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A history of droughts and flooding rains from 1782 – 1865 in Australia

Posted By Jo Nova On March 11, 2020 @ 12:34 am In Fire,Global Warming,Meteorology | Comments Disabled

Droughts, floods, fire, Queensland. Scientific and Useful, logo. The Queenslander.

Here’s one for all the history-deniers from 1885

Mr N Bartley understood Australias climate 134 years ago better than some climate scientists appear to now.

Rain, rainfall, Australia percentage of average, Feb 2020.

After the fire came the floods, Feb 2020.

Even then Australia already had a century-long rolling cycle of floods, fires and droughts. One natural disaster after another back when CO2 levels were perfect.

These go back to the earliest dates of European settlement. Wherever Captain Flinders landed in 1782 — 1792 he found “found traces of drought and bush fires invariably”.  In 1839, the drought was so bad that fish “putrefied” in the big Murrumbidgee River even though there was not one coal fired power plant on Earth.

The author laments that the droughts “become forgotten in the flood intervals.”

In the modern Wifi era humans can forget even faster.

Below is my summary list of the events described in the story.

Below that, the full letter. From The Queenslander, Sept 19th, 1885.

*Since Captain Flinders was born in 1774 I assume those dates were wrong and he wasn’t commanding a ship when he was 8 years old. Any other suggestions welcome.(thanks Gee Aye, SteveD, James West and Peter Fitzroy)

(1795 onwards?)* .. Droughts and fires
 1788 Drought in Sydney
 1797 Drought near “Melbourne”
1799-1806 Nearly every year “high flood” in NSW the Hawkesbury river rose 101ft
1810 Excessive rain ruled til 1810 then ended
1811-1826 More floods than droughts
1826-1829 Longest continuous recorded drought in Australia
1830 Great Flood. Windsor on the Hawkesbury became an island.
1831 – 1836 Moderately dry
1837 – 1839 A three year drought which almost exterminated the sheep and cattle of Australia, a dried up that great “father of waters” the big Murrumbidgee River itself, leaving the very fish to putrefy in the dry bed thereof…
1840-1841 More floods. In 1841 was the highest known flood in this part of the world. The Brisbane and Bremer rivers were both in flood at once, and the water rose 70ft at Ipswich.
1841-1849 “there was rather more rain than was wanted”
1849-1851 Severe drought and on Black Thursday, terrible fires: “boxed the scattered bushfires of of the colony of Victoria into one vast wild blaze, before a northerly hurricane, which blew coaches and men-of-wars rowing boats over like hats. Farms buildings fences, crops, and lives were lost”
1852 A flood so bad it swept away the town of Gundagai and drowned more than a score or two….
1857, 1863, 1864, 1870, 1873, 1875, 1879 Floods of the Brisbane River with “boats rowing in Mary-Street and Stanley-Street”
1869, 1877 Dry years
1882, 1883 Wet years, and the eruption of Krakatoa brought “the constant glow and iron drought that has scarcely been broken since”. “Since then cholera and floods in the Northern Hemisphere, droughts and disease in this hemisphere, have been rife.”

………………….

Droughts, floods, fire, Queensland. Scientific and Useful, logo. The Queenslander.

The Queenslander, Sat 19 Sep 1885
Droughts and Floods.

THE following letter by Mr. N. Bartley
appeared in Monday’s Courier:—

The present severe drought serves to remind
me of a paper which I read 5th
January, 1864, before the Queensland Philoso-
phical Society on ” Meteorology,” and which
led to the establishment in this colony of ob-
serving stations, till then unknown here ; and
as this paper, amongst other matter, contained
a list of droughts and floods in south-east
Australia since the year 1782, it may be of
some interest to repeat that part of it now.
From 1782 to 1792, Captain Flinders landed at
intervals in various places on the south and
east coasts of our continent, and he found
traces of drought and bush fires invariably.
The year 1788, when New South Wales was
first settled, was a year of drought in Sydney;
in 1797 a severe drought was observable at
Western Port, in Bass Strait, near where
Melbourne was destined, forty years later, to be
founded. Then came a wet period, and in
nearly every year from 1799 to 1806 there were
high floods in New South Wales. The Hawkes-
bury River, it is stated, rose 101ft. at the town
of Windsor, crops were destroyed, wheat cost
80s. a bushel, and there was almost a famine,
as may well be imagined.

