The Blog (archived)

Category: Weather

Spare A Thought For Gascoyne Junction

Saturday, February 7, 2009

South-eastern Australia has endured a lot of extremely hot weather recently. It’s also been extremely well reported by the national news media; so well that anyone could be excused for thinking it hasn’t been hot anywhere else. Not so - it has been hotter elsewhere, and for longer, but it just doesn’t make the news.

I don’t mean to downplay the heat in the east. Adelaide’s record six consecutive days over 40°C (104°F), with a peak of 45.7°, is very hot. Melbourne had a record three consecutive days over 40°C last week, and today reached 46.4°. That is serious heat!

But consider the small town of Gascoyne Junction, inland from carnarvon on the central coast of Western Australia. This is what the folks there have been quietly enduring over the last six weeks:

  • Over 40°C for 22 consecutive days, followed by one day of “only” 39.8°, then over 40° for a further 11 consecutive days.
  • Average overnight minimum temps for January: 26.6°
  • Average maximum temps for the whole of January: 43.3°
  • Hottest day: 48.6° (119.5°F)
  • So far this month: over 40° every day (average 44.3°)
  • Forecast temperatures for the next six days: between 44° and 48° each day (as shown below)
  • Relief in sight: none
  • National media coverage: none

Weather forecast for Gascoyne Junction, Western Australia, Feb 2009

The news section of the WeatherZone website has been swamped with reports of heat in the east, but heat in Gascoyne Junction and other places like it barely rates a mention - even though the above temperatures are considerably above average. Remoteness and small population could be a factor, but I suspect it has more to do with the fact that most of our national news is generated by people living on the east side of the country, where most of the population is. I’ve often noticed this bias; even hot spells in Perth don’t seem to be as newsworthy as hot spells in Adelaide, despite Perth’s higher population and usually hotter weather (except recently).

Whatever heat we suffer in the capital cities, we should spare a thought for those in places like Gascoyne Junction … where the weather is even hotter, but not as newsworthy.

Update Feb 9th:
I must emphasise that my comments relate to purely weather-related news. Since writing the above, devastating bushfires fanned by the heat in Victoria have killed at least 131 people and destroyed over 700 homes - obviously heat-related tragedy on this scale deserves much attention, as well as our prayers and support.


More One-Sided Weather Reporting

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Back in September I wrote a blog post about some record cold weather in Australia, and how it was largely overlooked by news media obsessed with global warming stories (see "If Global Warming Worsens We Could Freeze"). A perfect example of this media bias popped up today.

WeatherZone News published a story titled “Global warming may be behind hot NT weather“, which began:

The Bureau of Meteorology says high temperatures recorded across the Northern Territory this month may be indicative of global warming.
Average daily temperatures were 1.75 degrees above the mean for October.

As before, I’m not commenting on the validity of global warming, just the lack of balance in reporting on it. Record, or near-record, cases of below-average temperatures are happening all the time. If they get reported at all, they are treated as natural variations which don’t mean anything, and without any links being made to climate change.

Nobody suggested that temperatures up to 2 or 3 degrees below average in much of Australia in August indicated global cooling. But when we get a similar variation on the warm side of normal, affecting one state in one month, our weather agency tells us it “may be indicative of global warming”.

Some people, including many scientists, believe the global warming issue is a hoax or conspiracy, at least in part. I’m undecided, but the blatant media imbalance is enough to make me wonder if there could be a hidden agenda … and the more one-sided news stories I see, the more I wonder.


If Global Warming Worsens We Could Freeze

Monday, September 8, 2008

We’re told that global warming is a fact, and the earth is getting hotter at an accelerating rate. And yet … much of Australia has just experienced one of the coldest months ever recorded. Here are some facts about Australia’s weather in August 2008 which are unlikely to get a mention in any global warming news story.

