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Climate Change and the Brisbane Floods

There are already people claiming that the Brisbane Floods are the result of Climate Change. Australian Climate change committee member Professor Will Steffen has stated that there was no direct link between climate change and the Queensland floods. However he says that “As the climate warms, there is more water vapour in the atmosphere,” and “This means that there is a probability that there will more intense rainfall events around the world.” As well Professor Neville Nicholls, an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow at Monash University “You’d have to be a brave person to say it [climate change] is not having some sort of effect”.

So how do these scientist explain that the worst floods in Brisbane’s history occurred in 1893. Brisbane has the longest complete record for floods.  The Brisbane Flood of 2011 is nowhere near as high as the the floods of the 1890s or the 1840’s. So how did we manage to have more rain in the 1840s and 1890s when there was no Global Warming, and no Climate Change? When CO2 levels were much lower than they are today?


Neal Ashkanasy, a water resources engineer, says that he believes that the Wivenhoe Dam “kept 1.5m off the top of the 2011 flood”. That would make the flood about 6 metres,  still well below the 1893 flood event. He also says  “When John Oxley discovered Brisbane 180 years ago, the local Aboriginal people were very agitated about flooding, and they showed him high-water marks that would have been 12m.”.

A 12 metre flood approximately 200 years ago. 200 years of CO2 and we can only make 6 metres now.  Yet somehow the flood of January 2011 was caused by coal-mining and climate change, yet a flood  double the size 200 years ago was caused by…..?

Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering Stewart Franks talks on Radio National Counterpoint program on why it is impossible to link Climate Change with floods, and how poor climate models are – its here.

Brisbane Flood 1893

11 comments to Climate Change and the Brisbane Flood

  • John

    The answer to this question is two part and very simple SOMERSET DAM and WIVENHOE DAM the combined capacity of these two dams has taken probably five meters off the top of this flood
    Neither of these dams were in place in 1841 or 1893 to reduce the levels of those floods if they had been there the level of the brisbane river would not have anywhere near 8.41 or 8.35 levels recorded then
    I am 66 years of age and have a darn good memory I lived all my life in BRisbane and have never seen this amount of rain fall that we have had over the past couple of months particularly Sunday and Monday 9 and 10 January to top up the rainfall we have had recently

  • Greg

    John, saying that the two dams took "5 metres" off the flood is only speculation, and certainly does not equate with the rainfall stats. You may be 66 years old, but your memory does not match the rainfall statistics. 1974 and 1893 both had higher rainfall than 2010. To quote the Bureau of Meteorology “Brisbane City recorded 1658.6 mm in 2010″ and ” was the highest since the big flood year of 1974 when 2193.7 mm was recorded. The highest annual total on record was recorded in 1893 with 2242.4 mm”. Here is a graph the best I can find so far, and only goes up to 2005. However the 1658.6 mm recorded for 2010 does not compare with 1893:

    Rainfall Brisbane graph

  • […] by climate change, even if they can never be definitively linked to them, and some choose to simply put their head in the sand.  A challenge for all of us will be to focus properly on the here and now, helping our neighbours […]

  • Mark

    Doubt or believe in Climate Change, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the predictions and warnings that have been made for the last few decades are becoming reality. Particularly the warnings of last decade. However people like you who actually know nothing about what you/they are talking about act as experts and create doubt. Meanwhile those who have spent their lives working in the science of Climate Change are belittled.

    Because of people like you, Minchin, Abbott, Bolt and so forth – all Climate Science experts with years of training, no one was prepared for the possibility that the ACTUAL scientists know what they are talking about.

    One last though, CCD. The Climate doesn’t begin and end at the Australian shore line. Go get a thing called an atlas and have a look. There’s a few other places out there. When you discover that fact, go and have a look on the Internet at the weather patterns in the places you obviously know don’t exist.

    Good luck trying to convince Australian people to listen to you and not the scientists. Even once dyed in the wool deniers I know are questioning the fools who have spread so much apathy.

  • Kim Stephan

    2010 also happens to be the hottest year on record. Why waste time denying. Move on……..

