bourke experienced the brunt of the storm conditions on Friday night with more than 200mm falling, causing flash flooding in the district, a State Emergency Service spokeswoman said.

But half of the calls made to the emergency service were from people in Sydney's metropolitan area, she said.

"We've had approximately 40 requests for assistance across the state," the spokeswoman told AAP.

"Approximately 20 of those came from the Sydney metropolitan area - they were related to trees down."

There were no injuries reported and no threats to property, but the worst is still to come, she said.

Heavy rain was expected to hit towns such as Walgett, while further south, Tamworth and Inverell could also be affected, the manager of the Bureau of Meteorology's Flood Warning Centre Gordon McKay said.

Heavy rain was also expected on Saturday and Sunday on the mid-north and north coasts, with the area between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey likely to see falls of 150-200mm.

"We expect over the weekend a low pressure cell to develop off the coast of northern NSW, and that's likely to lead to very heavy rainfalls," Mr McKay said.

Update Mon 16/2/09 from the Sydney Morning Herald lah...............

The heavy weather has also hit some parts of the state inland. Drought-ravaged Bourke woke on Saturday morning to find itself knee-deep in water.

Residents said a thunderstorm dropping hailstones as large as golf balls had swept in on Friday evening, followed by rain that did not let up for 12 hours.

The town got 200 millimetres of rain overnight - a third of its annual rainfall, and the biggest single fall any of the residents could remember.

"I think the previous record was about five inches [125 millimetres] in one go but this has well and truly superseded this " said a local SES controller, Stephen Walsh.

The mayor, Andrew Lewis, said it was a "one-in-120-year event".

Jonathan Roe, a reporter for the The Western Herald, said some children were swimming in the streets on Saturday morning. Other residents were out in their cars touring the flooded areas, and marvelling at the sight of parts of the town submerged.

The rain cut several major highways out of town and paradoxically left residents short of drinking water. Flooding had overwhelmed the pumps that extract the town water supply from the Darling River.

The SES was still working late yesterday to clear water from 25 houses.

Farmers had mixed responses to the downpour.

A cotton grower, Ian Cole, said some of his neighbours had suffered heavy damage to cotton crops, particularly from hail. Another reported that his 1500 sheep were now having to be extracted from " black mud".

But generally graziers were happy as the rain would mean good winter grasses for stock and a "flushing out" of the Upper Darling all the way down to the Menindee Lakes.

The weather left Bourke residents scratching their heads about what would come next.

"Floods up north, and bushfires in Victoria, and here we are in a massive drought and we get two-thirds of our annual rainfall in 12 hours," Mr Walsh said. "We hope we're not going to go without for the next 12 months."

The end of certainty

All signs point to the climate becoming more extreme, write Marian Wilkinson and Ben Cubby.

When hundreds of small, grey-headed flying foxes began falling from the sky at Yarra Bend in suburban Melbourne, for some it heralded the awful events that would later unfold. It was Wednesday, January 28, one day into the ferocious heatwave that would wax and wane before returning with terrible intensity last weekend.

That first day, calls began pouring into Wildlife Victoria. As the bats were dying en masse in the city, ringtail possums were falling out of trees in the bush and distressed kangaroos, too weak to jump, were baulking at fences.

"It was just unbelievable," said Fiona Corke, a Wildlife Victoria rescuer. "The animals were behaving very strangely. We were telling people to leave dishes of water by the side of the roads."

By January 30, Melbourne's temperature topped 45.1 degrees. A climate scientist, Dr David Karoly, noticed the city's plane trees had begun to shed their leaves under the stress of the heat.

In Tasmania, half the state recorded its hottest day on record. Launceston Airport hit 39.9 degrees, well over two degrees higher than its last record temperature.

In Adelaide, in the early hours of January 29, the city experienced its hottest night on record, 33.9 degrees.

Just north of the city, the air base at RAAF Edinburgh recorded an extraordinary 41.7 degrees at 3am. "Such an event appears to be without known precedent in southern Australia," the Bureau of Meteorology said.

People began turning up in the public hospitals, felled by the heat. As the days wore on and on, heat-related hospital admissions would ultimately reach more than 700.

