Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts

Sunday, 3 May 2020

A reminder that in the middle of a pandemic the old problems remain for land & climate

On 24 April 2020 the NSW Dept. of Primary Industries recorded that 64.6 per cent of the NSW North Coast is still in drought, 21 per cent is drought affected and 14.1 per cent no longer in drought.

This is the Clarence Valley showing by sector In Drought (light ochre to dark orche), Drought Affected (light to darker grey) and Non Drought (green tones):

Clarence Valley LGA outlined by sector
Data current to 24/4/2020 (AEST)
Analysis by NASA shows the NSW fires emitted about 195m tonnes of CO2 from 1 August to December 2019.

Permissions for logging in 2019-2020 firegrounds have been granted by NSW Berejiklian Government.

Monday, 2 March 2020

The Morrison Government is still not managing to present itself in a good light in 2020

Dissatisfaction with the Morrison Government appears to be widespread....

The offices were identified as a national call centre, service centre and administrative centre.

At the time Centrelink denied it was moving out of the region.

But less than three months later, on 22 Februrary 2020, Centrelink announced it was indeed closing its Tweed Heads office.

Branches at Newcastle and Newport in New South Wales and Mornington in Victoria will also close their doors.

This news was reported as far away as the UK:

Some offices will be replaced with a so-called 'agency' or kiosk that will be staffed by one person.

Each day more than 66,000 people walk into Centrelink offices around the country.

This is being dwarfed by the amount of people who access government services online, with half a million people logging into the MyGov website each day.

Former opposition leader Bill Shorten has claimed the closing of some Centrelink locations is a move by the government to cover costs in other areas at the expense of citizens.

'This government's more interested in band aiding a dodgy budget surplus and it's going to do it by shafting everyday Centrelink users,' Mr Shorten said.

Services Australia, which oversees Centrelink, said in its annual report that it is trying to 'maximise the benefits of digital capabilities while reducing the costs of administering payments'…..

In Mornington, Mayor Sam Hearn told 9 News that he is furious. He says 35,000 people in the area could be worse off when the local branch closes at the end of the next month. Mr Hearn is now urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to intervene.

Given Mornington is in Australian Minister for Health, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet & Liberal MP for Flinders Greg Hunt’s electorate, the mayor’s fury may yet be translated into action by his local member who appears to have been as much in the dark about these closure as everyone else.

However, the residents of Tweed Heads and environs have little chance of their dismay registering with Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook, ‘Scotty From Marketing’ Morrison, as Tweed Heads is in a federal electorate which has been held by the same Labor MP for the last fifteen years and six federal elections.

The Daily Examiner, 22 February 2020:

DAVE and Jan Binskin are in quarantine in “a sh-thole” in Darwin. After being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship where two people died and 620 people tested positive for coronavirus, the Casino couple and 170 other Australians are in another 14 days’ quarantine in a mining compound.

They were on the ship in Japan when the Australian Government notified them they could return to Australia, but face further quarantine.

The conditions at the compound are terrible, Mr Binskin said. “Morrison conned us. They didn't prepare for us and the people opposite us didn't even have water for six hours,” he said.

Their quarantine sounds more like a prison.

They locked us into an area with double fences around us and then decided it was a fire risk and took down the fences,” he said.

The Binskins were excited to be going back to Australia, he said, but conditions were worse than on the boat.

They have single beds, the room is unclean, the TVs don’t work and they’re not allowed to have alcohol, Mr Binskin said.

We were told they didn't want the old people drinking and falling over,” he said.

We can’t use the pool, we don't even have a garbage bin and some people don’t even have bed linen.” The couple tested negative for coronavirus.

The government has forgotten about us,” Mr Binskin said in a flat voice. With nothing to do in the compound, Mr Binskin said his wife Jan liked knitting and providing her with wool and needles would help.

It’s against human rights,” he said.

Had they disembarked in Japan they would have been free to leave, but were told they would be looked after in Australia.

They didn’t prepare for us,” Mr Binskin said…...

He said many people at the compound had received letters from their local member of parliament.“We’ve heard nothing from Kevin Hogan (Member for Page),” Mr Binskin said.

ABC News, 23 February 2020:

The Country Women's Association (CWA) has slammed the Federal Government over its drought assistance, describing the latest funding announcement as "disappointing, infuriating, insulting and disrespectful".

But the CWA said despite repeatedly seeking more federal funding for its drought programs since September, it only learned of the voucher announcement on Wednesday evening.

"It was a total disregard, it's disrespectful ... it would have been nice to have been consulted," national president Tanya Cameron said.

