Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fires in Victoria & floods in Queensland

The fire scene in Victoria has become both tragic and dramatic over the past day. These are the worst fires in Australian history. As it stands at least 66 people have died and 700 families have lost their home. It is a tragedy beyond belief for those concerned - many people are under extreme stress because those close to them are still missing.  Many have lost everything in terms of homes and property.

Most - not all - of the fires are close to Melbourne.  Some are focused around my favoured nature reserves around Melbourne (Kinglake, Bunyip Forest) have suffered huge damages.  Some of the small townships in these areas now no longer exist.  Kinglake looks as if it has been bombed. Communities have been devastated - in every sense it is a disaster. 

The fires follow a dry 12 months, an extremely dry January which ended in a 4 day heatwave and temperatures on Saturday which were the highest in 155 years.  It was a scorcher but it was associated too with high winds which regrettably changed direction.  It was a terrible coincidence of circumstances. Things were not helped by arsonists who are thought to have started several blazes.

My heartfelt sympathies to those families who are affected and my praise to the outstanding efforts of the CFA many of whom have been fighting fires for a week or more.  An amazing and praiseworthy effort.

As chance would have it I am flying to North Queensland tomorrow where there have been severe floods.  I am going to Cairns where there has been flash flooding over recent hours.

What a bizarre and tragic meteorological equilibrium!

4 comments:

Tim Curtin said...

I have just watched the outrageous Tony Jones Lateline setup on the bush fire disasters in Victoria, with David Karoly (UM) and a Greg Holland (US). Karoly has no hesitation in attributing the deaths to global warming. Holland is more circumspect. Luckily one can get lie detectors from eBay these days, and running Lateline through mine Karoly emerged as a barefaced liar on every single utterance (actually I just counted the eye flickers!); Holland emerged unscathed on that score and was more circumspect overall. Even so Jones is wrong to hire only true believers. The Truth is that like Katrina the death and destruction visited those who chose to live within townships set in eucalypt plantations whose governors never made ANY attempt to establish firebreaks between the settlements and the surrounding forests. It was a programmed disaster, but Brumby's Royal Commission has already been programmed to exclude this assessment. The LIE was Karoly's refusal to admit that floods in Cairns do not prove the fire havoc in Victoria was due to AGW.

Spiros said...

Climate scientists warned years ago that climate change would lead to an increase in the severity of bushfires.

http://www.climatechange.gov.au/science/guide/pubs/chapter4.pdf

The tragic results of the malign influence of the climate change deniers are now in for all to see.

http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/2009/02/07/1233423569062.html

derrida derider said...

I reckon you're both wrong. Tim is just parading his prejudices, but Spiros' argument is more deserving of rebuttal.

Yes, Spiros, climate change will lead to more frequent bad bushfires and droughts. But they're such random events that you can't assign any one given fire or drought to wider systemic changes. You need a long series of events, not data samples containing just one observation, to show climate has changed.

And it's not only bad reasoning, it's bad tactics too. If we get a year with no serious bushfires or a wet year (which will happen sometimes even in a drier climate) then deniers like Tim are gonna say "whats good for teh goose is good for the gander" and claim its evidence against AGW.

Spiros said...

"you can't assign any one given fire or drought to wider systemic changes."

Well, I suppose if you smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for 30 years then got lung cancer one could always say that this proves nothing because you might have got lung cancer anyway.

Yes, it's just the one set of bushfires, and they've happened before.

And it's true that we could wait for another 60 years, and having seen a disastrous bushfire every 15 years, compared to every 25 years pre climate change, then say, "yes: the evidence is in".

But that would still be only four observations, and by then it will be too late to mitigate.

Unfortunately, we can't run repeated controlled experiments in the laboratory to test the hypotheses of anthropogenic climate change. We can only observe what is going on, see whether it is consistent with the predictions of the climate change models, and make judgement calls.