‘Like opening a fan oven’: Australia’s rainforest threatened by bushfires

‘Like opening a fan oven’: Australia’s rainforest threatened by bushfires

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 9, 2018 SNIP: This year, early summer heat broke all-time records for Queensland. In Cairns, the tropical port city in the state’s far north, 1,600km (1,000 miles) north of Brisbane, the previous highest temperature in November was 37.2C, set in 1900. On Monday 26 November, the mercury hit 42.6C. Bushfires are common in Australia but they mostly flare in the south-eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, where summers can be hot and dry. But Queensland, much of which is located in the tropics, joins other parts of the globe, such as California and Greece, where unusually hot and dry conditions have fuelled catastrophic fires which are forcing a rethink of what such regions can expect in the future. Typically, rainforest should be able to self-protect during fire, with closed canopies that allow little sunlight to the forest floor and that keep the vegetation moist. But the cyclones have shredded the canopies, leaving an excess of fuel from debris on the ground, and a lack of rain meant the forest was dry. Since 22 November, more than 1m hectares has been burnt across Queensland, much of which lies in the tropics. Since the beginning of its bushfire season in August, more than 3.6m hectares have been destroyed. Philip Stewart, a fire ecologist with Queensland University’s school of earth and environmental sciences said areas of rainforest impacted could take decades or even centuries to recover, adding that the next possible threat to those areas was mudslides as the wet season sets in. “High-intensity fire tends to create a layer within the soil that is...
Heavy rains batter Vietnam’s central coast, flood city streets

Heavy rains batter Vietnam’s central coast, flood city streets

SOURCE: Vietnam Express DATE: December 9, 2018 SNIP: Experts say the downpours are triggered by the northeast monsoon in combination with strong winds. The Central Meteorological and Hydrological Station stated that the onset of monsoon, combined with strong winds, have caused the heavy rain. The rainfall in Da Nang in the last 24 hours since 7 p.m. Saturday is about 635 mm, the heaviest since archives were first available in 1975. Rainfall of 180 mm a day is considered heavy. [635mm is 25...
Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report

SOURCE: BBC DATE: December 8, 2018 SNIP: Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report. The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C. But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference “welcoming” the document. Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report. “We are really angry and find it atrocious that some countries dismiss the messages and the consequences that we are facing, by not accepting what is unequivocal and not acting upon it,” said Yamide Dagnet from the World Resources Institute, and a former climate negotiator for the UK. “Climate science is not a political football,” said Camilla Born, from climate think tank E3G. [File under: All these meetings are a waste of time. We need to take matters into our own...
EPA’s New Water Rule will Gut the Clean Water Act

EPA’s New Water Rule will Gut the Clean Water Act

SOURCE: The Intercept DATE: December 7, 2018 SNIP: A new water rule will greatly reduce federal water protections, imperiling drinking water, endangered species, and ecosystems across the country. According to the rule that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release next week — some details of which were leaked Thursday — streams that are dependent on rainfall and wetlands not physically connected to year-round waterways will no longer be covered by the Clean Water Act. As a result of the change, an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways could lose federal protections that currently shield them from pollution and development, according to Kyla Bennett, director of science policy at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. Alaska and the arid west will be hit particularly hard by the new rule, which will be subject to a comment period before it is finalized. Environmentalists are bracing for what they predict will be disastrous consequences for our nation’s waterways. “For some parts of the country, it’s a complete wiping away of the Clean Water Act,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. By removing water quality standards and permitting requirements, the rule will open these streams, rivers, and wetlands to being paved over, filled in, or polluted. The result, environmentalists say, may take us back to the days of river fires. “You’ll be able to dump as much crap into them as you want,” Hartl said of our nation’s waterways. “Anyone will be free to destroy them as they see fit.” Even before the new rule goes into effect, more than half of the waterways in the...
Seabird numbers ‘at risk due to fishing’ according to Aberdeen study

Seabird numbers ‘at risk due to fishing’ according to Aberdeen study

SOURCE: BBC News DATE: December 7, 2018 SNIP: A study said there has been a 70% decline in seabird populations due to a combination of the fishing industry, pollution and habitat destruction. The University of Aberdeen team looked at 1970-1989 and 1990-2010 timeframes. They were assessing the degree of competition seabirds faced for prey species such as anchovy, sardines, mackerel, squid, krill and crustaceans. The team found that the total annual seabird consumption of these decreased from 70 million tonnes to 57 million tonnes, while annual fishery catches went from 59 million tonnes to 65 million tonnes. “This enhanced competition, in addition to other factors such as pollution, predation by invasive species on chicks, the destruction and changes in their habitat by human activities and environmental changes caused by climate change, puts seabirds at risk, making them the most threatened bird group, with a 70% decline over the past seven...
From space, the ferocity of Queensland’s bushfires is revealed

From space, the ferocity of Queensland’s bushfires is revealed

SOURCE: ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) DATE: December 7, 2018 SNIP: In the face of an unimaginable bushfire threat, emergency agencies delivered a dire warning: evacuate now or burn to death. For many, it was a signal that last week’s unfolding emergency would be unlike any fire Queensland had faced in recent memory. In a perfect storm of extreme heat and fierce winds, fires erupted across a huge stretch of Queensland. Properties were razed and entire towns were almost wiped off the map. The fires were so intense they even penetrated rainforests — a phenomenal occurrence which has astounded and alarmed fire scientists. “Rainforests are non-burnable. That’s one of their distinguishing features. So if a rainforest is burning, that’s really significant,” said David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania. But it’s hard to get a sense of just how massive the unfolding disaster was. That is, until you see it from the sky. Satellite imagery and data captured over Queensland in recent weeks gives us a different perspective of the bushfires. It highlights not only the unprecedented nature of this natural disaster, but also the incredible role firefighters played in protecting vast numbers of properties. To get a better sense of just how extraordinary the fire conditions were, David Bowman, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science at the University of Tasmania, and his colleague Grant Williamson analysed the fire danger rating of the past two weeks and compared that to the same period over more than a century. The results were remarkable. In the three areas he examined — Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone —...