After weeks of unrelenting heat and bushfires across the continent, torrential rain and flooding in northern Australia have forced hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes in what weather officials describe as an “unprecedented” event.
Between Jan. 26 and the morning of Feb. 4, there was close to four feet of rain in Townsville, a coastal city in the state of Queensland, eclipsing records set in 1998 during a flood known as the “Night of Noah.”
“In seven days, we’ve received our annual total rainfall,” said Jenny Hill, the mayor of Townsville. “We’ve never seen weather like this.”
Ms. Hill said that about 18,000 residents had lost power and that hundreds of others had evacuated, including some who left their suburb on a garbage truck. Elsewhere, two police officers were stuck clinging to trees for half an hour after their car was washed away by floodwaters, while residents reported snakes and crocodiles roaming the streets. [Continue reading…]
An extreme heatwave in far north Queensland last month is estimated to have killed more than 23,000 spectacled flying foxes, equating to almost one third of the species in Australia.
The deaths were from colonies in the Cairns area where the mercury soared above 42 degrees Celsius two days in a row, breaking the city’s previous record temperature for November by five degrees.
Ecologist, Dr Justin Welbergen from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (Western Sydney University) is collating the numbers of bat deaths and said it was the second-largest mass die-off of flying foxes recorded in Australia and the first time it had happened to this species.
“These are certainly very serious wildlife die-off events and they occur at almost biblical scales,” he said.
“[The biggest] was in south-east Queensland back in 2014 where about 46,000 animals (predominantly black flying foxes) died.
“The population size of the spectacled flying fox in Australia is estimated to be about 75,000 individuals, give or take, so for all intents and purpose that means we have lost close to a third of the entire species in Australia.
“Losing a third of the species on a hot afternoon I would argue certainly strengthens the case for both the Federal and Queensland Governments to consider lifting the species from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’, if not ‘critically endangered’.”
Dr Welbergen said it was also the first time there had been mass deaths of flying foxes from heat stress in far northern Australia where conditions were typically hot and humid but usually remained below 40 degrees.
“Science pretty much agrees this is a sign of things to come,” he said.
“Extreme heat events are increasing in frequency, also in terms of intensity and duration, and we can expect more extreme temperatures to occur increasingly frequently further north.
“A certain proportion of such an extreme event can certainly be statistically attributed to climate change for sure. I think the jury is no longer out on that.” [Continue reading…]