CYCLONE DEBBIE – AN EXERCISE IN TREND ANALYSIS
Trend Analysis is a technique used to estimate and predict future climate.
CYCLONE DEBBIE – THEOI METEORO
The return of the Greek Gods of Sky and Weather, Theoi Meteoroi, have spawned Cyclone Debbie, a category 5 storm which crossed the Queensland coast in March 2017. Considered in isolation, this was no more than an aberrant destructive event, however, considered as an emerging sequence of devastating cyclones, it raises serious implications for stable long term economic development. A review of significant cyclones in north-east Queensland is instructive. Over the past thirty four years two patterns of damaging cyclones are discernible. The Table summarises destructive cyclones since 1986, that is, seventeen years either side of 2000 AD.
TABLE – Destructive Cyclones
|1983 -2000||1983 - 2000||2000- 2017||2000 - 2017|
|YEAR||NAME - CATEGORY||YEAR||NAME - CATEGORY|
|1997||JUSTIN - C2||2017||DEBBIE - C5|
|1995||BOBBY - C4||2015||MARIA - C5|
|1989||ORSEN - C5||2014||ITA - C4|
|1986||WINIFRED - C3||2011||YASI - C4|
Summarising, in the seventeen years prior to 2000 there were four significant cyclones; in the following seventeen years to 2017 there were five devastating cyclones. In the past four years Queensland has been lashed by three cyclones. Estimated damage costs to the public and private sector over this period exceeds $5 billion. The cost to the national economy will have an adverse ripple effect although the reconstruction of thousands of buildings and infrastructure will produce a spike in the local economy. This is unfortunately ‘dead’ money that cannot be used to produce export oriented income. Agriculture and tourism projects will be destroyed, some permanently.
TRENDS IN OCEAN TEMPERATURES
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published data showing global sea surface temperature increase from the 1880s base line is 0.6°C and is trending higher. There is a disturbing corroboration of ‘amazing records’ from the Coral Sea lapping the Queensland coast. Temperatures of 0.7°C ( in places as high as 2°C) above the average temperature of 29.16°C have been obtained. (SMH, April 2015)Global Sea Surface temperature trend – 1880-2015 (NOAA)
Recent data from the Coral Sea lapping north Queensland have recorded sea surface temperatures of 0.73°C above recent average temperatures. (The Conversation, April 2016) The historical and inexorable rise in sea surface temperatures compiled by the BOM was recently published by The Conversation. (April 2016)
TRENDS IN GREEN HOUSE GAS CONCENTRATIONS
Green house gas concentrations, carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, prevent global heat loss, hence global warming. For the past 800,000 years atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have not exceeded 300 ppm. Due to the expansion of the Industrial Revolution, the 1950s, carbon dioxide levels now exceed 400 ppm and are trending higher. (United States Environmental Protection Agency)
The trend in global temperature increase entered a critical phase in 1990. Between 1990 and 2013, NOAA established that the ‘radiative force’ (which is the warming effect caused by green house gases) has risen by 34% on the previous measured period. (The Guardian, September 2014)
Homo sapiens has created its own unique, but probably damned, geological era – the Anthropecene. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that, if this species does not drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, it will take around fifty years to stabilise the emerging climate. Irrespective, global temperatures will still rise by an estimated 0.6°C thus aggregating to about a 1.3°C increase. This is approaching the catastrophic 2°C level.
Current carbon dioxide concentrations will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years and, after millennia, the gas would be laid down as carbonate rocks on the sea floor of Mother Earth. (The Conversation, IPCC, December 2014)
The bottom line emanating from Cyclone Debbie is that, if fossil fuels continue to be utilised at the current rate, global warming will rise closer towards 2°C by the mid-2030s, thus crossing the threshold that will harm human civilisation. ( R E Mann, Scientific American, April 2014)
0 DEUS, NOS NISI, NOSTRAE TIBI PECCAVIMUS
Oh God, save us, for we have sinned.