  • Greg

    Well NOAA (the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) rather than well known unbiased newspaper the Guardian, says it tied with 2005 as equal highest. As well for the contiguous United States (with a somewhat better temperature record) it was the 23rd warmest year on record. Perhaps you could read my post 2010 the hottest year since , as, if it was the hottest year since 1050 AD, what difference does it make?

  • Greg

    Thanks Mark for your comment, it gives so many opportunities to respond. Do you mean climate change predictions like Tim Flannery’s in 2007, when he said "Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months" . However I hear you. You are saying Tim Flannery is not a Climate Scientist, he has a degree in Palaeontology. So how come Tim Flannery is on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) so much when he is not a Climate Scientist?.
    Or do you mean Ellen Sandell with her latest death and destruction piece in the Sydney Morning Herald? Your right she is not a Climate Scientist either, she is a professional ‘Climate Activist’. So how come she gets so many articles in the Fairfax press?
    No, you mean problem predictions by proper Climate Scientists, like Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia who predicted in 2001 “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is” in the UK in the future. All those children in the UK now wondering what that white stuff is.
    As for getting an Atlas out, I have tried, commenting on the UK , Sweden , and Tuvalu, all of which I thought were not in Australia.
    As for convincing Australians, I am sure I am making almost no difference. I make my tiny contribution against the wave of pro-climate change propaganda put out by the Fairfax press, and the ABC to name just a couple. As for "dyed in the wool deniers questioning", how come less and less people believe in the Climate Change Religion?

  • Kim Stephan

    2010 the hottest and the wettest year on record across the globe – think Pakistan, as reported by your NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Energy efficiency, Renewable energy, Cheaper power bills, Less war over oil, Fewer environmental disasters, Fewer mining disasters Everybody wins if we become less dependent on carbon based products. What do you achieve by denying climate change Greg?

  • Matt

    Further to your response to John, providing the rainfall statistics for Brisbane in 1893 and 1974

    You have provided, the graph of Brisbane rainfall statistics. Brisbane is flooded by what falls in the catchment areas of the Brisbane river not by what falls in Brisbane Do you have the figures for that rainfall in those years.
    You have provided the figures for 2010, I suspect much of the rainfall that damaged Brisbane in 2011, fell this year, and would likely not have been recorded in the 2010 figures.
    Whilst It may be ‘speculation’ to argue the level of flood mitigation that the dams have provided, I think it is disingenuous to suggest that they have provided none. you asked in your original blog why the floods were worse in ’74 and 1893, I think John’s answer remains valid.

  • greg

    Kim. So if we stop producing CO2 tomorrow we will never have any droughts or floods in Australia any more? All the droughts and floods before 1950 were natural, all the droughts and floods after are the result of climate change?

    “Renewable energy cheaper power bills”? You have got to be kidding!. Why are we subsidising Solar Panel installations and Wind Generators if it is cheaper? If renewables were cheaper, we would not need a carbon tax, because we would be flocking to have them installed. The problem is its more expensive.

    “Less wars over oil”. So we make sure that the poor people of the world have less access to cheap coal fired power, and that they can only access much more expensive renewable power, and the world will be a happy cheery place. Lets ban our coal exports so that the peasant farmers of western china cannot access cheap coal fired power, and make sure their life is harder by forcing them to built expensive renewable power (or maybe nuclear reactors), while we sit in Australia in the posh inner city suburbs of our Australian cities, happy with our lot, because we have already had plenty of economic development fueled by cheap coal-fired power.

    “Everybody wins if we become less dependent on carbon based products” . Really? The poorer people who live on the outer suburbs of our Australian cities who will pay more for transportation, as well as more for electricity, and gas. The poorer people of the rest of the world who will never be allowed access to cheap coal-fired power.

    Everybody wins?

  • greg

    Matt, the only comparison is the flows at the Stanley River which is upstream of the Wivenhoe Dam. This is a river gauge up to April 2010:

    The Flood peak just before the January 2011 floods in Brisbane was 5.44 metres, considerably below the peaks of 1893. Since this flood peak is independent of what is stored or released by the Wivenhoe Dam, I think it provides further evidence that the January 2011 flood in Brisbane was well below the levels of 1893