Australia Natural Disasters
Australia - a land of droughts and flooding rains, cyclones, and bushfires. All about Australia's worst natural disasters and their effects.
Asked by Kitty Schaden in Australia Natural Disasters, Wildfires, Australia
How did the Australia fires start?
According to Diana Bernstein, climate scientist and Assistant Research Professor in the Division of Marine Science at the University of Southern Mississippi: “Apart from human activities, Australia’s hot and dry summers are to blame for the start and the spread of the wildfires." Although the region knows to expect a fire season, these most recent fires have been worse than most. This is because Australia is currently experiencing its worst drought in decades as well as a heatwave that broke the record for the highest nationwide average temperature in December. These elements combined have caused the fires to spread more rapidly than usual. Many experts also reference climate change as a contributing factor, as the increasingly extreme weather conditions are taking their toll on an already at-risk area. There is also the human element—there have already been 24 people charged with deliberately starting bushfires this season.
What natural disasters happen in Brisbane?
Floods and severe storms with hail are the most common natural disasters in Brisbane. These storms have become increasingly stronger in intensity, with lightning strikes and high, gusting winds causing major damage. Bushfires occasionally occur in the mountains around the city, but these never cause major damage. Cyclones very rarely reach as far south as Brisbane, the last one significant one being in 1974 when "Cyclone Wanda" dumped a huge amount of water in the Brisbane catchment, contributing to massive floods. Having said that, however, meteorologists are predicting more cyclones to occur near Brisbane in the 2010-2011 Summer season.
Asked in Victoria, Australia Natural Disasters
How many died in the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009?
The bushfires in Victoria, dubbed the "Black Saturday" bushfires and commencing on 7 February 2009, killed a known total of 173 people - Australia's worst ever bushfire toll to date. The death toll was initially reported as 210, twelve days after the fires started. However, after police, emergency services and sniffer dogs finished searching through the burnt rubble of whole towns, and after searching missing persons data and examining bushfire victims, this death toll was revised down to 173 on 30 March 2009.
What was the most devastating cyclone ever in Western Australia?
The northwest coast of Western Australia is one of the most cyclone-prone areas in Australia. Probably the worst cyclone to hit the region occurred on 22 April 1887 (before cyclones were named), and its most devastated target was a pearling fleet. Thirteen vessels were destroyed and 140 people killed.
Asked in Australia, Australia Natural Disasters
What caused the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria Australia?
In February 2010, the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires officially blamed faulty power lines and an incorrect fitting which caused the power lines to fail, for starting the worst of the fires, the one which killed 119 at Kinglake. Arsonists were also partially to blame, though no formal blame has been cast on them. Each place where someone's life was lost was treated as a crime scene, because the authorities said the speed with which the fires started and then took off was more likely to have occurred as a result of being deliberately lit. Fire criminologists and special investigations task forces confirmed this. Carelessness was another cause - a lit cigarette, tossed from a passing car or truck, was blamed for starting the major bushfire that hit Bendigo, destroying 50 houses and killing two people. At Horsham, in western Victoria, a faulty power line was found to be the cause of the fire which began in that region. Arson has, at least, been ruled out in this instance. It is believed arcing began due to a faulty insulator, resulting in showers of sparks falling to the ground and igniting the dry grass. Similarly, the survivors of the Kinglake fire, which wiped out the entire town and killed so many, launched class action as that fire also appeared to have been started by faulty power lines. Victoria and the southern Australia region had recently experienced one of their hottest summers on record, with a heatwave over parts of Victoria and South Australia. This was on top of a drought which had lasted a dozen years. This had dried up the vegetation, making it like tinder in a fireplace - easily ignited and easily spread. Spot fires also occurred as strong, gusting winds - some hurricane-force - carried blazing embers beyond the fire fronts: these fires quickly fanned into larger fires. Unfortunately, political pressure from "Green" groups, and red tape in DSE and CFA management had limited controlled burnoffs prior to the fire season, which would have seen a reduction in dry vegetation and fuel for bushfires. Further information: In south-east Australia, bad fire days are associated with the presence of a 'blocking' high pressure system in the Tasman Sea. This brings hot, dry strong wind from the centre of the continent to the south-east. The high temperatures, some in excess of 45 degrees, and dry air experienced throughout Victoria on Saturday resulted in very low fuel moisture content. Combined with the extended rainfall deficit for much of the state, this resulted in tinder-dry fuel that was very easily ignited and very difficult to extinguish. In addition, to the high pressure system there was an approaching cold front which helped to strengthen winds ahead of the front, as well as causing a wind change after the front passed. Very strong winds resulted in fires that spread very rapidly with the wind and were practically unstoppable until the weather moderated following the cool change. Victoria's topography and vegetation also played a role. (A blocking high is a persistent high pressure system that occurs on a large scale, remaining stationary for a period of time, compressing and warming the air below.) Why couldn't the fires be put out? There is very little that can be done to suppress fires burning under these conditions. All that fire fighters can do is concentrate on asset protection and wait for the weather to change. See website link below.