To climate scientists and professional forecasters, it was clear that Australia was experiencing "an extreme weather event". But few among the public realised at the time, these first awful days would be just phase one of the heatwave.

As the weather bureau would later report: "After a slight drop in temperature during the first few days of February, extreme heat returned to the south-east on February 6. Temperatures rose sharply in South Australia and western Victoria on the 6th but it was the 7th which saw the most exceptional heat of the whole event."

As the nation reels from the toll in the bushfires, climate scientists are trying to carefully assess what lessons can be learnt from the unprecedented heatwave of 2009 and the deadly fires that accompanied it.

While state authorities focus on the crucial investigations into arson, emergency advice, town planning and tree clearing, looming over all these is what role human-induced climate change is playing in Australia's weather patterns. And, critically, how much of country will become more at risk from bushfire because of climate change?

The Victorian Premier, John Brumby, bluntly acknowledged this week that climate change cannot be ignored in the future debate over the bushfires.

"There is clear evidence now that the climate is becoming more extreme," Brumby told The 7.30 Report. And, announcing a royal commission on Australia's worst natural disaster, he insisted it would look at all aspects of the events. "I want everything on the table."

On the day the bushfires started claiming lives, Melbourne reached a record 46.4 degrees for the first time in 154 years of record-keeping, overshooting the high set on Black Friday, January 13, 1939 by 0.8 degrees and far exceeding the temperature on Ash Wednesday in 1983.

Climate scientists who spoke to the Herald this week repeatedly stressed that, despite these extraordinary temperatures, one extreme weather event cannot be taken as evidence of climate change.

But nearly all made the following points. Australia has experienced a general warming trend over the past 50 years which is consistent with human-induced climate change. The south-east of Australia is also experiencing a long period of unusually dry weather which may also be related to climate change.

Both these trends will increase the number of days where the bushfire risk will be more extreme and bushfires will be more intense. Most importantly, unless global greenhouse gas emissions are curbed, these trends will get worse over the next decades.

"The projections are based on climate models which include increases in greenhouse gases and that tells us that we can expect higher temperatures and much drier conditions over southern Australia," a CSIRO bushfire researcher, Kevin Hennessy, told the Herald.

"They are two of the critical elements that are needed to create a fire. The other two are low humidity and high wind speeds. Not only are we estimating there will be an increase in the frequency of extreme fire danger days but the duration of the fire season will be longer and the intensity of some of the biggest fires may increase."

Mr Hennessy co-authored a landmark report on the increased risk of fire weather due to climate change in 2007 which was cited in the Garnaut Climate Change Review. The study defined two new categories of fire weather - "very extreme" and "catastrophic". Under a "no mitigation scenario", in which no action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there would be between five and 25 more days each year when Australians face extreme fire dangers by 2013, compared to the baseline year of 1990.

And the threat would rise quickly. By 2030, it may rise to between 15 and 65 days a year. In 2067, when Australia's average temperature may be 2.9 degrees hotter than in 1990, there would be between 100 to 300 days of extreme fire danger each year. "This effect increases over time but should be directly observable by 2020," the report noted.

The soaring heatwave temperatures last weekend, while unprecedented, are consistent with a general warming trend as a result of growing global greenhouse gas emissions. The 1990s were the warmest decade ever recorded instrumentally, and the last 100 years were the warmest of the millennium.

In 2007, Victoria recorded its warmest year on record, 1.2 degrees above the average. In the decade before, it experienced its driest years on record. Then, briefly, the end of 2007 promised relief. It was supposed to be a cooling, "La Nina" year. Rain fell in spring last year and temperatures dropped, but this summer hopes were dashed. From January 4 to February 7, virtually no rain fell in Melbourne, "equal to the second-longest dry spell on record for the city", according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The mighty forces determining Australia's climate are complex and only partly understood, but research published in the past month has added significantly to the stock of knowledge. It also overturns some of the popular understanding of the "La Nina" influence.

The University of NSW research showed that the Indian Ocean Dipole, a swirling current that circulates warm water off Australia's north-west coast, appears to have a major influence on our weather and can override La Nina.

