Day Zero arrives in Australian towns; unprecedented and widespread heatwave kills marine life.
Australian fires continue to rage on the island continent as yet another looming record-breaking heatwave bears down on the land down under.
The unrelenting heatwaves on marine and freshwater river systems alike are raising concerns of another carbon-related feedback not included in climate models. The most recent event was occurring in Western Australia. Fish and other marine life are vulnerable to changes in temperatures.
Western Australia's coastline is in the midst of the most widespread marine heatwave it has experienced since reliable satellite monitoring began in 1993.
The warm waters are believed to have contributed to a number of fish kills in the past month.
“Particularly in the last two weeks or so the ocean temperatures have been increasing — they're about two degrees warmer than what is normal for December,” University of Western Australia coastal oceanography Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi said.
A marine heatwave is defined as five or more days when sea surface temperatures are warmer than 90 per cent of the previous observations at the same time of year.
The waters off WA met that threshold this week
Researchers found that a 2010 heatwave in western Australia caused a massive carbon bomb that ravaged seagrass meadows releasing carbon stored for thousands of years. The seagrass is a carbon store sequestering dissolved carbon into the sediment. It’s loss released millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
Michael Slezak writes in The Guardian.
“Despite seagrasses having thrived over millennia in Shark Bay, unprecedented widespread losses occurred in the austral summer of 2010/2011,” the authors wrote in their paper published in Nature Climate Change.
The stored carbon is released when the dead seagrass allows oxygen to penetrate the layers of dead seagrass, changing the bacteria that live in it. Estimates vary as to how much oxygen can penetrate the dead seagrass, and therefore how much carbon is released after a disturbance.
The researchers found 22% of the seagrass in Shark Bay was lost after the heatwave, compared with a 2002 baseline. Depending on how much oxygen that allowed to penetrate the layers of dead seagrass, the researchers found that caused the release of between 2m and 9m tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in just the three years following the heatwave.
They found that if the seagrass loss was counted in Australia’s national emissions accounting in that period, it would have boosted Australia’s emissions from land-use change by between 4% and 21%.
“It’s a carbon bomb,” said Gary Kendrick, a co-author on the paper from the University of Western Australia. “And it’s one that has gone off without documentation.
“If we’re not counting this carbon, then we’re underestimating our footprint.”
ABC News reports that yet another heatwave will arrive this weekend.
PERTH, Australia — A code red was issued in South Australia on Friday as temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) in the state’s capital, while firefighters battling wildfires in New South Wales established containment lines in cooler conditions ahead of an expected heatwave this weekend.
South Australia last week had 86 homes destroyed after wildfires flared in catastrophic conditions, as its capital Adelaide endured a heatwave peaking at a sizzling 46 C (115 F). There was respite during the Christmas period, but oppressive conditions returned Friday and are set to continue until Monday.
The heatwave has prompted the South Australian government to declare a code red, which aims to ensure the homeless kept cool and hydrated. A code red is an extreme heat watch issued to reduce the harmful effects on the homeless. Services include shelter options and additional food services.
“Keeping vulnerable South Australians safe and well in the extreme heat forecast over the next few days is our priority,” South Australian Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said.
In New South Wales, plans have been put in place to evacuate over ninety towns due to lack of water. Also, Sydney, the largest city in Australia and all of Oceania, may face day zero within two years. A more immediate threat to the city is the “large deposits of ash in the In New South Wales, plans have been put in place to evacuate over ninety towns due to lack of water. Also, Sydney, may face day zero within two years. A more immediate threat to the city is the “large deposits of ash in the Warragamba Dam catchment, which supplies 80% of the city’s drinking water”.
Matt Novack writes in Gizmodo:
Thieves stole roughly 80,000 gallons (300,000 litres) of water in a region of Australia that’s suffering from one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. And with record-breaking heat and bushfires getting even larger, it feels like Australia is living in the future. That future, unfortunately, looks a lot like Mad Max.
A Mad Max scenario is playing out in areas hard hit by drought , where people are stealing water from each other in order to survive for another day. No assistance from the Aussie government has been forthcoming, though local charities have been sending water to the besieged areas.