What is cyclone Larry?
Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry was a tropical cyclone that made landfall in Australia in 2006. It started as a low pressure system over the eastern Coral Sea in mid-March, then formed into a tropical cyclone two days later, after which it intensified into a Category 5 cyclone. Larry made landfall in Far North Queensland close to Innisfail on March 20 as a Category 4 with wind gusts reaching 240 km/h (150 mph) and dissipated over land soon after. The total effects of Larry were nearly A$1 billion in damage and one death. The effects on Queensland's banana crops were especially devastating. The cyclone also caused considerble damage to the environment, such as: * damage to the Great Barrier Reef, by way of broken and dislodged coral, vegetation and beaches * fish and marine animals suffocated when their gills were filled with mud which resulted from the turbulent waters * extensive damage to rainforests, particularly rainforest remnants (which were less protected), not only by way of damaged trees and animal habitats. but by the intrusion of pervasive weeds and non-native plants from other areas; these weeds, such as Miconia, smother native plants and alter the structure of the environment
How do you make the alcoholic drink called a Vodka Tonic?
How many deaths did cyclone Mahina cause?
Cyclone Mahina killed over 400 people. When the cyclone hit on 4 March 1899, it hit a pearling fleet of around 100 vessels anchored at Bathurst Bay, pushing the boats onto the shore or into the sharp rocky reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. This killed 307 people; only 4 sailors survived. The final death toll of between 400 and 410 included at least 100 indigenous Australians, some of whom died when they were caught by the back surge and swept into the sea while trying to help shipwrecked men.
Asked in Australia, Australia Natural Disasters
What day did the Victorian bushfires end?
On 12 March 2009, authorities in Victoria announced that the last of the worst bushfires which caused the most death and devastation were under control. However, there were many minor fires that, without significant rain, were expected to continue to burn until the Australian winter, which begins in June. Conditions remained very dry, and lightning strikes caused more fires, but these were easily contained.
How is lightning caused?
Lightning occurs as a discharge of energy from charged air masses in clouds, and can be from cloud to cloud or from a cloud to the ground. How Lightning Occurs The first process in the generation of lightning is the forcible separation of positive and negative charges within a cloud or air. The mechanism by which this happens is still the subject of research, but one widely accepted theory is the polarization mechanism. This mechanism has two components: the first is that falling droplets of ice and rain become electrically polarized as they fall through the atmosphere's natural electric field, and the second is that colliding ice particles become charged by electrostatic induction. Once charged, by whatever mechanism, work is performed as the opposite charges are driven apart and energy is stored in the electric fields between them. The positively charged crystals tend to rise to the top, causing the cloud top to build up a positive charge, and the negatively charged crystals and hailstones drop to the middle and bottom layers of the cloud, building up a negative charge. Cloud-to-cloud lightning can appear at this point. Cloud-to-ground lightning is less common. It occurs when a "step leader" from a cloud ionizes a path for the discharge of large electrostatic charges. Negative charges usually migrate from a cloud to the ground and positive charges from the ground to a cloud, and they can involve many different areas in the cloud at once. Cumulonimbus clouds that do not produce enough ice crystals usually fail to produce enough charge separation to cause lightning. Depending on the medium, lightning can travel up to 75 km/sec, so even though it creates light it is a release of energy, so it doesn't travel at the speed of light. Through friction in the clouds particles rub together creating an electrical charge in the clouds.
What was the geographical process that caused the Black Saturday bushfires to occur?
