Tag Archives: australia

Australia Solar Thermal Plant: Messed up reporting

SolarReserve will build, for the South Australia government, a solar thermal plant rated at 150 MW, which is about 25 MW more than that government uses currently. Over time, assuming Australia goes all on clean and green, the amount of electricity used by South Australia will increase substantially, but for now, this plant will provide the extra to the regional grid.

A solar plant is a way of making the use of solar more full time. Instead of just producing electricity by sunlight, perhaps storing some in batteries, it uses sunlight to produce heat, which is then used to run a turbine all day and all night, and across periods of cloudiness (which are rare in the case of this particular plant’s location).

Putting it another way, this kind of plant solves the problem that clean energy tends to be intermittent. Putting it still another way, this kind of plant reduces the need to store electricity that may be overproduced or produced irregularly by photovoltaic solar or wind plants.

But the reporting of this story sadly demonstrates counterproductive lousy anti-clean energy commentary delivered in an envelope of crap reporting (because the reporter did not understand the story enough to ask the right questions). Here is a quote from the story in The Guardian

<blockquoteWasim Saman, professor of sustainable ernergy engineering at the University of South Australia, said solar thermal was a more economical way of storing energy than using batteries.

“The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand,” he said.

But Dr Matthew Stocks, a research fellow in the research school of engineering at the Australian National University, said solar thermal also had limits.

“One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat. If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro,” he said..

No. Investing in this kind of plant is a move to reduce the problem of storage.

Show me an article about a new nuclear power plant, an upgrade to a coal plant, or a new natural gas plant, that mentions that these technologies are not batteries. This is nothing other than a senseless contrary opinion pulled out of the nether regions of a reporter’s notebook. The search for false balance continues even at the Guardian, which really should know better.

First Known Climate Change Extinction

When the sea levels rose following the last major glaciation, most rapidly between around 18,000 and 10,000 years ago, somewhat less rapidly until about 6,000 years ago, a lot of interesting things happened.

I used to live, and do archaeology in, New England (the one in the US). It was always fun to contemplate George’s Bank. George’s Bank is a high place out in the ocean, not far from Boston. If you’ve ever been whale watching off P-town, you were probably out on George’s Bank, where the baleen whales forage and frolic, and are easily found during the right season. This is also a great fishing ground.

But prior to the melting of the glaciers and the rising of the seas, George’s Bank was an island, and initially, a rather large one. It is almost certainly true that at the time Clovis Period native Americans were in the area, George’s bank was readily accessible by modest water craft, and very likely colonized by them. But, over time, the island would have become smaller and smaller, and eventually, inundated. Anyone who lived there would have to move. A similar story happened all along the East Coast of the US. In m view, this is one of the most under-studied and under-appreciated “events” in North American prehistory, and likely relates to numerous observations in coastal prehistoric archaeology. But, perhaps owing to the deeply seated (seemingly hard wired and primordial) belief that the sea does not change even when we know it does change, this has not been developed sufficiently as an academic topic. Someone please do so.

George's Bank. The entire continental shelf, shown here, was exposed during lowest sea level (excepting areas to the north where the land was depressed by vast quantities of glacial ice).
George’s Bank. The entire continental shelf, shown here, was exposed during lowest sea level (excepting areas to the north where the land was depressed by vast quantities of glacial ice).

Anyway, that’s an interesting story, and versions of this happened all over world for thousands of years at the close of the last glacial. And, starting about now (geologically speaking), some version or another of this story will be happening for the next several centuries or so, as sea levels begin once again to rise rapidly, because we are polluting the earth.

Entire island nations will disappear, and entire ecological systems will vanish. But first, the canaries have to die.

And the first canary, that we know of, is Melomys rubicola, aka the Braqmble Cay Melomys. Bramble Cay is a very tiny atoll that is part of the Great Barrier Reef, and it has been inundated by human caused sea level rise. The Brable Cay Melomys is a rodent that lived only there. Lived.

Michelle Innis, writing in the New York Times, quotes the local expert:

“The key factor responsible for the death of the Bramble Cay melomys is almost certainly high tides and surging seawater, which has traveled inland across the island,” Luke Leung, a scientist from the University of Queensland who was an author of a report on the species’ apparent disappearance, said by telephone. “The seawater has destroyed the animal’s habitat and food source.”

“This is the first documented extinction of a mammal because of climate change,” he said.