Dr Caroline Ummenhofer and Professor Matthew England at the university's Climate Change Research Centre showed that when "positive" dipole cycles send unusually hot, dry winds down to south-east Australia, drought is often the result. The big dry that straddled the start of the 20th century and ruined thousands of outback pioneers corresponded to a positive dipole, and so did the drought that spanned World War II.

The severe drought across southern Australia, the backdrop to this week's fires, has been accompanied by a run of three positive dipoles. The researchers believe this is why the La Nina event in the Pacific in 2007-08, which traditionally brings rain, was unable to break the drought. Three consecutive positive cycles is unprecedented, Ummenhofer said. Whether this is linked to human-induced climate change needs further investigation, the researchers say. And the El Nino-La Nina cycle of warm and cool atmospheric phenomena in the Pacific will still have a major influence over Australia's climate, even though not as much as previously thought.

Another, separate force driving weather patterns in southern Australia is the haze of air pollution over Asia. The aerosol haze, a stew of industrial output, fires, exhaust fumes, dust and plankton respiration, cools Asia, acting like a shield for the sun's heat and keeping much of Asia a degree or two cooler than it would otherwise be. This can actively force changes in wind and ocean currents by changing the distribution of solar heat on the Earth's surface, said the lead researcher, Dr Leon Rotstayn, of the CSIRO's Marine and Atmospheric team.

The aerosol haze forces more heat into the monsoon winds which douse Australia's north-west. But it also contributes to a build-up of high pressure which may contribute to less rainfall across southern Australia, according to new research released by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Human-induced climate change, while separate to these overlapping forces, has the power to exacerbate them. CSIRO's Dr Penny Whetton says the long-term trend in Australia includes about 0.9 of a degree warming through the 20th century. Australia is looking at a warming of about 1 degree by 2030 and 1.5 to 4-5 degrees by 2070 unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

"You can't say we expected a 46 degree day in Melbourne this year but we would expect that it is getting increasingly easy to set new records compared to the past because of the underlying warming trend that's occurring," Whetton said.

The causes for the big dry over southern Australia are, she says, more complicated.

"The drying trend over the last 10 to 12 years is consistent with the rainfall change we are projecting using climate models. It's actually a more severe decrease than the models are projecting. At the moment it's too early to say whether its climate change-related. In all likelihood it's some combination of some influences of long-term climate change and natural fluctuations of the climate system."

Whatever the immediate causes of the bushfires, for many Australians it is a reminder of the potential risks of uncontrolled climate change.

As the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, put it last year,"As one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australia's economy and environment will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we don't act now."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hornbag interlude

In a somewhat soothing moment from all the doom, I thusly present some recently sauced local hornbags for ye enjoyment.
But stay tuned, more doom will be coming your way soon!

A deadly reminder that we must tackle climate change

Tim Flannery
February 12, 2009
The day after the great fire burnt through central Victoria, I drove from Sydney to Melbourne. Smoke obscured the horizon, entering my air-conditioned car and carrying with it that distinctive scent so strongly signifying death, or, to Aboriginal people, cleansing.

It was as if a great cremation had taken place. I didn't know then how many people had died in their cars and homes, or while fleeing, but by the time I reached the scorched ground just north of Melbourne, the dreadful news was trickling in. And the trauma will be with us forever.

I was born in Victoria, and over five decades I've watched as the state has changed. The long, wet and cold winters that seemed insufferable to me as a boy vanished decades ago, and for the past 12 years a new, drier climate has established itself. I could measure its progress whenever I flew in to Melbourne. Over the years the farm dams filled less frequently while the suburbs crept further into the countryside, their swimming pools oblivious to the great drying.

Climate modelling suggests the decline of southern Australia's winter rainfall is caused by a build-up of greenhouse gas, much of it from coal burning. Victoria has the most polluting coal power plant on earth, and another plant was threatened by the fire.

There's evidence that global pollution caused a significant change in climate after the El Nino of 1998. Along with the dwindling rainfall has come a desiccation of the soil, and more extreme summer temperatures.

This February, at the zenith of a record-breaking heatwave, Melbourne recorded its hottest day ever - a suffocating 46.1 degrees, with even higher temperatures in rural Victoria.