Victoria and the southern Australia region had recently experienced one of their hottest summers on record, with a heatwave over parts of Victoria and South Australia. This was on top of a drought which had lasted a dozen years. This had dried up the vegetation, making it like tinder in a fireplace - easily ignited and easily spread. The bushfires took place in mountainous countryside, and fires move much more quickly uphiill. Spot fires also occurred as strong, gusting winds - some hurricane-force - carried blazing embers beyond the fire fronts: these fires quickly fanned into larger fires.
Do the aboriginals have anything to do with the drought in Australia?
The Aborigines have nothing to do with the drought in Australia. It is more likely to be the effects of white man and his earlier tendency to clear land for tha sake of greed, rather than considering the long-term effects of his actions. Before European settlers arrived and started their campaign of massive land-clearing, the Australian continent had its regular seasons of wet and dry, but most likely not the debilitating long periods of drought that many regions endure these days. The effects of drought are exacerbated by overgrazing livestock, which leave the earth bare. The introduced rabbit has had a similar effect. Some may believe the Aborigines placed a curse on Australia when their land was invaded and they were forcibly removed. For those who believe in the power of curses, they may also believe the Aborigines have something to do with the drought. Science would say otherwise ... but then ... science cannot always explain everything. Many Aboriginal methods of traditional hunting and gathering was done so as not to impact negatively on their surroundings. Traditional Aborigines used fire responsibly to help the regeneration purpose, and they moved on to new food sources with the seasons, always ensuring there was enough left to replenish and regenerate the supply for the following year. It should be noted that the Aborigines themselves have suffered greatly in past droughts. In 1902, a severe drought affected central Australia, where European settlement and influence was still minimal, yet the Aborigines were dying from starvation. Whilst European settlement can certainly be blamed for the exacerbation of drought conditions, this event alone indicates that drought is often a natural situation which occurs regardless of man's activities.
What is the difference between a dust storm and a sand storm?
The difference is in the size of the flying particles. A sandstorm has larger particles, being made up of grains of sand. Sandstorms occur in desert areas, where winds pick up and carry sand particles. These are especially suffocating and dangerous, and the sand can bury people and even houses. Sand storms cause complete remodelling of the desert landscape. Dust storms can occur wherever the soil has been dried and exposed, and tend to occur during hot summers and long drought periods. The dust particles are much smaller and lighter. Deaths during a dust storm are more likely to occur through asthma and related lung conditions.
How long did cyclone Althea last?
The winds started becoming destructive at about 7.30am and by about 11.30am it was safe to go outside, maybe a little earlier. I was there, I was 8 years old and remember gusts of wind started breaking things about 5pm on 24/12/71 and the wind blew hard all night. We lost power for several days. The eye passed directly over Townsville and lasted about 10 to 15 minutes, it was a strange silence after such feroucious winds and then the wind hit again from the opposite direction at over 200kms/hr. The roof was ripped off the house opposite us and crashed into another house taking all the fences with it. Fortuatley we were in a brand new single story house with Cyclone proof roof bolts and we were one of the few houses that sustained only minor damage from flying objects. The wind subsided on Christmas day, I remember having vegemite on bread for Christmas dinner. It rained solid for weeks after the cyclone passed and Townsville was flooded causing even more damage. It was like a bomb had gone off, 90% of homes were damaged and many destroyed. The damage was far less than Darwin experienced when Tracy hit 3 years later but this was probably because Townsville had been hit about 16 times before and the building codes were stricter. Darwin had never taken a direct hit and as a result insufficient building codes cost them dearly.
Asked in Australia Natural Disasters
When did the Black Saturday bushfires finish?
Asked in Australia Natural Disasters
How did the black Saturday bushfires happen?