"It's very disappointing. It's actually infuriating. It's very annoying. I'm really quite angry.

"It's quite insulting and it's disrespectful to an organisation that has been around as long as ours has."

The CWA has written to the Government to say it will not be participating in the outreach program as it is currently proposed.

It said its state branches did not support the process of administering $500 vouchers at public events, such as barbecues or roadshows, as they understood the Government intended.

"We've explained to the Federal Government on a number of occasions very clearly why, for NSW, the vouchers don't work," CWA NSW chief executive Danica Leys said.

"I don't think the provision of assistance in this way should be tied to having to attend an event to get it."

In New South Wales, the CWA has distributed more than $16 million of drought aid in recent years, directly depositing funding in the recipients' bank accounts.

"People are given the dignity and respect to make the decision they need to make," Ms Leys said of the CWA system.

"Obviously someone in the federal bureaucracy thinks they know better how to get it out.

"If they know how to get it out, then they should perhaps think about doing it themselves before verballing us and telling us that they're partnering with us.

Ms Ley said there were many questions around the logistics of how people would get the vouchers.

"We absolutely support further investment into drought-affected communities, and vouchers can be helpful for some people, but a $500 voucher at the outset is quite minimal in nature," she said.

"That is not what is needed ... not to sound ungrateful, but more than that is needed."……

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

It appears that almost singlehandedly Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have sunk his own government.

"Around 77.8 per cent of the population reported indirect exposure, by having a friend or family member that had property damage; friend/family that had property threatened; had their travel/holiday plans affected; were exposed to the physical effects of smoke; or felt anxious or worried. This equates to around 15.4 million adults." ["Exposure and the impact on attitudes of the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires" 2020]

In January 2020 the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre collected data from more than three thousand Australian adults from the probability sample ‘Life in Australia’ about their exposure to the bushfires that occurred across the spring and summer of late 2019 and into early 2020. 

Researchers also asked about a range of attitudes towards the environment, institutions, and political issues. 

Data from the January 2020 ANU poll was able to be linked to previous polls at the individual level.

This is the result........

Biddle, N, Edwards, B, Herz, D & Makkai, T, (2020) "Exposure and the impact on attitudes of the 2019-20 Australian Bushfires":


The bushfires that occurred over the 2019/20 Australian spring and summer were unprecedented in scale and wide in their geographic impact. 

Between 20 January and 3 February 2020, the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre collected data from more than three thousand Australian adults about their exposure to the bushfires, as well as a range of other attitudes and beliefs. 

We estimate that the vast majority of Australians (78.6 per cent) were impacted in one way or another either directly, through their family/friends, or through the physical effects of smoke. 

Furthermore, we estimate that around 2.9 million adult Australians had their property damaged, their property threatened, or had to be evacuated. 

This is the first estimate of self-reported impacts on that scale from a nationally representative, probability-based survey. 

Our survey findings also show that subjective wellbeing amongst the Australian population has declined since the start of spring 2019, people are less satisfied with the direction of the country, and have less confidence in the Federal Government. 

People are more likely, however, to think that the environment and climate change are issues and a potential threat to them, with a significant decline in the proportion of people who support new coal mines. 

By linking individuals through time, we are also able to show that some of these changes are attributable to exposure to the bushfires.

DOCUMENT Exposure_and_impact_on_attitudes_of_the_2019-20_Australian_Bushfires_publication.pdf (PDF685.59 KB):

General satisfaction with life before and after the bushfire season 

In the October 2019 ANUpoll 65.2 per centsaid they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the way the country is heading. By January 2020 this had declined to 59.5 per cent of adult Australians. 

Over the same period, there was a small (but significant) average decline in life satisfaction from 7.05 (on a scale from 0 to 10) to 6.9. 

Levels of confidence in institutions 

Confidence in the federal government declined by 10.9 percentage points from October 2019 to 27.3 per cent by January 2020. 

Confidence in other institutions was quite stable over the period, and higher than for the Federal Government. In January 2020: 

• 48.8 per cent of the population had confidence in the public service (52.1 per cent in October 2019); 

• 73.8 per cent had confidence in the police (75.8 per cent in October 2019); 

• 40.4 per cent had confidence in the State/Territory Government where they lived (not asked in 2019); and 

• 93.0 per cent reported confidence in organisations responsible for firefighting in regional or rural areas (not asked in 2019). 

Voting patterns between October 2019 and January 2020 

The per cent of people who said they would vote for the Coalition if an election was held that day declined from 40.4 per cent in October 2019 to 34.8 per cent in January 2020. 

The largest relative increase (8.8 per cent to 10.5 per cent) was for those who would vote for a party other than the Coalition, Labor, or the Greens. 

