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Entries in Queensland (2)


Tropical Cyclone Yasi

As if Queensland hasn’t had a bad enough year already, the half of the state that was spare the flooding earlier this month is now about to be hammered by one of the largest tropical cyclones (read hurricanes, US friends) ever recorded.  In this post I just want to gather together a couple of bits and pieces I’ve seen about the web.  If you want to follow it as it unfolds, the best Twitter hashtag is #TCYasi and the ABC (Australia’s nationally sponsored TV network) has a live blog here.

Here’s Towsville 6hrs before the storm crosses the coast:


 Here’s the predicted storm track from the Australian Bureau of Meterology.  It has Mt Isa - a dusty inland mining town in the middle of nowehere, getting a Cat 1 cyclone hit, which is surely a first!

Here’s the most recent (at time of writing) WeatherChaser satellite image of Yasi. Click the image to embiggenate:

If you struggle with the scale on that image, here’s what Yasi would look like sitting over the US.  It is a truly gargantuan storm.  Click the image for comparisons to Asia and Europe.

Here’s the final press conference given by Queensland premier Anna Bligh before the storm comes ashore.  Its quite long and raw.  She starts speaking at 3:24.  In it she states that the city of Townsville has lost power, which is where several evacuation centers.  She also passes on a little science; talking about the unreliability of wave buoy readings off Townsville, where the buoys are being swamped by waves.


Grasping the scale of the Queensland floods

Sam at Oceanographers Choice has an excellent post up that seeks to address a journalist’s statement that Queensland (Australia) “should have seen the flood coming”, using a quick climatology exercise relating rainfall and the climate pattern called El Nino Southern Oscillation (currently in a strong La Nina phase) in that part of the world.  In short, the answer is probably not, no; ENSO is an OK predictor at annual scales, but probably not usefully predictive at the monthly scale that would be needed to prepare a response to an anticipated flood event.

Seasonal rain cycles in Queensland, Australia

My friends in Brisbane (where I lived for 8 years during college) have all been affected directly by the flood or know someone who is.  One friend rescued neighbours in a boat and another is still missing a friend in Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.  The floods are getting a bit of press in the US, but perhaps not as much as they should because the body count is low (~25 compared to >600 in the concurrent Brazilian floods).  That’s mostly a function of Queensland’s low population, so don’t be fooled; we’re still talking about a once-a-century or worse flood event.  75% of the state is affected, which might not sound like much until you realise that Queensland is three times the size of Texas at over 715,000 sq. miles!  It is a truly gargantuan issue, especially now that there is also some flooding in Victoria and other southeasterm states.  This is the equivalent of a flood that extends from Cape Hatteras to Miami and Savannah to Houston!  Total cost is expected to be on the order of $10 billion, which in a state of 4.5 million is over $2,000 per person.  Its staggering.

Australia truly is a land of droughts and flooding rains.