[Note to foreign readers: August is winter in Australia, temperatures are in degrees celcius]

  • New South Wales - 2nd coldest August on record for minimum temperatures and 5th coldest for mean temperatures (statewide averages). Cold records broken in 29 locations.
  • Sydney - coldest August since 1944
  • Tenterfield - coldest August night on record (-9.5)
  • Glen Innes - coldest August night on record (-8.4) and coldest night (in any month) for 36 years
  • Orange - 10 consecutive days below 8 degrees for the first time in 17 years.
  • Tamworth - coldest night in 16 years of records (-6)
  • Murwillumbah - coldest night on record (-1.4)
  • Queensland - colder than usual throughout, minimum temperatures up to 3 degrees below long term averages in the south-east and nearby parts.
  • Burketown - temperature fell to 5 degrees for the first time in 24 years
  • Coolangatta - 10 consecutive mornings of 5 degrees or less (breaking the old record of six)
  • South Australia - temperatures significantly below average across the state; records for lowest August temperatures broken at Ooodnadatta and Leigh Creek.
  • Adelaide - second coldest August on record (only August 1951 was colder)
  • Launceston - lowest August average minimum temperature on record
  • Western Australia - mean temperatures below average (by up to 3 degrees) throughout, except for coastal strip in the west. Cold records broken in 11 locations.
  • Northam - coldest August night on record (-1.5)
  • Albany Airport - coldest August night on record (0.8)
  • Eyre - set a new record for the coldest temperature ever recorded in Western Australia (-7.2)
  • Mt. Hotham - 53 consecutive days in which the temperature didn’t rise above zero degrees: the longest unbroken stretch of subzero temperatures recorded in Australia

These cold extremes affected a large part of the continent, over an extended period - it wasn’t just a freak event in one place. I could also mention the great snow which has made this ski season in Australia one of the best in years. Snow records are likely to be broken in New Zealand. Further south, I’ve read that Antarctic sea ice has been more extensive than usual. You could say “If global warming gets any worse, we’ll all freeze!”

Lake Highway in Tasmania experienced
more snow, and for longer, when I
was there this winter

Of course one cold winter doesn’t disprove global warming (although there’s plenty more credible evidence to challenge it … but that’s another story). What this unusually cold month illustrates is the media’s lack of balance.

Whenever some unusually warm weather occurs, the media are quick to report it and associate it with global warming … often accompanied by that familiar footage of ice falling off the end of a glacier. However, news media are comparatively silent about all the unusually cold weather that also occurs. You may have heard the numerous predictions that Arctic sea ice would completely disappear by 2008. You are far less likely to have been told that, far from disappearing, there is instead up to 30% more Arctic ice at the end of August 2008 than one year earlier.

So next time you see a global warming media story telling us how hot it’s getting, just remember that we’re only being shown part of the picture.

Information is from WeatherZone News, Bureau of Meteorology and Global Warming Hoax.


So Glad I Don’t Own A Luxury Yacht

Monday, July 23, 2007

The toys of the rich, such as flashy cars and yachts, are normally thought of as being good and desirable; something worth aspiring to. However owning a luxury yacht may not always be a good thing … and I’m not just saying that because I can’t afford one!

Cottesloe Beach on a stormy dayI was prompted to think this way by some of the weather we’ve been having lately here in Perth (the photo here shows Cottesloe Beach on a day not suitable for swimming). Strong cold fronts, winter gales and rough seas have produced the sort of conditions that occasionally result in boats breaking loose from their moorings and being damaged. Although I haven’t noticed any recent news reports of storm damage to yachts, it does happen, and if I had a yacht moored out in the open I think I’d be a little concerned about it in squally weather.

Then there’s the cost. According to a West Australian newspaper story (here) boat ownership in Perth has risen massively but the number of parking places for boats hasn’t, and with demand outstripping supply the fees for yacht moorings have skyrocketed. This must surely be a concern for people who bought a boat with an inheritance or a lotto win, but don’t have an ongoing high income.

When I woke in the night recently to the sound of destructive winds and heavy rain, for some unknown reason I visualised luxury yachts being tossed about and breaking loose from their moorings. At that moment I was genuinely glad that I didn’t have a yacht of my own to be worried about.

It made me think of a Bible verse found in Ecclesiastes 5:12 - “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep“. With that thought I rolled over and fell asleep.


