Australia Floods Increase Due to Climate Change

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Linnea Fry, Writer

A year after record-breaking and deadly fires racked through Australia, the country is now facing the opposite issue, massive floods. Two massive storms have merged over eastern Australia, dumping more than three feet of rain in just five days.

 

Nearly 20,000 Australians have been forced to evacuate, and more than 150 schools have been closed. The storms swept away the home of a couple on their wedding day, prompted thousands of  rescues, and drowned roads from Sydney up into the state of Queensland 500 miles north. Some areas facing the largest floods they’ve had in 100 years

 

So far authorities have counted two dead from the storms, as well as a runaway emu. “Gookie”, a pet emu, had apparently been carried out of his home from the water and drifted down the block; he was rescued without any major injuries other than a few ruffled feathers.

 

Shane Fitzsimmons, the resilience commissioner for New South Wales — a new state position formed after last year’s fires — described the event as another compounding disaster. Last year, huge fires combined into history-making infernos that scorched an area larger than many European countries. This year, thunderstorms have fused and hovered, delivering enough water to push rivers like the Hawkesbury to their highest levels since the 1960s.

Scientists note that both forms of catastrophe represent Australia’s new normal. The country is one of many seeing a pattern of intensification — more extreme hot days and heat waves, as well as more extreme rainfalls over short periods. They are explaining that it’s all tied to a warming earth, caused by greenhouse gases. Because global temperatures have risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, over pre industrial levels, landscapes dry out more quickly, producing severe droughts, even as more water vapor rises into the atmosphere, increasing the likelihood of extreme downpours.

 

“There is a very strong link between global warming and that intensification in rainfall,” said Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Center of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the University of New South Wales. “There’s good scientific evidence to say extreme rain is becoming more extreme due to global warming.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison has offered funds for those forced to flee, and several dozen areas have already been declared disaster zones.