Views on party leaders between June 2019 and January 2020 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s average rating declined from 5.25 to 3.92 out of 10. 

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese’s average rating increased from 4.87 to 5.04. 

Changes in attitudes towards the environment 

49.7 per cent of people reported aspects of the environment as the most important issue or second most important issue facing Australia in January 2020 compared to 41.5 per cent in October 2019. 

Reporting fires, natural disasters or extreme weather as the most or second most important issue were close to non-existent in October 2019. This increased to 10.2 percent by January 2020. 

Concern about most specific issues increased from 2008 to January 2020, with the greatest increase for: 

• loss of native vegetation or animal species or biodiversity (a 13 percentage point increase); 

• drought and drying (a 9 percentage point increase). 

Support for new coal mines have declined since the May 2019 election. In June 2019 45.3 per cent said yes to the question ‘In your opinion, should the Government allow the opening of news coal mines?’. This had declined to 37.0 per cent in January 2020.

Capital cities versus the rest 

There is majority support by residents in both capital and those living outside of capital cities that global warming is very serious, and that global warming will be a threat to them. These views are more strongly held by capital city residents. 

Only 35.6 per cent of capital and 40.1 per cent of non-capital city residents support new coal mines and there is no statistically significant difference in views between the two. 

Did exposure to the bushfires affect changes in satisfaction, confidence or voting intentions? 

Direct or indirect exposure to bushfires did not statistically affect changes in life satisfaction between October and January. 

Indirect exposure to the bushfires affected levels of confidence in government and satisfaction with the direction of the country. Those exposed reported greater declines in both confidence and satisfaction. 

Although there was no significant direct affect from the bushfires on reporting a change in voting intention, exposure to the bushfires was associated with a significant decline in the likeability of Prime Minister Scott Morrison......

It appears that almost singlehandedly Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison - aka #ScottyFromMarketing - may have sunk his own government.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

February 2020 - a month of fish kills and fish rescues in New South Wales

The Northern Star, 18 February 20120, pp 1-2:

Dr Matt Landos, a local veterinarian who specialises in aquatic species, recently warned of a potential fish kill. 

He previously said the long, dry spell had led to a build-up of monosulfidic black ooze in agricultural drains within the catchment. The drains were built long ago to empty wetlands to open land to farming. 

On Sunday, he took his son to North Creek to find his prediction had come true. “Nineteen years on from the first major kill, and the science on drainage and wetland restoration sits largely gathering dust, waiting for action to fix our landscape,” he said. 

“The solution is to pay our farmers to restore drained wetlands.” A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Primary Industries said DPI Fisheries had investigated fish death events at Rocky Mouth Creek and North Creek. 

“Mullet, bream and whiting are the main species impacted, the spokesperson said.“The suspected cause of the current events is due to critically low dissolved oxygen levels.”

Earlier in the month on 7 February at Fine Flower Creek in the Clarence River catchment there was a report of approximately 150 to 200 dead fish including Mullet and Perch. Likely cause being low dissolved oxygen within an isolated pool receiving minimal inflows.

Further down the coast on 11 February at Clybucca Creek in the Macleay River estuary there was a report of thousands of dead fish including Garfish, Mullet, Blackfish, Silver Biddy, Flathead, Bream and Whiting. Recent rainfall events have caused flooding of the backswamp system resulting in deoxygenated and low pH water, killing fish upstream and downstream of the gates.

That same day at Killick Creek, Kempsey, there was also a report of thousands of dead fish including Yellowfin Bream, Mullet, Longtail Eels and Flathead. Stressed fish were observed gasping at the water surface indicating low dissolved oxygen levels present. Cause was episodic rainfall events that caused short and sharp flow. This can cause a rapid reduction in dissolved oxygen levels due to large volumes of organic material entering the river system.

On 5 February Cockle Creek at Teralba, Lake Macquarie there was a report of  hundreds of dead Mullet. Likely cause being low dissolved oxygen within an isolated pool receiving minimal inflows.

16 February at North Creek, Prospect and Chickiba Lakes at Ballina saw a report of thousands of dead fish including Bream, Leather Jacket and Trumpeter. Cause unknown.

By 18 &19 February the Richmond River had suffered two fish kill events. The first at Woodburn Bridge when hundreds  of mullet died due to the reduction in dissolved oxygen (DO) levels caused by significant rainfall/flooding event on floodplain, followed by hot weather, leading to discharge of large volumes of critically low DO water entering the waterway via creeks and drains.The second at the East Wardell Boat Ramp with a report of hundreds of dead fishing including Bream, Flathead, Garfish, Whiting, Mullet, Herring ranging from 10cm to 40cm. The cause was a reduction in dissolved oxygen (DO) levels caused by significant rainfall/flooding event on floodplain, followed by hot weather, leading to discharge of large volumes of critically low DO water entering the waterway via creeks and drains.