Go read Michelle’s report, HERE, it is quite unsettling. Then imagine similar scenarios of permanent disappearance. Times a thousand. No, times a million. You won’t be able to keep track.

“This is the worst coral bleaching episode in Australia’s history”

Corals are ocean-dwelling invertebrates in the same phylum as jellyfish. Corals are tiny and create an exoskeleton that is fixed to something hard, like the remains of previously existing corals. So these organisms build up a geological stratum, a reef, beneath the surface of the sea, often close enough that parts of the reef are exposed at the lowest water level. The coral reef system is the substrate for one of the Earth’s major ecological zones.

Corals are symbiotic with a single celled dinoflagellate, a kind of algae that combines available nutrients such as ammonia and the photosynthetic process using sunlight to grow, maintain, and reproduce. These algae provide the coral with nutrients, and the waste products produced by the corals are the nutrients used by the dinoflagellates. Depending on the species, corals may also trap tiny organisms and eat them. There are many species of both symbionts, there are multiple possible combinations of symbionts that work, and it is all very complex.

Under certain conditions, the corals are unable to provide the symbiont algae with nutrients, so the latter either die or simply abandon the relationship. Reduction in nutrients provided by the dinoflagellates further reduces the coral’s bioactivity, worsening the situation, in a kind of downward spiral.

The algae symbionts provide the coral structure with its famous color, so when they abandon the relationship, the primary color of the coral structure is white, so the process is referred to as bleaching.

There are a lot of things that can cause bleaching, including disease, physical damage by storms, changes in water chemistry, and warming of the waters. Sea temperatures are elevated because of surface warming caused by human released greenhouse gas pollution, so corals around the tropics are generally more susceptible to bleaching than they have been in known history, and many mass bleaching events have been observed over the last 20 years or so. During El Niño years, ocean temperatures in certain regions can go even higher, so El Niño years are typically associated with numerous mass bleaching events. This year, we have extremely elevated ocean temperatures caused by anthropogenic global warming, in combination with an exceptionally strong El Niño, and this has caused the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest reef ecosystem, to crash.

According to the University of Queensland Global Change Institute Director Ove Hoeghguldberg, “From the tip of Cape York to the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef in the east to the Kimberley’s in the west and Sydney Harbour in the south, Australia’s corals are bleaching like never before. This is the worst coral bleaching episode in Australia’s history, with reports of coral dying in places that we thought would be protected from rising temperatures.”

Coral scientist Tyrone Ridgeway adds, “Previously, scientists thought the reefs off Western Australian could withstand bleaching and that southern waters around Sydney would be too cool for bleaching — this year has shown that is not the case. It will already take several decades for coral reefs to recover from this bleaching event.”

As noted, coral reefs form the basis for a major ecosystem, but also, for a major economy. There are lots of places in the world that people visit almost entirely for the corals, or some natural feature related to the corals. In Australia, some 69,000 people are employed in a five billion dollar industry of coral ecotourism and aquaculture.

Reefs can recover. Somewhere out there on the reef there are a few surviving corals, and a few surviving dinoflagellates. If conditions return to normal, they may start to recolonize the reef surface. However, it is also possible that the coral ecosystem can be replaced with an algae mat ecosystem across large areas. Living coral reefs maintain their relative position in relation to the sea surface, and thus provide barrier effects and control the geomorphology of a huge ecosystem. An algae mat ecosystem would presumably erode more than grow (except in very protected areas), and between that and sea level rise, the barrier effect would be significantly reduced.

Also, it takes months to years for recovery to occur, and the worse the bleaching the longer it takes. We are probably entering an era where heat stress bleaching will become much more common, and more severe when it does occur. At the same time, severe and physically large tropical storms are becoming much more common in the Pacific, so the chance of a second hit from this effect during recovery is increased. In other words, over the next few decades, a major reef like the Great Barrier Reef may become bleached more often than not over much of its area. Eventually, as sea temperatures continue to warm, it may simply become impossible to maintain such reefs.

There is some hope in that dinoflagellates that can withstand warmer conditions could become predominant, or even evolve. Perhaps in a few centuries from now, reefs will adjust to new conditions. On the other hand, climate change results in higher variability of temperature conditions, not just an increase, which would make such an adaptation difficult. Keep in mind that during recent history of life (over a few hundred million years or so) there have always been reefs, but not always made and maintained by corals. The organisms that produce this important ecosystem have, in the past, gone extinct and been replaced by entirely different systems, several times. That replacement was unlikely to have been a neat and efficient process.

