RSS

Daily Archives: September 24, 2009

Yes, yesterday was amazing if not entirely unique

You have to go back to 1942 to find similar visibility issues at Sydney Airport.

Annex Across the Pacific (link on pic) was apparently a hit at the time. It was the year before I was born.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has some facts and figures.

EIGHT years of drought, and record temperatures that have baked outback soils dry, were blamed for yesterday’ s dust storm that turned Sydney’s sky red, and the sun blue.

Scientists estimated 75,000 tonnes of dust were being blown across NSW every hour in what may have been the most severe dust storm Sydney has seen since the droughts of the 1940s.

NSW, said John Leys, a scientist with the Department of Environment and Climate Change, was now experiencing ”something like 10 times more dust storms than normal”.

”In the last two months we have been getting a major dust storm once a week,” said the scientist who helps manage DustWatch, which has a network of 32 monitoring stations across the state. ”We have been getting more and more of them [dust storms] over the last seven years.”

Dr Leys was reluctant to say it was the result of climate change. But he noted, ”we are getting the hottest summers we have ever had. We have had droughts for eight years.” …

The Other Andrew has some great shots. Here’s one.

3946731949_79c029d7eb

Can you see the Opera House?

See also: Sally: here and here; Julie.

Update

In a comment on yesterday’s post Kevin from Louisiana congratulates me on not attributing the dust storm to climate change. There is a good reason not to: no individual event can be attributed to or not attributed to climate change with any confidence. It is only as a pattern of unusual events emerges that one might start extrapolating. That is pretty much what Dr Leys says above.

However, Herald cartoonist Alan Moir did make the leap today, and fair enough to make a point about possibility – it is possible, after all, that yesterday’s event is of the order that we might anticipate if the majority of scientists who accept the idea of anthropogenic climate change are right – and as you would know from my side bar note I am inclined to go with that majority.

moirillo600x400-600x400One stat that appeals to me is that what passed over Sydney yesterday was the equivalent of 25% of Uluru (Ayers Rock) ground up into powder!

It goes from what I said that it is also rather presumptuous to be sure that yesterday had no relation at all to climate change. Piers Akerman, as is no surprise, is of course convinced on no scientific grounds whatsoever that it is not and proceeds to make the usual arguments against doing anything, though there is room for discussion – though possibly it is a luxury we will live to regret – about whether what the government has proposed is well considered or not. Trouble is though that climate change as such really is not a matter of politics; if indeed it is a natural process in train as we dither, and if indeed the hypothesis so widely accepted that this time round our impact has been both considerable and measurable is proven, it won’t really matter what political position we adhere to. We will end up resembling old King Canute giving orders to the tide.