Also on 19 February at Alumny Creek, South Arm and Shark Creek in the Clarence Valley there were reports of thousands of dead fish including mullet and eels, due to the reduction in dissolved oxygen (DO) levels caused by significant rainfall/flooding event on floodplain, followed by hot weather, leading to discharge of large volumes of critically low DO water entering the waterway via creeks and drains.

A total of 24 fish kill events occurred in NSW coastal catchments in February 2020, while there were 6 fish kill events in the Murray-Darling Basin involving the death of many hundreds of dead wild fish.

See: NSW Dept. Primary Industries (DPI), Fish Kills in NSW for full details.

In order to save as many fish as possible from the record-breaking drought, bushfires and post-fire water pollution after rainfall, rescues have taken place in the Gwydir, Border Rivers, Macquarie, Lachlan, and Upper Murray catchments in the Murray-Darling Basin, and in the Clarence and Richmond River catchments on the coast.

Threatened fish species were captured and relocated to areas where these fish would have a greater chance of surviving or sent to government hatcheries and Taronga Western Plains Zoo where they will form the backbone of captive breeding programs.

DPI Fisheries states it has rescued more than 5,000 native fish from all corners of the state, since operations began in September 2019 with the rescue of Murray Cod, Golden Perch and other native fish species in the drying Menindee Lakes.

Those fish rescued to date include: approximately 1,630 Olive Perchlet, 740 Southern Pygmy Perch, 292 Oxleyan Pygmy Perch, 107 Southern Purple Spotted Gudgeon, 98 Eastern Freshwater Cod, 79 Silver Perch and 34 Eel-tailed Catfish and, sadly only 9 Macquarie Perch.

Community members are encouraged to report sightings of threatened fish to help identify where actions may be required to prevent fish deaths and, to report any fish deaths or observations through the Fishers Watch phoneline on 1800 043 536. 

For more information or to report a threatened species, download the FishSmart app, phone the Fishers Watch phone line on 1800 043 536, or visit

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Has Australia lost another species to climate change?

The Guardian, 15 February 2020:

Drought, bushfires and rainstorms turn Australian rivers black

Luke Pearce had arrived at Mannus Creek for a three-day mission to rescue the Murray-Darling Basin’s last population of Macquarie perch.

For 10 years Pearce had visited this spot on the edge of the Snowy Mountains that, just weeks earlier, was ravaged by fire. There had been rain and the creek was flowing fast.

But as Pearce and his colleagues stood on the bank – nets at the ready – the water turned “to a river of black porridge”.

We got there at about midday with two teams. But we were too late,” he says.

Pearce is a fisheries manager in the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. A week earlier, he had caught nine of the endangered perch and taken them to the tanks at Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

But Pearce says nine was not enough to be confident they could breed enough in captivity to replenish the river. About 100 specimens would be be ideal, but Pearce says the fish are in such low numbers that he was hoping for 20. Hence the rescue mission on 20 January.

It was a front of black water coming down,” Pearce says. “The water was pretty bad to start with, but it went from green to inky black.

It was a moment of complete despair and, really, a feeling of a missed opportunity. Maybe if we’d got there four or five hours earlier we may have been able to get one or two more.”

An electronic probe in the water monitoring the oxygen levels dropped to show zero within hours, Pearce says.

Watching those oxygen levels drop like that I had grave fears we could have lost all the fish in that system. It was devastating having worked there for such a long time to then potentially lose all this.”

The river was too black to see any fish, but crayfish, shrimp and mayfly larvae were crawling out.

What happened at Mannus Creek is one example of what scientists have described as a “triple whammy” hitting rivers on Australia’s east coast and inland.

Drought and a long-term drying has delivered a cascade of mass fish kills since late 2018, with low river flows, low oxygen and algal blooms. Authorities and politicians warned repeatedly in 2019 that ongoing drying would see more mass fish kills.

Then Australia’s bushfire crisis struck across catchments. Now heavy rain has washed sludge and ash into rivers, robbing the remaining fish of oxygen.

Hundreds of thousands of fish have died in multiple events – some caused by lack of water, and some caused by downpours running over burned catchments.

At one time, Macquarie perch was one of the most abundant native fish in the Murray-Darling system – prized by anglers and also commercial fishers.