More information here.

Crocodile Nomadism: Size Matters

Every now and then an animal shows up where it is unexpected. Why just the other day a black bear had to be coaxed out of a tree down by the middle school, a couple of blocks form here. Even though our marshes, woodlands, and small patches of prairie house cougars, coyotes, deer, and all the smaller critters, both bears and wolves are not at present endemic to the Twin Cities suburbs.

When the unexpected appearance of a wild animal happens, there are usually one three factors at play. A migratory animal (typically a bird) is a bit off course, or lands where it normally flies over. The loon in the puddle by the gas station a couple of years ago, the rosette spoonbill up at the lake a few years ago, etc. A second reason, often used to explain moose in Massachusetts several years back, until it was realized that they were simply moving into the region, is disease. Some brain disease cause some mammals to wander aimlessly and that could result in the animal wandering far out of its range. The third reason which almost always applies, I think, to the occasional wolf or bear sighting ’round these parts, is dispersal. Without dispersal, nothing would be anywhere. Obviously. (Dispersal is linked to expansion of range, of course.)

And that, dispersal, is probably what is going on when a 3 meter long crocodile shows up at your barbecue in Queensland Australia. That, and of course, the steaks on the barbie which are irresistible to megafauna carnivores.

A team of researchers led by Craig Franklin, of the University of Queensland has been tracking crocodiles in the region for several years now. They discovered that smaller crocs don’t wander much, and the largest ones, those approaching five meters, don’t either. The small crocs are hiding out in good spots, and the larger ones are highly territorial, dominating a particular water hole. The in between size, mainly around 3 – 3.5 meters, are the the most nomadic. Some have traveled up to 1,000 kilometers over a year’s time, and up to 60 kilometers a day.

The team is now upgrading their equipment to include tracking devices that last longer.

You can observe the movements of some of their research subjects at the Franklin Eco-laboratory web site, here.

Bjorn Lomborg’s WSJ Response to Nixing of Australian Project

Bjorn Lomborg has written an Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal lamenting the decision of the University of Western Australia (UWA) to nix previously developed plans to accept a $4 million dollar payment from the conservative Australian government, to be matched by university money, to implement a version of Lomborg’s Copenhagen Institute there, to be known as Australia Consensus.

See: Bjorn Lomborg Is Wrong About Bangladesh And Sea Level Rise

See: Bjørn Lomborg WSJ Op Ed Is Stunningly Wrong

See: Are electric cars any good? Lomborg says no, but he’s wrong.

Lomborg’s scholarship in the area of climate and energy related policy has been repeatedly criticized and often described as far less than adequate. A typical Bjorn Lomborg missive on climate or energy policy seems to include instance after instance of inaccuracies, often taking the form of a statement of fact with a citation, where that fact or assertion is not to be found in the citation. Many regard his policies as “luke warm.” From the highly regarded Sketpical Science web site:

…examples of Luckwarmers include Matt Ridley, Nic Lewis, and Bjorn Lomborg. The University of Western Australia has been caught up in a major Luckwarmer controversy, having taken federal funds to set up a center from which Lomborg was expected to argue that the government’s money would be better spent on issues other than curbing global warming. In a sign that even Stage 3 climate denial is starting to become untenable, the resulting uproar forced the university to cancel plans for the center.

The UWA project received a great deal of critisim, and was seen by many as a move by Big Fossil to water down academic and government response to the critical issue of climate change. Graham Readfearn, writing for The Guardian, notes:

Danish political scientist and climate change contrarian Bjørn Lomborg says the poorest countries in the world need coal and climate change just isn’t as big a problem as some people make out.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott says “coal is good for humanity” and there are more pressing problems in the world than climate change, which he once described as “crap” but now says he accepts.

So it’s not surprising then that the latter should furnish the former with $4 million of taxpayer funds to start an Australian arm of Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre (CCC) at the University of Western Australia’s business school.

The Australian project was shut down after severe criticism from the global academic community as well as students and faculty within UWA. Predictably, Lombog had characterized this as an attack on free debate. From the Op Ed, “Opponents of free debate are celebrating. Last week…the University of Western Australia canceled its contract to host a planned research center, Australia Consensus, intended to apply economic cost-benefit analysis to development projects—giving policy makers a tool to ensure their aid budgets are spent wisely.