Lake Monger Drying Up

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lake Monger drying up, PerthI went for a walk recently at Lake Monger and was saddened to find that it’s drying up. It’s normal for Perth’s smaller lakes and wetlands to dry up over summer, but not Lake Monger - it’s one of the largest lakes in the area, and although the water levels rise and fall with the seasons I’ve never seen the levels as low as they are now.

The first photo shows the shallower western side (the wooden posts are normally under water), and the second shows what is normally a channel of water surrounding a small island. The sign advising not to enter the water looks a little out of place! While most of the lake still has water in it, much of this is alarmingly shallow - one bird I saw standing in the middle of the lake had water only up to its knees (or the part of its legs where the knees would be if it had them).

Dried up channel, Lake Monger, PerthWhy is it so? The lake occurs in a low-lying area where groundwater reaches the surface, and so groundwater levels affect the lake depth. A percentage of Perth’s water supply is pumped out of the ground, and this percentage has increased over the last 30 years. Combined with a doubling of the population in this period, and a decrease in rainfall, it’s not surprising that the lake level should be abnormally low. It wouldn’t have helped that last year was our driest on record.

With still another two months of warm weather to get through before the brief rainy season, Lake Monger will undoubtedly get even drier - hopefully not too dry for all the bird life that depend on it when other lakes have dried up.


Antarctica is Warming, and Cooling Too

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

One of the things that intrigues me about weather and climate is no matter how much we learn about it, nature keeps throwing spanners in the works to remind us how much we don’t really know. Global warming is a prime example - as more evidence for warming piles up, more contradictions keep surfacing.

A story in Science Daily the other day reported a familiar sounding scenario: a warming trend over the last few decades in the Antarctic Peninsula has diminished sea ice, and forced penguin populations to migrate south. It says “all the global climate models predict a warming in the Antarctic and a decrease in sea ice along its margins”, and a reduction in sea ice appears to be fulfilling the predictions.

Something you’re less likely to hear about on the evening news is this story from NASA Observatory News. It states that between 1982 and 2004, Antarctica grew warmer around the edges (which includes the peninsula) but became colder over its massive interior. Another story from CO2 Science reveals that 72% of the grounded ice sheet is growing at a rate of 5mm per year. It concludes with:

“Contrary to all the horror stories one hears about global warming-induced mass wastage of the Antarctic ice sheet leading to rising sea levels that gobble up coastal lowlands worldwide, the most recent decade of pertinent real-world data suggest that forces leading to just the opposite effect are apparently prevailing.”

So, Antarctica is experiencing both warming and cooling. We humans are a clever bunch, but the complexities and contradictions of the world we live in remind us that we are not in charge, and that even understanding what’s going on around us is a challenge.


An ice age caused by global warming?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The idea that an ice age could be caused by global warming, not cooling, seems counter-intuitive … but its an idea being taken more seriously by many scientists.

This article states “if enough cold, fresh water coming from the melting polar ice caps and the melting glaciers of Greenland flows into the northern Atlantic, it will shut down the Gulf Stream, which keeps Europe and northeastern North America warm. The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age - in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset …”. The article explains how this could happen, as does this one.

The above mainly affects the northern hemisphere, but some scientists (such as Dr Joachim Scheven) claim that warmer oceans may have triggered an ice age globally - due to higher evaporation being balanced by higher precipitation which leads to more snow in cooler areas.

Global average temperatures may have risen, but a lot of weather events are breaking records in the other direction. This extensive list of record cold weather and unusual snowfalls suggests warming is not exactly global.

So where is it all heading? I’ve no idea; as a weather enthusiast I just find it interesting.


Unseasonal activity at Lake Monger

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Black swan and chicks on nest at Lake MongerThe other day I walked around Lake Monger, just a few km from the middle of Perth, and captured this unusual photo of a black swan and her chicks on their nest, sitting on an egg (click on it for a larger version).

Its unusual because breeding season is September to March (spring and summer), and the black swans usually have babies in spring … whereas this photo is early June, the beginning of winter here.

Maybe the weather has upset their timing. Last winter and spring were unusually wet, followed by a very mild summer, and so far the driest start to winter ever recorded in Perth. I really don’t know. It was just a delightful serendipity to come across these wild creatures going about their business close to a busy pathway in the middle of an urban sprawl.