There were numerous factors which contributed to the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009. Ultimately, in February 2010, the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires officially blamed faulty power lines and an incorrect fitting which caused the power lines to fail, for starting the worst of the fires, the one which killed 119 at Kinglake. Arsonists were also partially to blame, though no formal blame has been cast on them. Each place where someone's life was lost was treated as a crime scene, because the authorities said the speed with which the fires started and then took off was more likely to have occurred as a result of being deliberately lit. Fire criminologists and special investigations task forces confirmed this. Carelessness was another cause - a lit cigarette, tossed from a passing car or truck, was blamed for starting the major bushfire that hit Bendigo, destroying 50 houses and killing two people. At Horsham, in western Victoria, a faulty power line was found to be the cause of the fire which began in that region. Arson has, at least, been ruled out in this instance. It is believed arcing began due to a faulty insulator, resulting in showers of sparks falling to the ground and igniting the dry grass. Similarly, the survivors of the Kinglake fire, which wiped out the entire town and killed so many, launched class action as that fire also appeared to have been started by faulty power lines. Victoria and the southern Australia region had recently experienced one of their hottest summers on record, with a heatwave over parts of Victoria and South Australia. This was on top of a drought which had lasted a dozen years. This had dried up the vegetation, making it like tinder in a fireplace - easily ignited and easily spread. Spot fires also occurred as strong, gusting winds - some hurricane-force - carried blazing embers beyond the fire fronts: these fires quickly fanned into larger fires.
What caused the Brisbane floods in January 1974?
Brisbane's floods of 1974 were the result of an unusual situation. Whilst the depression which dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain as a result of Cyclone Wanda was unprecedented, it was made more catastrophic by the fact that it had already been a very wet year thourghout the eastern states beforehand. The ground was waterlogged, and simply could not absorb any more water. The floods were made worse by the fact that a huge container ship broke loose from the shipyards, and wedged itself across the Brisbane River just before the mouth. This prevented the escape of the water to the sea, exacerbating the floods in the CBD.
Asked in Australia Natural Disasters
How long did black Saturday go for?
The Black Saturday bushfires began on 7 February 2009, and continued for almost five weeks. On 12 March Victorian authorities announced that the last of the worst bushfires which caused the most death and devastation were under control. However, smaller fires continued, controlled, for many months after that.
Asked in Earthquakes, Australia Natural Disasters
Have earthquakes happened in Australia?
There have been a number of earthquakes in Australia, but generally they do not cause major damage. Many of them are simply seismic activity many kilometres underground, which do not translate to ground-shaking events on the surface. Melbourne and southeastern Victoria, and the region around Canberra, for example, are hot-spots for deep seismic activity, but no earthquake in the area has caused death or significant destruction. Although Australia is not on the edge of a plate, the continent experiences earthquakes because the Indo-Australian plate is being pushed north and is colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates. This causes the build up of stress in the interior of the Indo-Australian plate which is released during earthquakes. The most devastating earthquake in Australia was the one that hit Newcastle on 28 December 1989. It measured 5.6 on the Richter scale, and its effects were felt throughout central-eastern New South Wales. There were reports of damage to buildings in Scone, Gladstone and Sydney, which is 800km away. The shaking was even felt in tall buildings in cities over 5000km away. Thirteen people were killed, and 35,000 homes, 147 schools and 3,000 other structures in the region collapsed. Most of the damage and deaths happened when the walls and floors of the Newcastle Workers Club collapsed. Originally, a US report on the earthquake suggested that the disaster was caused by stress resulting from 200 years of underground coal mining. Australian geoscientists disagreed with this claim, claiming that the Hunter Valley has been prone to minor earthquakes for years. Other evidence suggested that the hypocentre of the earthquake lay too deep underground - 12 kilometres - for it to have been caused by mining. Another earthquake of significance hit Meckering, a small town of some 240 people in the Avon valley region of Western Australia, about 130km east of Perth and 24km west of Cunderdin. In October 1968, the town was hit by an earthquake which registered 6.9 on the Richter scale. There were no deaths, mainly due to the small size of the town and its relative isolation, but the earthquake injured 17 people, and caused about $2.2 million worth of damage, which is the equivalent of around $5 million today. The ground ruptured along a length of 40km, up to 1.5m wide and 2.4m high, and the scar from this rupture can still be seen in the landscape today. On 29 April 1941 the town of Meeberrie, Western Australia felt what is believed to be Australia's biggest onshore earthquake, at magnitude 7.2. Being little more than a homestead, no details were reported, but effects of the earthquake included cracked walls, burst rainwater tanks and ground ruptures. On 19 November 1906 a large magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit the Indian Ocean off the coast of Western Australia. It is the largest known quake in Australian Territory. Also see Related Link