While Lomborg blames “activists” for shutting down the center, it is more widely believed that the project was criticized because, based on prior work done by Lomborg, any ensuing “cost-benefit analyses” would be academically weak and policy-irrelevant.

Central to the difference in overall approach (aside from allegations of poor scholarship) between Lomborg and many others is how poor or developing nations should proceed over coming decades. Lomborg seems to advocate that these nations go through the same economic and technological evolution as developed nations, building an energy infrastructure based mainly on fossil fuels, in order to industrialize and reach the standard of living presumed desired by those who live in those nations. The alternative, of course, is that development in these regions be done with lessons learned from the industrialized and developed world. We don’t ask rural Kenyans to install a wire-based analog phone system before using modern digital cell phone systems. With respect to energy, developing regions should implement clean energy with smart distribution rather than building hulking coal plants and committing for centuries to come to expensive and extensive electric grid systems that are now generally regarded as outdated.

Lomborg says enough about mitigating climate change effects, and developing green energy technologies, to be able to suggest that he supports these ideas when he is pushed up against the wall, as with the nixing of the Australian project. But his regular statements on specific policy points, frequent and well documented, tell a different story.

Lomborg claims that much of the policy development of the Copenhagen Institute is not even about climate change. To the extent that this is true, it may be part of the problem. As development occurs, energy is key. With development of energy technologies, climate change is key. Lomborg’s approach that the Copenhagen projects are mostly not about climate change is not an argument that he is doing something right. It is evidence that he is doing something wrong, and at the same time, is apparently unaware of this.

It is very important to remember, as this conversation unfolds, that the objections to Lomborg’s work, and to spending vast sums of money to support it, are only partly because of differences in approach. These objections also come from two other things. One is a sense that Lomborg is detached from scholarship and good analysis.

Graham Readfearn has documented academic response to Lomborg’s work. Here is one example:

Dr Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Ecnomics and Policy at the Australian National University, was once invited to write a paper for Lomborg’s centre in 2008, which was sharply critical of how the cost of the impacts of climate change were treated.

He told me:

Within the research community, particularly within the economics community, the Bjorn Lomborg enterprise has no academic credibility. It is seen as an outreach activity that is driven by specific set of objectives in terms of bringing particular messages into the public debate and in some cases making relatively extreme positions seem more acceptable in the public debate.

And, regarding energy policy vis-a-vis the Big Fossil,

…we had a look at Lomborg’s claims that the world’s poorest were crying out for more fossil fuels which, Lomborg argued, were the only real way they could drag themselves out of poverty…the positions Lomborg takes on these issues are underpinned by a nasty habit of picking the lowest available estimates of the costs of climate change impacts.

Last year, when Lomborg spoke to a coal company-sponsored event in Brisbane in the shadow of the G20 talks, Lomborg suggested that because the International Energy Agency (IEA) had developed one future scenario that saw growth in the burning of coal in poor countries, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa, that this somehow meant that fossil fuels were just what they needed.

Yet Lomborg ignored an important rejoinder to that assessment, which had come from the IEA itself, and which I pointed out at the time.

The IEA said its assessment for Africa was consistent with global warming of between 3C and 6C for the continent by the end of this century.

Lomborg’s prior written works could be, and actually have been (I am told), used in coursework on analytical approaches to policy as bad, not good, examples. And, although Lomborg often associates himself with Nobel Prize Winners (and rarely fails to note that) he is not known as a high powered, influential scholar in his area. A recent citation analysis of Lomborg’s work backs up that concern:

…I combed through his Google Scholar entries and dumped all the duplicates, I ignored all the magazine and newspaper articles (e.g., you can’t count opinion editorials in The Wall Street Journal as evidence of an academic track record), I cut out all non-articles (things Lomborg hadn’t actually written), omitted any website diatribes (e.g., blog posts and the like) and calculated his citation profile.

Based on my analysis, Lomborg’s Google Scholar h-index is 4 for his peer-reviewed articles. If I was being particularly generous and included all of Lomborg’s books, which have by far the most citations, then his h-index climbs to 9. However, none of his books is peer-reviewed, and in the case of his most infamous book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, it has been entirely discredited. As such, any reasonable academic selection committee would omit any metrics based on opinion-based books.

