Most Anomalously Warm Month Ever in Australia; Early Start to Wildfire Season; Smoke over Urban Centers

syd

Smoke cloud over Sydney clearing. @TweetsByAlex

syd2

Sun trying to cut through smoke over Sydney. @newsmary

Lots more here


Australia has rolled another “13”.

Climate Central reports that September was most anomalously warm month of record in Australia; Australia has never had a month so freakishly above average. Following a wet winter, warmer-than-average conditions have also put parts of the country on watch for yet another intense wildfire season. Even though we are still in the early part of the Austral spring, serious wildfire conditions are affecting populated parts of the country.

Our friends at the Australian, careful to make no mention of climate, are currently reporting:

“The most intense fire I’ve seen for a long time,” a firefighter told Sky News.

There are also unconfirmed reports of properties being lost at Lithgow, at Yanderra and Balmoral, in the Southern Highlands, and near Port Stephens, where a fire is burning close to Newcastle Airport.

Earlier this afternoon, 595 firefighters were battling 78 bush and grass fires, 31 of them uncontained, as they braced for a southerly change.

For more information on the NSW fires please call 1800 679 737, follow @NSWRFS on Twitter or check the NSW Rural Fire Service Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nswrfs

The hottest months of the year in most of Australia are January and February; it is shaping up to be a difficult summer in Australia.

Comments:

  1. Hundreds of homes may have been lost in Thursday's fires, the worst in more than 10 years, said the Premier Barry O'Farrell.
    "It's suspected that by the time we've finished counting it [the loss of homes] will at least be in the hundreds," he said.
    It would take days to fully assess the loss, but the Premier was grateful that no lives had been lost.
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    "I suspect if we get through that without the loss of life, we should all thank God for miracles."

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/bushfires-in-nsw-worst-in-more-than-a-decade-20131017-2voyu.html#ixzz2hy5zaHHF

    Article from the SMH (main Sydney paper)

  2. I note Tony Abbott saying "Australia is a country that is prone to natural disaster but every time it strikes it hurts, and we grieve for those who are now hurting because of what has happened in New South Wales."

    Quite a pointed reference to "natural disaster" there I thought. I wonder how future generations are going to view this kind of statement?

  3. Hello Michael, can I contact you to talk about climate change policy? deltonchen@engineer.com

    The longer-term implications are that more frequent and intense forest fires show that the standing stock of vegetation and its organic organic carbon is changing. As the country warms and dries the vegetation will change. So is this a positive feedback at work? What are the CO2 emissions ?

    • mail to submissions@planet3.org will get read.

      This feedback is definitely being considered by carbon cycle people and is one of the motivations for expanding climate models into ESMs (Earth System Models).

      For various reasons I have more confidence in climate models than ESMs, and believe that these should not be coupled to climate models yet.

      As for the sign of the feedback, it depends. A forest fire is pretty much a sign of an exacerbating feedback. But the expansion of forest into the former tundra which is also happening is an ameliorating feedback. Also CO2 fertilization makes it easier for plants to grow stalks and trunks, which helps a bit. It's pretty darn complicated and the overall global effect is unclear.

      You could start with Inez Fung's home page or Pep Canadell's publications to look into this further.

      • Vegetation fire could even contribute to carbon fixation by producing recalcitrant char coal. But I doubt todays Australian forest fires do: When the fires get too hot and too frequent, soil gets eroded and not built. Burn, rinse, repeat. That's how it seems to work these days. (Any observations on Australian Eucalypt mortality? These trees like to extinguish fire with fire, in spectacular blazes of exploding eucalypt oil aerosol eating up all oxygen, thus starving the fire. But when the forest floor is too dry, thats tree-suicide.) In the old Holocene and glaciation times, steppe grass fires made for slow carbon sequestration, producing carbon rich chernozem soils over 1000s of years. In Germany there seems evidence of cernozem soil formed under forest. http://www.geo.uzh.ch/~mschmidt/downloads/Eckmeier_Geoderma_2007.pdf

  4. Earth Observatory is back up:

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=82189

    Other recent problems of note aside from typhoons etc. in the western Pacific (Francisco is looking a mite monstrous (145 mph), and headed for southern Japan), include this horror, exacerbated by the shutdown (thousands of cattle killed by out of season storms in South Dakota):

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/14/south-dakota-cattle-rancher-losses

    And Alaska sinking:

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/08/alaska-sinks--climate-change-thaws-permafrost/2794255/

    • And Florida:

      http://www.local10.com/news/seminar-held-for-rising-sea-levels-tidal-flooding/-/1717324/22486894/-/ipswjm/-/index.html

    • TENs of thousands of cattle, perhaps 100000 - not counting the unborn. This is one of the most heart wrenching natural disasters of this century. (Friends of mine have a little farm with dairy production alongside - each of their cows has a name and a distinct personality. And I thought the frozen lambs of Scotland this spring were bad.)

      The blizzard hit just days after 80-degree weather, before ranchers had moved their herds from less-protected summer grazing lands.
      (...)
      Lamphere, a former ranch hand, said the cattle lacked their warmer winter coats to protect them from wet snow that stuck to bodies already chilled by freezing rain. "They go into survival mode," he said. "Some animals walked 12 miles, breaking through fences, crossing highways, until they finally met their end."

      Unable to see, many livestock fell into ditches, quickly covered by trailing animals in a tragic chain reaction. Some animals were so weary they stood frozen in groups, eventually suffocated by piling snow. Cattle collapsed along fences, perishing from hypothermia, others hit by passing cars.

      On Saturday, snow plows moved scores of dead animals from roadways. "I found two cattle still alive laying in the road," Lamphere said. "They were just flailing on the pavement, unable to get up." He finally put them down with his .45-caliber service pistol.

      http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-dead-cattle-20131012,0,3708892.story?page=1 typical image here: http://www.ozarksfirst.com/story/100000-cattle-feared-dead-after-early-south-dakota-snowstorm/d/story/V5Nke81iqUWthz7CQ9QGFg

      (Cold comfort, the political irony...)

    • Of course it's political, UN climate honcho Figueres seems to say here:

      UN climate chief Christiana Figueres calls for global action amid NSW bushfires

      Figueres will join Bandt in being heavily criticized, possibly even by people we'd think would know better. That begs the question and leaves it hanging in the air, when does this become political? When will policymakers be expected to take ownership of the consequences of their policies and then be retained or rejected based on real-life outcomes?

      Perhaps more importantly, when will it be considered polite and not insensitive to evaluate and discuss policy outcomes and politics in their connection with the disastrous results of climate change? Maudlin sentiment is not a substitute for thinking aloud as a public. We can actual be sympathetic and perspicacious at the same time, big brains that we have.


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