This extreme coincided with exceptionally strong northerly winds, followed by an abrupt change to southerly. This brought a cooling, but it was the shift in wind direction that caught so many in a deadly trap. Such conditions have occurred before. In 1939 and 1983 they led to dangerous fires. But this time the conditions were more extreme, and the 12-year "drought" meant plant tissues were bone dry.

Despite narrowly missing the 1983 Victorian fires and then losing a house to the 1994 Sydney bushfires, I had not appreciated the difference a degree or two of extra heat and a dry soil can make to the ferocity of a fire. This fire was different from anything seen before.

Australia is in shock at the loss of so many lives. But inevitably we will look for lessons. The first, I fear, is that we must anticipate more such terrible blazes, for the world's addiction to burning fossil fuels goes on unabated. And there is now no doubt that emissions pollution is laying the conditions necessary for more such fires.

When he ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, described climate change as the greatest threat facing humanity. Shaken, and clearly having seen things none of us should see, he has now witnessed proof of his words. We can only hope Australia's climate policy, which is weak, is now significantly strengthened.

Rudd has said the arsonists suspected of lighting some fires are guilty of mass murder, and the police are pursuing the malefactors. But there's an old saying among Australian firefighters: "Whoever owns the fuel owns the fire".

Let's hope Australians ponder the deeper causes of this horrible event, and change their polluting ways before it's too late.

Tim Flannery is a scientist at Macquarie University and author of The Weather Makers: The History And Future Impact Of Climate Change. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in The Guardian.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Temperature records smashed across the state

Marian Wilkinson Environment Editor

February 10, 2009

THE heatwave that accompanied the bushfires on Saturday smashed records, as much of Victoria, including Melbourne and 20 other centres, registered unprecedented highs, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

Melbourne reached 46.4 degrees on Saturday, the highest in 154 years of record-keeping, overshooting the previous high set on Black Friday - January 13, 1939 - by 0.8 degrees and far exceeding the temperature on Ash Wednesday in 1983, which was 43.2 degrees.

"We've never seen anything like this in Victoria's history," David Jones, from the bureau's National Climate Centre, said yesterday. "You don't usually break records by much. You might beat it by point one of a degree or point two."

The bureau accurately predicted the heatwave but it forecasters were still in shock yesterday over the loss of life. Soaring temperatures were accompanied by strong winds and very low humidity which created the extreme fire danger.

A review of the weekend temperatures by the bureau found many site records were set on Saturday. Geelong had a record high of 47.4 degrees compared to the old record of 44.8, which was set days earlier.

Nearly 90 per cent of the state recorded the highest February temperatures ever.

"Records being broken by that much are just unheard of," Mr Jones said. "You just don't break records with that kind of margin in a stable climate. It's an extraordinary event, this one."

The heatwave has struck southern Australia in two phases, beginning on January 28, when it lasted three days, and then returning over the weekend. Melbourne has experienced three of the hottest days on record in this recent event, according to the bureau, which has been tracking increased heatwaves across the south of the country.

"We've known it was coming," Mr Jones said. "We've had repeated, highly unusual heatwave activity in Australia in the last 10 years". In the first stage of the heatwave in January, record temperatures were set in Tasmania, when Flinders Island Airport recorded 41.5 degrees. Nearly half of Tasmania had the hottest day on record on January 30. In Launceston, three of the four warmest days on record were recorded during the heatwave, which has also been responsible for seven of the eight highest temperatures on record in Tasmania.

Extreme conditions in late January also affected Victoria, southern NSW and South Australia. Adelaide experienced its warmest night on record on January 29 when the temperature stood at 33.9 in the early hours of the morning. When the heatwave returned at the weekend, Renmark in South Australia set a February record of 48.1 degrees.

While no overall state temperature records were broken in NSW, several all-time records were set for some centres, including Wagga Wagga, where the temperature reached 45.2 for the first time.

The 2009 heatwave has also been exceptional because of its duration. Both Adelaide and Melbourne set records for the most consecutive days above 43 degrees.

Most importantly for the fire danger, the heatwave was accompanied by very dry conditions in Victoria and South Australia. Melbourne had no real rain for over a month, from January 4 to February 7, equal to the second-longest dry spell on record for the city.