So, the best-case scenario is that Lomborg’s h-index is no more than 4. Given his appointment to Level D (Associate Professor) at a world-class university, the suggestion that he earned it on academic merit is not only laughable, it’s completely fraudulent. There is no way that his academic credentials had anything to do with the appointment.

Even a fresh-out-of-the-PhD postdoc with an h-index of only 3 or 4 would have trouble finding a job. As a rule of thumb, the h-index of a Level D appointment should be in the 20–30 range (this would vary among disciplines). Despite this variation, Lomborg’s h-index is so far off the mark that even accounting for uncertainty and difference of opinion, it’s nowhere near a senior academic appointment.

The other problem people see with Lomborg’s efforts is the sense that the Copenhagen Institute is a bit of a sham, and that Lomborg is not selling informed expertise, but rather, snake oil. From a recent analysis of the status of the Copenhagen Consensus Center:

Copenhagen Consensus Center is a textbook example of what the IRS calls a “foreign conduit” and it frowns strongly on such things. It may also frown on governance and money flows like this…


…more than 60% went directly to Lomborg, travel and $853K promotion of his movie. According to Wikipedia it grossed $63K…

Even in a simple US charity, poor governance and obvious conflicts of interest are troublesome, but the foreign element invokes stringent extra rules. Legitimate US charities can send money to foreign charities, but from personal experience, even clearly reasonable cases like foreign universities require careful handling. It is unclear that Lomborg himself is a legitimate charity anywhere, but most of the money seems under his control. One might also wonder where income taxes are paid.

CCC seems to break many rules. Foreign citizen Lomborg is simultaneously CCC founder, president, and highest-paid employee. Most people are a little more subtle when trying to create conduits…

This is apparently the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Consensus Center USA, 262 Middlesex St, Lowell MA .
This is apparently the Copenhagen Consensus Center, Copenhagen Consensus Center USA, 262 Middlesex St, Lowell MA .
Both the flow of money and sources matter when thinking about a non profit research or policy institution. From DeSmog Blog:

A billionaire “vulture capitalist” and major backer of the US Republican Party is a major funder of the think tank of Danish climate science contrarian and fossil fuels advocate Bjørn Lomborg, DeSmogBlog has found.

New York-based hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s charitable foundation gave $200,000 to Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) in 2013, latest US tax disclosures reveal.

That was about a third of the CCC’s donations for the year 2013.

Lomborg, who claims to not be a climate skeptic, is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and the book and movie “Cool It

Western Australia is Baking

For the first time, ambient temperature in this part of Australia has been measured at just below 50 degrees above zero C. That is 122 degrees F. Hot.

This is near Shark Bay, which is already hot. So hot, normally, that the bay has a very high evaporation rate, causing the water to be very saline, too saline for snails to live, and thus, this is one of the only places in the world where you can find stromalites. This is also where the dolphins showed up one day to play with the humans, and continued to do this regularly. It became an important dolphin study site for that. Oh, and there are sharks. But I digress. The climate news from the area:

“It looks like we might get some 49s but with the observational network pretty sparse out there, it’s probably unlikely that we’ll actually observe a 50,” Mr Hicks said

Current modelling suggests the heat will linger in the region, extending the area of potential 50-degree condition to the Pilbara by Friday.

“The longer the air sits over the land, the more it heats up,” Mr Hicks said. “It just sits there and just bakes … Those poor buggers living out there tend to swelter for quite a few days in a row.”

Australia has recorded just three days of 50-degree heat since instruments were standardised nationally with the bureau’s formation in 1910. The most recent was on February 20, 1998, when the mercury hit 50.5 degrees in the Pilbara town of Mardie.

The bureau sparked international interest two years ago when it updated its weather charts to add temperature coding for both 50-52 degrees and 52-54 degrees.

Heat records are expected to continue to tumble as global warming pushes up background conditions, climate experts say.

But there is some good news.

A possible category-one cyclone forming off the Kimberley coast will help break up that region’s extreme heat if it pushes moisture and clouds into the Pilbara, Mr Duke said.

Australia’s BoM no AGW, Tasmanian Fire Video, and a Koala. #BigAussieHeat

First, a word about the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s position on climate change, heat, and fires. It has been suggested (by a commenter here) that the BoM is claiming that the current heat wave is not related to climate change, but rather, a matter of natural variability and a late arriving monsoon. But that is not true. The BoM has a different take on the current situation. From Ben Cubby, an Australian journalist:

The heatwave that has scorched the nation since Christmas is a taste of things to come, with this week’s records set to tumble again and again in the coming years, climate scientists said.