Excessive rain
ruled till 1810, when it stopped, and in 1811
water was sold at 6d. a bucketful in Sydney.
From 1811 till 1826 there were more floods than
droughts, and the Hunter River rose 37ft. in
1820; but from 1826 to 1829 was the longest,
continuous, and recorded drought in Australia,
and 4d. a gallon was paid for water in Sydney
in 1829. In 1830 came the first great flood
for eleven years, and Windsor, on the
Hawkesbury, was, once more, an island
pro tem.

After this, however, the years
were moderately but decidedly dry ones, and
A.D. 1837, 1838, and 1839 brought a three
years’ drought, which almost exterminated the
sheep and cattle of Australia, and dried up
that great “father of waters” the big Murrum-
bidgee River itself, leaving the very fish to
putrefy in the dry bed thereof, and any
one who has seen and crossed this river in
flood time, ten miles wide (as I have), can
imagine what weather it took to dry it up, for
the main river, though narrow, is very deep.
Then came more floods after the break-up of
this drought; and, in 1841, was the highest
known flood in this part of the world. The
Brisbane and Bremer rivers were both in flood
at once, and the water rose 70ft. at Ipswich.
Generally speaking, only one of these two
rivers is in flood at one time, and the other
relieves it of the back-water; but this time
both were involved, and the water, even in
Brisbane, rose to a great height inside the com-
missariat, now the Government stores, below
the present Immigration Depot. No subsequent
flood ever rose higher that 45ft. at Ipswich,
or more than 7ft. in Brisbane. Since then, and
after the cutting of the bar and the Seventeen-
mile rocks, they do not rise even so high.

From
1841 to 1849 there was rather more rain than
was wanted, but the latter half of 1849, all of
1850, and the early part of 1851 gave us another
severe drought, and ” Black Thursday,” 6th
February, 1851, ” boxed” the scattered bush-
fires of the colony of Victoria into one vast
wide blaze, before a northerly hurricane, which
blew coaches and men-of-wars’ rowing boats
over like hats. Farms, buildings, fences, crops,
and lives were lost of course. This drought broke
in May, 1851, and in 1852 came a flood that swept
the town of Gundagai, on the Murrumbidgee,
away, and drowned a score or two of the in-
habitants. 1857, 1863, 1864, 1870, 1873,1875,
and 1879 saw floods of more or less height in
the Brisbane River, with boats rowing in
Mary-street and Stanley-street, taking people
out of houses in the first four years
named. 1869 and 1877 were dry years; 1882
and early 1883 were wet, and then,
after the Java and Sumatra earthquake
of August, 1883, came the constant evening glow and iron drought that has
scarcely been broken since; the present is, no
doubt, one of the periodic heavy droughts (like
the 1826 and 1838 ones) which visit us at times,
and become forgotten in the flood intervals,
and it seems to be further complicated by the
Krakatoa earthquake of August, 1883, on
which occasion the pent up subterranean gases
which usually form a comparatively harmless
vent in ordinary volcanoes became increased,
and found it needful to burst up a large area of
sea and land in order to find escape. Since
then cholera and floods in the Northern Hemis-
phere, drought and its attendant diseases in
this hemisphere, have been rife.

The con-
ditions of the two hemispheres are essentially
different. One is nearly all land, and the
other nearly all water. So the hottest and the
coldest years of a century differ widely in
the Northern Hemisphere, while the wettest
and the driest year of a century vary but little
there. Here in the Southern Hemisphere the
wettest and the driest years of a century vary
tremendously, while the hottest and the coldest
years of the same space of time show but a
very few degrees of difference. The hottest
year of a century in Europe shows the
immense average of 8° above the coldest one;
while 2° would cover the fluctuations, in Aus-
tralia, of a century, in average annual tem-
perature of any one place. I will conclude
this letter by a statement of the comparative
monthly average temperature taken twenty
years ago of places in England and Australia,
showing how rapidly spring comes on here as
compared with places there :—

temperatures cooma, armidale, Hobart

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