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Australia Heats up

April 1, 2010

Today’s Posting is about Climate Effects in The Land Down Under

#1-South of Australia Got So Hot in Summer 2009, Koalas were Asking People for Water

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First, the scientific analysis:  This nicely laid out NASA surface map compares the land surface temperature from January 25 to February 1, 2009  to the average mid-summer temperatures the continent experienced between 2000-2008, and shows bizarre land surface temperature anomalies for the last week of January, 2009, or “mid summer.”

In response, Koalas, which are normally shy animals, open it all up for a little agua during the heat wave; or, with soundtrack:

<YouTube Kola Video link>

As NASA notes:

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) called this heat wave “exceptional,” not only for the high temperatures but for their duration. One-day records were broken in multiple cities, with temperatures in the mid-40s. In Kyancutta, South Australia, the temperature reached 48.2 degrees Celsius (118.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Many places also set records for the number of consecutive days with record-breaking heat.

Nighttime temperatures broke records, too. In their special statement on the heat wave, the BOM wrote, “On the morning of 29 January, an exceptional event also occurred in the northern suburbs of Adelaide around 3 a.m., when strong north-westerly winds mixed hot air aloft to the surface. At RAAF Edinburgh [a regional airport], the temperature rose to 41.7°C at 3:04 a.m. Such an event appears to be without known precedent in southern Australia.”

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#2-Parched farmers vote to abandon irrigation

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THE winds of social change are gathering speed across Victoria, after irrigators in one of state’s most drought-ravaged districts virtually voted themselves out of existence last night.

More than 70 per cent of the 153 farmers in the Campaspe Irrigation District say they wish to cease irrigating. They declared their intention at an extraordinary community meeting in Rochester last night.

Those 108 farmers control more than 90 per cent of water in the Campaspe district – which sprawls north of Bendigo and includes Rochester – meaning the district will be decommissioned after almost half a century of irrigation.

The region is fed by parched Lake Eppalock, and irrigators have received no water supply in four of the past five years. Victorian water officials will spend the next fortnight trying to strike a sale of the water entitlements to the federal government, as part of efforts to to boost the health of the Murray-Darling river system.

Some farmers will simply leave the land, while others will convert their properties to different types of farming that require less water.

Just 26 of the 153 farmers in the district said they wanted to continue irrigating, and water officials said they would find new ways to accommodate those wishes. Events in the Campaspe district are seen as a portent of things to come across northern Victoria, as a drying climate forces marginal farms to the wall.

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A couple of years old, but provides background:

#3-South Australia drought worsens

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A long-running drought in Australia’s main food-growing region, the Murray-Darling river basin, has worsened, a new report says.

Three months of dry weather and the driest June on record have plunged the area back into drought, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission says.

Crossing much of south-east Australia, the Murray-Darling is the country’s most important river system.  The basin produces 40% of Australia’s fruit, vegetables and grain. 

Experts say the drought will hit irrigated crops like rice and grapes the hardest, because other crops, such as wheat, depend more on rainfall during specific periods.

Corey Watts, of the Australian Conservation Foundation in Melbourne, told the BBC that drought was becoming a regular occurrence instead of happening once every 20 to 25 years.

“We’ve had a string of reports, official reports, over the last fortnight painting a pretty grim picture for the climate and the future of our economy and our environment,” he said. “So now we’re looking at a future in the next few decades where drought will occur once every two years.”

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