Police in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, report that a farmer in the small town of Evans Plain had about 80,000 gallons of water (300,000 litres) stolen from his property, according to the Australian newspaper. The farmer only noticed the theft from two enormous storage tanks on Sunday, though it could have happened at anytime between December 9 and December 15, according to authorities.
It’s becoming more and more common to see thieves targeting water storage facilities, as climate change continues to devastate Australia as it heads into summer. Just a couple of weeks ago, thieves in the small town of Murwillumbah stole about 6,600 gallons (25,000 litres) of water, enough to fill about six or seven fire trucks, according to local authorities.
And it all feels like something out of a sci-fi dystopia, where battles over water are fought to sustain a meager existence.
Aboriginal communities speak about the water crisis in the below video.
Have we entered a new epoch that some have dubbed as the Pyrocene?
Graham Redfearn writes a piece titled Scientists fear surge in supersized bushfires that create their own violent thunderstorms.
Scientists fear climate change will drive a surge in the number of supersized and dangerous bushfires that become coupled with the atmosphere and create their own violent thunderstorms.
Guardian Australia can reveal 2019 is likely to be a “standout year” for the number of bushfires that generate giant thunderstorm clouds known as pyrocumulonimbus, or pyroCBs.
PyroCB storms are feared by firefighters for the violent and unpredictable conditions they create on the ground.
PyroCBs are able to generate their own lightning strikes, mass downdrafts of air, gusty winds and even hail blackened with soot. The plumes generated from pyroCBs can influence the atmosphere at heights of up to 15km.
Embers still hot enough to start new fires can be shot out of a pyroCB at distances of 30km from the main fire.
Cattle have stopped breeding, koalas die of thirst: A vet's hellish diary of climate change
Bulls cannot breed at Inverell. They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting.
My work as a veterinarian has changed so much. While I would normally test bulls for fertility, or herds of cattle for pregnancy, I no longer do, because the livestock has been sold. A client’s stud stock in Inverell has reduced from 2000 breeders to zero.
For 22 years, I have been the vet in this once-thriving town in northern NSW, which, as climate change continues to fuel extreme heat, drought and bushfires, has become hell on Earth.
Here, we are seeing extreme weather events like never before. The other day we had about eight centimetres of rain in 20 minutes. These downpours are like rain bombs. They are so ferocious that a farmer lost all of his fences, and all it did was silt up the dam so he had to use a machine to excavate the mud.
The impact of the drought on wildlife is devastating to watch, too. Members of the public are bringing us koalas, sugar gliders, possums, galahs, cockatoos and kangaroos on a daily basis.
The koalas affect me the most. To see these gorgeous, iconic animals dying from thirst is too hard to bear. We save some, but we lose just as many.
Australia changed its historical carbon emissions data: what happened?
Australia’s official greenhouse gas records have been adjusted such that emissions are now significantly higher than previously believed for the years when Labor was in power, and no longer rise each year since the Coalition repealed the carbon price.
The revisions, made clear in data published during the recent UN climate conference in Madrid, have allowed Scott Morrison to start claiming that emissions are now lower than when the Coalition was elected in 2013 and in any year when Labor was last in government.
That was not the case a year ago. As the graph below shows, changes to the data over the past year have increased emissions in the years of the Rudd and Gillard governments by between 3.5% and 6.7%. Emissions have been increased by smaller amounts or slightly reduced for the years since the Coalition regained power.
Most of the large revisions are due to a change in how the amount of carbon dioxide released from or absorbed by soil in grazing land is estimated.
PM’s office refuses to release drought reports Barnaby Joyce says he sent via text
The “awful lot” of text message reports Barnaby Joyce sent Scott Morrison as drought envoy will remain secret, with the prime minister’s office rejecting a freedom of information request to release the documents.
The PMO refused a request for “any correspondence, including text messages and Whatsapp messages” between Joyce and Morrison “regarding his work as drought envoy” by claiming it “would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the prime minister’s functions”.
Joyce said publicly he had sent his report via text message to the prime minister’s phone and that he would be “happy” to release the messages, but it was not his call.