By John Lawrence
Australia experienced its second warmest October on record. A number of records were set during the month in particular for the warmest October day on record for Australia as a whole. Nationally-averaged rainfall during October was 59% below the long-term mean which made October 2014 Australia’s seventh-driest October on record.
Large parts of Australia continue to be affected by drought. Drier than normal conditions from October to December are forecast for broad areas of Eastern, Central and Northern Coastal areas of Australia. Temperatures over 50C or 120F are forecast as Australia heads into its summer.
Australian farmers are feeling less confident as prices for wool, grains, dairy products and beef go down. A quarter of farmers expect conditions to deteriorate, around 20% expect the performance of their farm business to worsen and 25% expect their farm income to fall.
Bloomberg reports that cotton exports for the world’s third largest exporter were cut by 29% as dry conditions lowered yields. The harvest is predicted to total 580,000 metric tons in 2014-2015, compared with a total of 890,000 for last year. That would be the smallest harvest in five years.
A total of 38 shires in Queensland have now been declared as drought zones, the most widespread the state has ever experienced according to Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh. Farmers in drought declared shires are eligible for Queensland’s Drought Relief Assistance Scheme, including fodder and water assistance.
In Victoria, farmers affected by drought who have been farming for a minimum of five years can now apply for loans through the Farm Finance Scheme which offers farmers up to $650,000 to refinance their debt.
A farmer from Queensland reported that her family has left their farm after 25 years. “We have no property now, due to drought. We had to walk away from 25 years of farming, taking only our clothes and furniture. Leaving behind all our beautiful cows, farm machinery and a beautiful grazing and cropping property, to be sold up by the bank for best price they could get, at a fire sale. They are still chasing us for an outstanding balance and will bankrupt us at their own leisure.”
Extreme Hail and Drought in Brazil
An extreme hail storm hit Lages, Brazil on October 20. A state of emergency was decreed after this intense and rare hailstorm. According to officials, more than 60% of the city was affected. Many people were injured. The large hail – the size of golf balls – destroyed roofs, windows, cars and trees.
The Amazon rainforest has degraded to the point where it is losing its ability to regulate weather systems, according to a stark new warning from one of Brazil’s leading scientists.
In a new report, Antonio Nobre, researcher in the government’s space institute, Earth System Science Centre, says the logging and burning of the world’s greatest forest might be connected to worsening droughts – such as the one currently plaguing Sao Paulo – and is likely to lead eventually to more extreme weather events.
There is extreme drought in southeastern Brazil. Sao Paulo has had water rationed after usually abundant supplies run dry. Brazil has 12% of the world’s freshwater and less than 3% of the world population. Apart from the arid northeastern Cerrado, its cities are normally more likely to be plagued with floods than droughts. With big rivers like the Amazon and Paraná, the country generally meets 80% of energy needs with hydropower.
But this year, the rain fronts that are normally carried south from the humid Amazon have largely failed to materialise and temperatures have been higher than usual, prompting the authorities to scrabble to tap new sources and reduce demand.
Tensions have emerged between cities, and between those who want water for energy and those who need it for drinking, food and sanitation. Sao Paulo has tussled with Rio de Janeiro over the use of the Rio Jaguari, a river that runs across state borders and is used by the latter for hydropower plants and to dilute sewage in the absence of adequate treatment plants. Sao Paulo, which is downstream, has tapped this river to partially recuperate the Paraiba reservoir system despite the protests of its neighbour and admonitions from the federal government.
Global Warming Causing Harsh Winters in Europe and Asia
The risk of severe winters in Europe and northern Asia has been doubled by global warming, according to new research. The counter-intuitive finding is the result of climate change melting the Arctic ice cap and causing new wind patterns that push freezing air and snow southwards.
Severe winters over the last decade have been associated with those years in which the melting of Arctic sea ice was greatest. But the new work is the most comprehensive computer modelling study to date and indicates the frozen winters are being caused by climate change, not simply by natural variations in weather.
“The origin of frequent Eurasian severe winters is global warming,” said Prof Masato Mori, at the University of Tokyo, who led the new research. Climate change is heating the Arctic much faster than lower regions, and the impacts of this are not just a future threat but are happening now. Melting Arctic ice has also been implicated in recent wet summers in the UK.
The new research, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that the increased risk of icy winters will persist for the next few decades. But beyond that continued global warming overwhelms the colder winter weather. The Arctic is expected to be ice-free in late summer by the 2030s, halting the changes to wind patterns, while climate change will continue to increase average temperatures.
Hurricane Gonzalo Makes Direct Hit on Bermuda
The storm made landfall with rain and 110 mph winds. Only minor injuries were reported in what was the strongest storm to hit the island in a decade. It was the second storm in a week to hit the island. Gonzalo caused power outages to 31,200 homes. The hurricane also caused flooding, felled trees and damaged buildings.
Super Typhoon Vongfong
The strongest tropical cyclone of the year, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane affected Japan and one of the U.S. military’s largest concentrations of manpower and firepower on the islands of Kadena and Okinawa. The cyclone had maximum winds of 165 mph.
“It’s safe to say Vongfong is the strongest storm on earth since Haiyan last year,” said Michael Lowry, a storm specialist for The Weather Channel, referring to the super typhoon that killed more than 6,000 people in the Philippines last November. Kadena Air Base — home to 24,000 U.S. and Japanese military personnel and contractors — and the cluster of U.S. bases on Okinawa stocked up on food, water supplies and fuel, the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said, reporting that ocean waves were as high as 50 feet.
Vongfong was classified as a super typhoon as it moved through an area of low wind shear and very warm ocean temperatures. The tropical system had reached the equivalent strength of a Category 5 hurricane, featuring wind speeds greater than 160 mph.
“Vongfong became the strongest tropical cyclone we’ve had all year anywhere on Earth,” AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.
The strength of Vongfong earlier surpassed that of Super Typhoon Genevieve which, at its most powerful, had sustained winds of 160 mph in the West Pacific.
The Associated Press reported that at least 75 people were injured and one killed in Japan as the cyclone brought torrential rain and locally damaging winds to the region.
As the storm moved across Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) took precautions to prevent problems at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.