Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Climate change, Fish Die-offs, algal blooms, drought and water mismanagement in the Murray Darling Basin

Rob McBride and Menindee resident, Dick Arnold stand in the Darling river, holding Murray cod that have lived through decades of droughts and floods, but could not survive this human-made disaster. Image: Kate McBride


NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair revealed the latest fish die-off has occurred at Lake Hume on the NSW-Victorian border. The numbers of dead fish are much smaller than at Menindee: perhaps about 1800 according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries. Cause of the deaths are still being investigated. Lake Hume is controlled by the Murray Darling Basin Authority and is currently 30 per cent full.

Niall Blair is trying to divert blame to drought and heatwave conditions rather than ongoing corruption (water theft) and mismanagement of water flows and over-allocation of water to upper Murray Darling basin irrigators (especially cotton), at the expense of environmental flows, to ensure the health of the Murray Darling river ecosystem through drought periods. The Australia Institute have now researched and published a discussion paper which holds the NSW Government and Murray Darling Basin Authority water mismanagement as culpable for the massive fish kill in the Darling river near Menindee.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Take 2: Climate Diary of an Australian heatwave - January 2019

Round two for extreme heat roasting of Australia this summer.

The first heatwave round ocurred over the Christmas New Year period for which I did a daily climate blog. I followed this up with some simple analysis of the Maximum temperatures for capital cities and a number of regional towns. A further article looked at Mapping the heat trend in Australia's capital cities for 2018 and future projections.

While Sydney's eastern suburbs temperatures will be in the low 30s in the coming week, residents of Penrith and Richmond in Western #Sydney will swelter through four or five days above 40C says Dean Narramore a meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology.

The heatwave will impact large regions of inland Australia with lesser impact of perhaps some extreme heat days for coastal cities and towns. Major international sporting events such as the Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne and the Tour Down Under cycling event in South Australia will see their extreme heat policies implemented.

“Particularly northern South Australia, they’re looking at maybe five days in a row above 45 and normally they might only get five or 10 a year,” meteorologist Dean Narramore said on Sunday, according to The Guardian report.

It is well past time to take rapid action on climate, to reduce emissions and set ambituous targets that are our fair share of the Paris Agreement climate goals to keep global temperatures well below 2 degrees celcius and strive to meet a 1.5C target.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Burning the carbon budget: the aviation emissions profligacy of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann


The silence on aviation emissions is deafening. And our politicians are some of the worst at exacerbating aviation emissions and climate impact from aviation.

Take Liberal Party Finance Minister Mathias Cormann for example.

His flight to Perth in June last year using a VIP jet for the forward journey contributed 9428 kg of CO₂e climate impact.

A return commercial flight business class amounts to 2355 kg of CO₂e climate impact.

The excess climate impact (and this is a very conservative figure) was 7073 kg of CO₂e climate impact.

This flight journey by Mathias Cormann was a rort at taxpayers expense and the expense of future generations through it's climate impact.

Friday, January 11, 2019

2018 third hottest on record for Australia with protracted drought, persistent heat


Australia's average temperature in 2018 was 1.14 °C above the 1961–1990 average, making it slightly warmer than 2017 said the Bureau of Meteorology in the 2018 Annual climate statement.

"When we look across all of Australia in 2018, we can see that every single state and territory had above-average day and night-time temperatures," Dr Bettio said.

"The average maximum temperature for the country as a whole was particularly warm, sitting 1.55 °C above the 1961–1990 average, making 2018 Australia's second warmest year on record for daily high temperatures.

"Average minimum temperatures for 2018 were 0.73 °C above average, the eleventh-warmest on record.

"The only part of the country to buck the trend for above average temperatures was the Kimberley region, which had cooler than average nights for the year."

On temperatures 2018 was Australia's third-warmest year on record; a year of protracted drought and persistent warmth.

Meanwhile, Australia still has no effective climate or energy policy, no consistent plan to phase out coal or gas fossil fuels, no plan to reduce transport emissions, a problem with increased vegetation clearing in Queensland and New South Wales. Australia's emissions are rising over the last 4 years and Environment department Data shows that Australia is unlikely to meet it's low 26 percent emissions reduction target by 2030.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mapping the heat trend in Australia's capital cities for 2018 and future projections


The Is it hot right now? website provides a daily view on daily average temperatures for Australian capital cities, comparing the average temperature to it's history for that day, to see where it sits in the distribution of temperatures typical for the time of year.