Scientists warned us this was going to happen

If seeing is believing, then it's time to accept climate change, writes Freya Mathews.

IT IS only a couple of years since scientists first told us we could expect a new order of fires in south-eastern Australia, fires of such ferocity they would engulf the towns in their path.

And here they are. The fires of Saturday were not "once in 1000 years" or even "once in 100 years" events, as our political leaders keep repeating. They were the face of climate change.

They were the result of the new conditions that climate change has caused: higher temperatures, giving us hotter days, combined with lower rainfall, giving us a drier landscape. Let's stop using the word "drought", with its implication that dry weather is the exception. The desiccation of the landscape here is the new reality. It is now our climate.

People are comparing last Saturday to Ash Wednesday and Black Friday. But this misses the point. We should be comparing these fires to the vast and devastating fires of 2002-03, which swept through 2 million hectares of forest in the south-east and raged uncontrollably for weeks. They have been quickly forgotten because, being mainly in parks, they did not involve a large loss of human life or property. But it is to this fire regime, the new fire regime of climate change, rather than to the regimes of 1983 or 1939, that the present fires belong.

Saturday's events showed us the terrifying face of climate change. The heat was devastating, even without the fire.

Wildlife carers reported many incidents of heat stress and death among native animals. This means that out in the bush, unreported, vast numbers of animals were suffering. We can all see the trees and other plants dying in our gardens and parks. Our local fauna and flora have not adapted to these extremes. With wildfire, heat death becomes a holocaust, for people, for animals and for plants.

The Government is wondering how to stimulate the economy. It is planning to give away much of the surplus from boom times in handouts. It has made the usual token allocations to climate change mitigation, allocations that will in no way deflect the coming holocaust.

The Prime Minister weeps on television at the tragedy of Saturday's events. He looks around uncomprehendingly, unable to find meaning. But there is meaning. This is climate change. This is what the scientists told us would happen. All the climatic events of the past 10 years have led inexorably to this. And this is just the beginning of something that will truly, if unaddressed, overwhelm us.

As the events of Saturday showed, the consequences of climate change will make the financial crisis look like a garden party.

Yet there is a synchronicity here that must not be missed. The extraordinary economic measures for which the financial crisis is calling provide a perfect opportunity to fund the energy revolution for which the crisis of climate change is calling. If the Government does not seize it, then the terrifying world into which we were plunged on Saturday will become the world we will have to inhabit.

Freya Mathews is honorary research fellow at the philosophy department of La Trobe University

Saturday, February 7, 2009

King tide set to compound Townsville's woes

Residents in the north Queensland city of Townsville are being urged to take precautions with Sunday's king tide expected to be half a metre higher than forecast.

The Townsville Council is urging residents in low-lying areas to move their belongings to higher ground.

Mayor Les Tyrell says tide measurements this week show an abnormal increase in height.

He says experts are unsure what is causing the change.

"It's something that struck us at the last lot of king tides," he said.

"We had no warning of that and it's something that we're very keen to have a look at and see if it's a normal phenomenon or exactly what causes it.

"People did get caught out a little bit last time, so the expectation is this time that it could be up to 500 millimetres higher."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rumblings of doom...

Soon these hornbags could also be facing doom, lets hope they have been taking swimming lessons!

Antarctic shelf collapse could tilt Earth's axis: researchers

By Dan Karpenchuk in Toronto

Posted Fri Feb 6, 2009 7:00pm AEDT

A new study in Canada suggests that the collapse of a large portion of the Antarctic ice shelf would shift the very axis of the planet.
Geophysicists at the University of Toronto looked at the possible effects on the earth if sea levels rise because of a collapse of the west Antarctic ice shelf.
The Toronto researchers say the melting of the ice sheet will actually cause the earth's rotation to shift dramatically - about 500 metres from its current position if the entire ice sheet melts - and that would result in much higher sea levels in some areas than previously expected.
The researchers say the melting would change the balance of the globe in much the same way that tsunamis move huge amounts of water from one area to another.
They say that could mean water migrating from the southern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans north toward North America and into the southern Indian Ocean.
The research has been published in today's issue of the journal, Science