But a NSW government assessment of the fish in 2008 wrote the building of dams and weirs had compromised spawning areas and blocked the fish’s movement. Overfishing, pollution and predation by introduced species like redfin perch had also caused numbers to plummet.

When Luke Pearce returned to Mannus Creek after the fires he was confronted with a scene of carnage. Photograph: Luke Pearce

Read the full article here.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Clarence Valley, Lismore & Richmond Valley get $1 million each from Drought Communities Programme after discovery of yet another alleged Morrison Government 2019 election campaign funding rort caused grant criteria to be revised & broadened

The Daily Examiner, 29 January 2020:

Yes, the Clarence Valley has been 100% drought affected with most of the land officially in either the Drought or Severe Drought categories.

This along with the bushfires has makes 2019-20 a horror year for farmers and graziers.

So this federal government grant is most welcome.

However, Clarence Valley local government area - like Lismore and Richmond Valley - only became eligible when criteria for assistance was changed after it was discovered that, just an in the 'sports rorts affair', there had been an apparent manipulation of a grant programme's funding allocations just prior to the May 2019 federal election - when of the 14 councils announced eligible as a Coalition election commitment 13 were in Coalition-held electorates and just one was not as it was held by an Independent.

The plus for Nationals MP for Page, Kevin Hogan, is that now instead of one council in his electorate being given a Drought Communities Programme grant, there are now three four.

Richmond Valley, another Northern Rivers local government area, also receives a grant of $1 million. However it is in a federal electorate which has been held by the Australian Labor Party since 2004. 

Somewhat ironic that a move by Morrison & Co to assist Coalition electorates has ended up giving this particular Labor electorate a windfall.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Australia's 2019-20 bushfire season expected to increase total global atmospheric greenhouse gases by est. 2 per cent this year

According to NOAA Climate.govThe global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2018 was 407.4 parts per million (ppm for short), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

With the ability of Australia's east coast forests to act as carbon sinks severely impacted by bushfires and air pollutants released by these fires to date circumnavigating the earth, it was to be expected that the amount of carbon dioxide parts per million in the atmosphere will rise sharply in 2020.

UK Met Office, media release, 24 January 2020:

A forecast of the atmospheric concentration of carbon-dioxide shows that 2020 will witness one of the largest annual rises in concentration since measurements began at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, 1958.

During the year the atmospheric concentration of CO₂ is expected to peak above 417 parts per million in May, while the average for the year is forecast to be 414.2 ± 0.6ppm. This annual average represents a 2.74 ± 0.57 ppm rise on the average for 2019. While human-caused emissions cause the CO₂ rise in concentration, impacts of weather patterns on global ecosystems are predicted to increase the rise by 10% this year. Emissions from the recent Australian bushfires contribute up to one-fifth of this increase.

Professor Richard Betts MBE, of the Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter, said: “Although the series of annual levels of CO₂ have always seen a year-on-year increase since 1958, driven by fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the rate of rise isn’t perfectly even because there are fluctuations in the response of ecosystem carbon sinks, especially tropical forests. Overall these are expected to be weaker than normal for a second year running.”

Weather patterns linked to year-by-year swings in Pacific Ocean temperatures are known to affect the uptake of carbon-dioxide by land ecosystems. In years with a warmer tropical Pacific, many regions become warmer and drier, which limits the ability of plants to grow and absorb CO₂ and increases the risk of wildfires which release further emissions. Along with other weather patterns and human-induced climate change, this has contributed to the recent hot, dry weather in Australia, which played a key role in the severity of the bushfires.

Professor Betts added: “The success of our previous forecasts has shown that the year-to-year variability in the rate of rise of CO₂ in the atmosphere is affected more by the strength of ecosystem carbon sinks and sources than year-to-year changes in human-induced emissions. Nevertheless, the anthropogenic emissions are still the overall driver of the long-term rise in concentrations.”

The CO₂ concentrations at Mauna Loa are measured by the Scripps Institution for Oceanography at UC San Diego and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Fire emissions are monitored by the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED).

The 2020 CO₂ forecast is available here.

As far as I can tell, it is likely that before 2020 draws to an end the atmosphere above the Australian land mass and coastal waters will probably contain at least est. 406.138 to 411 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

A carbon dioxide concentration of 400 parts per million is considered unsafe - a danger warning - and Morrison Government denialist-based climate change policy is making sure that we are now well and truly exceeding that figure.

The average surface temperatures over the Australian continent and its surrounding oceans have increased by nearly 1°C since the beginning of the 20th century.

This global rise saw land surface temperature in the NSW Northern rivers region rise by somewhere between 1°C and 1.4°C by 2014, with most of that warming occurring since 1950.

How hot will this region become in 2020?