The hottest average maximum temperature ever recorded across Australia – 40.33 degrees, set on Monday – may only stand for 24 hours and be eclipsed when all of Tuesday’s readings come in. Previously, that record had stood since December 21, 1972.

‘‘The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent – is now unprecedented in our records,’’ the Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring and prediction, David Jones, said.

‘‘Clearly, the climate system is responding to the background warming trend. Everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.’’

Read the rest of that report here.

Jones goes on to say that record-breaking temperatures will become more common in years to come, owing to global warming, though of course there will still be ups and downs because natural variation will be riding on top of a warming temperature baseline. He also notes that the changes in weather and effects on agriculture, water availability and general human health are playing out pretty much as predicted by scientists in numerous studies over the last several years. The article by Cubby also goes on to say that 2013 may end up being the hottest year on record.

It is interesting to note that Australian meteorologists have been forced to add a new color to their weather maps in order to depict the extremely warm temperatures. (The image at the top of this post uses the new color, or as they say in Australia, “colour.”

Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground notes in a recent blog post:

The high temperature averaged over Australia was 105°F (40.3°C), eclipsing the previous record of 104°F (40.2°C) set on 21 December 1972. Never before in 103 years of record keeping has a heat wave this intense, wide-spread, and long-lasting affected Australia. The nation’s average high temperature exceeded 102°F (39°C) for five consecutive days January 2 – 6, 2013–the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910.

Naturally, as with anything that happens in Australia or America, the heat wave is causing an international incident. Get Energy Smart Now notes:

Some might say that those ‘Down Under’ have a competitive streak with Americans — great allies but truly ecstatic when an Aussie beats an American at the Olympics. At times, however, competition can go too far. And, such is the case with the #BigAussieHeat. After the United States set massive numbers of high temperature records in 2012 … it seems that Australia is on the path to top America’s nightmarish heat wave conditions with environmental conditions.

Next thing you know the’ll be trying for the America’s Cup again!

And now, from this report, a video on Bush Fires in Tasmania:

And, rescuing a Koala:

Anthropogenic global warming: It’s real, and it is impacting us now.

Thanks to Stephan Lewandowsky, who has been providing me with very useful information about the situation down under, where he and his family are sweltering.

More on Climate Change Here.

The Australian Heat Wave

Australia is experiencing a heat spell. The Climate Information Services of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has issued a special statement (I’ll provide some details below). This is not unexpected, since over the last few years global warming due to the human release of large amounts of fossil Carbon into the atmosphere has been heating everything up. In fact, a paper that came out mid (southern) winter 2008 predicted that by the end of the century, extreme high temperatures in Australia would reach 50 degrees or more. I’ll provide some data for that too. But first, since most of the readers of this blog live in the US I’ll provide a table showing the relationship between degrees F an degrees C.

20 68
30 86
40 104
50 122

So, when you reach 50C … well, there are recipes that are called “cooking” that use temperatures in that range.

ResearchBlogging.orgThe 2008 paper found the that we can expect extreme high temperature “values in excess of 50°C in Australia, India, the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and equatorial and subtropical South America at the end of the century.” The paper simulates future climate by looking at past and present conditions and factoring in the expected temperature changes from the ECHAM5/MPI-OM climate model which is a combination of the IPCC atmospheric general circulation model (ECHAM5) and MPI-OM ocean-sea ice component developed at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology. You can read the gory details here (PDF).

That work was done a few years ago, and one of the things I’ve noticed about predictions of future climate change done over the last five or six years is that they are under-estiamtes. If a 2008 paper says Australia will be hitting highs of 50 degrees C by 2095, then based on this heuristic (and it is merely a heuristic but so far one that is working pretty well) you might expect regular extremes higher than 50 degrees C in Oz by 2030 or so. (That uses the Thumsuck Climate Model technique in which we divide all the conservative estimates by three.)

We’ll see. I’m sure that work will be revised and updated soon enough and we’ll have a better model to work with. Meanwhile, climate science denialists are already cooking up a conspiracy theory in which evidence of an extremely warm period in the 19th century was erased by the Australian Scientists and NASA so we would think things are warmer now than today when in fact the warmest period was prior to WW I. Look for that, and laugh, because it is funny. (Not “funny ha ha,” so much. More like “funny, why are they still doing this?”)