The site was developed by climate researchers Mathew Lipson, Steefan Contractor and James Goldie. The data comes from the Bureau of Meteorology's ACORN-SAT.

Mat Lipson provided the Yearly average temperature charts and the 2018 heat maps for each city. The trend in rising temperatures is clearly visible in each. I have added details for each city of future projections done by CSIRO in 2015.

In the year heat maps for each city you can still see the fluctuations in temperature due to weather events, but the cold days (blue) are getting rarer, and the hot days (red) are getting more common, a telling sign of the long term climate temperature trend affecting all regions of Australia.

Australia's Christmas-New Year heatwave as global warming at 1.1C above pre-industrial


I followed the heatwave over the Christmas - New Year period at the end of 2018 and start of 2019. Read my climate diary of the event.

I did some charting of temperature maximums for capital cities and a few regional observation points for each state. My selection may not be fully representative of regional temperatures.

The heatwave for most areas really commenced from 24 December. It ended at various dates: on 4 January for South Australia, 5th January for Victoria and Northern Territory, 6th January for New South Wales. Temperatures have remained high in Marble Bar in the Pilbara, and although temperatures have dipped a little, remain elevated in the high 30s for Central Australia and Central Queensland.

The heat has retreated from the south east states to again build in the Pilbara and central Australia for the next blast of heat to the south eastern population centres probably from the 14 January.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

North Queensland Extreme Heatwave impacts koala population

I was scanning for news articles on heatwave impacts and came across this article on Koalas by ABC Capricornia.

It's a well written, but quite an alarming story By Alice Roberts and Jacquie Mackay: Koalas in trouble after Queensland's bushfires and heatwave, expert warns.

According to one CQUniversity academic, extreme heatwave and bushfire conditions could have major long-term impacts on animal numbers in Queensland. Alistair Melzer, a CQUniversity koala researcher, told the ABC that it could be years before the full impact is known.

And we have the iconic image of Chantelle Lowrie in Victoria giving a koala a drink from her water bottle in the 44C late December heat. (See my December 30 entry of Climate Diary of a heatwave)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Australia performs very poorly in 2019 Climate Change Performance Index



Australia was ranked 55 out of 60 countries in the Climate Change Performance Index published in December 2018 during COP24 UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland.

The index shows only a few countries have started to implement strategies to limit global warming well below 2 or even 1.5°C. The countries of Sweden and Morocco are leading the field.

While there is a continued growth and competitiveness of renewable energy, especially in countries that had low shares before, the CCPI shows a lack of political will of most governments to phase out fossil fuels with the necessary speed.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Climate Diary of an extreme heatwave across Australia and climate heat impacts



The Bureau of Meteorology in the lead up to christmas in 2018 showed a heatwave building through the week. The forecast was for severe and extreme heatwave impacts particularly Thursday 27 December to Saturday 29 December.

A blocking high in the Tasman and strong heat from the Pilbara in Western Australia and right through Central Australia, will periodically extend tendrils of sweltering heat to encompass the major population centres of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

While these cities may get occasional relief from weak cold fronts and coastal sea breezes, inland towns will swelter in the scorthing heat with temperatures in the mid to high 30s and low 40s.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Paris Agreement Rulebook (mostly) delivered at COP24 but ambition still lacking



Well The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice - COP24 - did give us a deal, it did provide the Paris Rulebook (mostly), but it failed to substantially increase ambition.

For the moment it kept the momentum of the Paris Agreement Moment alive, despite the climate denial of the Trump administration, and despite Brazil's new President elect Jair Bolsanaro.

The negotiations were highly technical focusing on the detail of the Paris Agreement, the so called rule book for how to apply, implement and operationalize the agreement signed in Paris three years ago. The UNFCCC works by consensus by the 197 parties, so achieving agreement is always difficult, and when it gets down to the fine details even more so.

The science has become very clear that we need to rapidly act to reduce emissions, so the glacial pace of negotiations is very frustrating. Delays and incremental advancement is as good as failure.