Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spring came in like a big red lion

After several years of Australian drought, Broken Hill, on the west side of New South Wales, goes black in a dust storm:

But that's not all. Sydney is hundreds of kilometers to the east, and is getting whacked with it too, as is Queensland farther north. This is pretty much kicking ass in the western third and northern two thirds of the whole huge country.

It brings to mind images I've seen of the storms heralding North America's dust bowl of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic dust storm in Sydney

Reuters covers some of the reasons for the dust storm. A friend of mine was reporting rain where I used to live, in Australia, with some of the creeks flowing across roads. (This is normal, it's rural, and the bridges are concreted smooth spots across the creeks.) The front that caused those storms stirred up the dust:
During winter in Australia low pressure storms are generated in the Indian and Southern Oceans, whipping up huge seas and creating severe cold fronts which sweep across southern and eastern Australia.
This caused a thunderstorm with winds of 100+km/hr in South Australia. Those winds lifted the dust from dessicated outback and marginal lands. Just as happened in the thirties in North America (and Australia too, for that matter), the soil was loosened and blew east into Queensland and New South Wales.

And addressing the question of whether climate change caused the dust storm:
....dust storms are usually restricted to the inland of Australia. Occasionally, during widespread drought they can affect coastal areas. Australia is battling one of its worst droughts and weather officials say an El Nino is slowly developing in the Pacific which will mean drier conditions for Australia's eastern states.

We also, for what it's worth, can't say whether climate change caused Hurricane Katrina. (Al Gore was wrong to imply that it did, and it affected his credibility for me, when I saw An Inconvenient Truth.) We can only look at patterns, not isolated events. But we do know that this dust storm was caused by changes in Australia that have come about as a part of a pattern of change in their part of the world. Did climate change cause the dust storm? No way to say. Did climate change cause the conditions that led to it? So far, probably. We shall see.

Dramatic pics in this story
Quite a lot of pictures here
My friend David Morgan-Mar has a dramatic set of photos, and his reaction, here.
@paddyplasterer pointed me at a live stream of photos posted on twitter.

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