So, what has been going on in Australia over the last few months and what is going to happen over the next several days? It’s been hot and it is going to be hot. From the BoM:

Large parts of central and southern Australia are currently under the influence of a persistent and widespread heatwave event. This event is ongoing with further significant records likely to be set. …

The last four months of 2012 were abnormally hot across Australia, and particularly so for maximum (day-time) temperatures. For September to December … the average Australian maximum temperature was the highest on record with a national anomaly of +1.61 °C, slightly ahead of the previous record of 1.60 °C set in 2002 (national records go back to 1910). In this context the current heatwave event extends a four month spell of record hot conditions affecting Australia. These hot conditions have been exacerbated by very dry conditions affecting much of Australia since mid 2012 and a delayed start to a weak Australian monsoon. … The current heatwave event commenced with a build up of extreme heat in the southwest of Western Australia from 25-30 December 2012 … Particularly hot conditions were observed on the 30th, with Cape Naturaliste observing 37.7 °C, its hottest December day in 56 years of record. From 31 December the high pressure system began to shift eastward … Temperatures reached 47.7 °C at Eyre on the 2nd its hottest day in 24 years of record, while Eucla recorded 48.2 °C on the 3rd, its hottest day since records began in 1957. … Hobart experienced a minimum temperature of 23.4 °C on the 4th (its hottest January night on record), followed by a maximum of 41.8 °C (its hottest maximum temperature on record for any month in 130 years of records) and the highest temperature observed anywhere in southern Tasmania.

The report includes the following two figures:

The maximum temperature anomaly from the 1961-1990 average for the last week of December (the start of the heatwave event in Western Australia). Units are °C.
The maximum temperature anomaly from the1961-1990 average for January 1 to 6. Units are °C.

According to the most recent news reports, things are pretty hard for people in Australia but there have been few deaths, possibly only one so far, due to heat as yet recorded. This is probably because Australia is in fact a fairly hot and dry country. This is not the same as a heatwave in the Upper Midwest in the US where conditions are different, the population may be more vulnerable, and there are a lot more people per unit area and heat waves often result in dozens, sometimes hundreds, of deaths.

As mentioned in an earlier post, fires have also been an issue in Australia. For example:

Fires are already burning in five states as a search continued for people missing after devastating wildfires in the island state of Tasmania.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured Tasmanian townships and promised emergency aid for survivors.

Residents told of a “fireball” that engulfed communities across the thinly-populated state at the weekend.
“The trees just exploded,” local man Ashley Zanol told Australian radio, recounting a wall of flames that surrounded his truck as he carted water to assist fire crews in Murdunna.

The township was largely levelled in the inferno.

Global warming. Not just a theory any more.

More discussion of climate change here.


SPECIAL CLIMATE STATEMENT 43: Extreme January heat. Last update 7 January, 2013. Climate Information Services. Bureau of Meteorology

Sterl, A., Severijns, C., Dijkstra, H., Hazeleger, W., Jan van Oldenborgh, G., van den Broeke, M., Burgers, G., van den Hurk, B., Jan van Leeuwen, P., & van Velthoven, P. (2008). When can we expect extremely high surface temperatures? Geophysical Research Letters, 35 (14) DOI: 10.1029/2008GL034071

Global Warming Moves South #BigAussieHeat

Summer is coming on strong south of the Equator, and in Australia this has meant unprecedented record high temperatures, and in the state of Tasmania, severe brush fires that have destroyed numerous homes, adding to the bad news from fires in the southeastern mainland. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said “And while you would not put any one event down to climate change … we do know that over time as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events.” That is not exactly true, of course. There are no climate related events that lack the fingerprint of global climate change. Certain events would have occurred in some for or another in the absence of climate change but the chance of any given event is increased, and the potential severity of every single event is increased because of the Earth’s increased temperature from the human release of fossil Carbon into the atmosphere and other related causes.

My colleague Stephan Lewandowsky, of the University of Western Australia just sent me these observations, which have not yet been made public but will be verified shortly: “Never before in recorded history has Australia experienced 5 consecutive days of national-average maximum temperatures above 39C. Until today. And this heat is expected to continue for another 24-48 hours, extending the new record run to 6 or even 7 days. For context, the previous record of 4 days occurred once only (1973) and 3 days has occurred only twice (1972,2002).”

Here’s a map of the temperatures country wide yesterday:

Weather Data from Australia

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