The Queensland floods

As the Queensland floods have now hit Brisbane, a number of people have emailed or posted comments enquiring about our well-being. Many thanks to everyone for their thoughts and concern. I'm happy to say the Cook family is safe and dry - we happen to be located in a relatively elevated area (not by design - extreme flooding was not even on my radar when we moved into the area). However, many nearby suburbs have not been so fortunate.

Ten minutes south-east from us, low-lying areas of Strathpine were evacuated yesterday. South Pine River has burst its banks and covers a large portion of the suburb:

Meanwhile, to the north-west of us, just down the road from our church, One Mile Creek has also burst its banks and blocked off the road:

Up to 40,000 homes are estimated to be affected by flooding over the next day, when the Brisbane River peaks at 3am tomorrow morning. But while the flood waters rise gradually here, incredible scenes were witnessed earlier this week in the town of Toowomba, 90 minutes west of Brisbane. The media are refering to it as an inland tsunami - a wall of water rushed through the town, dragging along cars, shipping containers and even houses. We heard accounts of entire homes being plucked off their foundations and carried by the waters, with people inside crying out for help. The tragedies this and other Queensland towns have endured are heartbreaking and the damage mindboggling.

When these kind of extreme events happen, people ask "Did global warming cause this flood?" as if the answer should be yes or no. It's more appropriate to ask does global warming have an effect on these types of events? The scientific evidence indicates yes. As temperatures have risen, we've observed more water vapour in the air. More water vapour leads to more extreme rain events. Over the last few decades, we've observed an increase in the number of extreme precipitation events. And we expect the number of extreme precipitation and flooding events to increase as global warming continues.

It's times like this that I can't help thinking of the words of NOAA scientist Deke Arndt, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches". Weather will always throw these random punches at us. Occasionally it gets in a lucky punch that knocks us off our feet. But what we're doing is training weather to throw harder punches at us and more often. That's what is being observed and that's what we expect to see more of in the future.

Anyone who wishes to help, you can Donate to the Queensland Government's flood relief appeal.

Posted by John Cook on Wednesday, 12 January, 2011

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