JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


Handbooks


Advertising


Australian Speakers Agency



GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper



Archives

Books

Koalas extinct? Hardly. “Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas is wrong”

Since Europeans arrived Koalas have been booming and busting

The calls were out this week saying that koalas will be extinct in New South Wales in 30 years. But they didn’t mention that Koalas thrive and multiply so fast that in the right conditions scientists talk of ‘plagues’. On Kangaroo Island last year, there were so many koalas, the South Australian government has been trying to sterilize or relocate thousands of them over the last twenty years.  Periodically scientists even discuss whether we have to cull them (the horror!).

They’ve survived twenty megafires in 200 years. They can recover. Ponder that Koalas were only introduced to Kangaroo Island in the 1930′s but by the 1990′s there were 14,000 of them and even though they are considered a tourism asset they are also considered a problem and pest too.

“Nearly everything you have read or heard about koalas, is wrong” — Vic Jurskis

Koalas favorite snack  |      Photo by pen_ash

Vic Jurskis is a veteran forester and fire expert who studied them for years. He’s written The Great Koala Scam, Green propaganda, junk science government waste and cruelty.

Jurskis estimates that thanks to European settlers there are more [...]

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

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.

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?)* [...]

Off the charts: Bushfires may be 20 times more intense than the largest fires humans can control

Ten times the fuel means 100 times the intensity

Hardly anyone is talking about these numbers yet they show just how far beyond our control the pyroconvective firestorms are and why we need to be so much smarter at preventing them. They also show how irrelevant temperatures onsite are, compared to fuel load and wind speed.

Controllable fires are 3MW per meter, but we now have loads of 70MW/m

Not only are these fires obscenely, catastrophically intense, it doesn’t matter how much fire fighting equipment we buy, how many dams we empty, they are a man-made disaster, and we’ve known for years how to prevent them. (Some would say, thousands of years). The message in here is that cool controllable burns are tiny, less damaging, and far less intense. The pyroconvective monsters are totally different creatures.

Andrew Bolt interviewed fire expert David Packham in November:

Top fire expert David Packham says forget global warming. It’s the reckless failure to burn-off fuel loads that have turned parts of Australia into death traps. Near Melbourne “we’re looking down the barrel in these areas at 1000 deaths”.

His key point is that if we increase the fuel by ten, [...]

ABC says Arson = 1%. NSW police say 42% of fires are man-made. 9% are “natural”. Rest unknown. (So far)

It’s an arson epidemic

Holy Smoke Batman! An astonishing 12,000 fires have started in New South Wales since August. The police have investigated 1700 so far. Of those, fully 42% are described as “deliberately lit” which includes both intentional and accidental and at the moment police refuse to put a number on how many are truly arson, as opposed to people deliberately lighting a campfire which ran amok. Only 156 fires of the total investigated, or 9%,  were caused naturally (presumably that means by lightning).

Another 745 fires of the 1700 are not yet determined. There seems plenty of scope to increase the number of man-made fires but I would assume the extent of lightning strikes are already known.

‘Like nothing we’ve ever seen before’: police step up bushfire investigations

Forty specialist police officers will investigate to zero in on and profile would-be arsonists. “Strike Force Tronto is about profiling. It’s about zeroing in on serial arsonist behaviours that occurs during the bushfire period,” he said.

“That sets the framework for the next fire season so that we do zero in on and target those individuals who we believe may be involved in arsonist behaviour. “This [...]

57 Bushfire Inquiries isn’t enough. We need one more for leaders to hide behind

Big Government strangles our ecosystems just like it strangles scientific research.  Australia has had 57 bushfire inquiries since 1939. We knew what was coming and we knew how to stop it, and we’ve known for eighty years (and indigenous people for thousands). Instead we paid a garrison of gravy trainers to not-read-those-reports and to create the exact conditions we knew would turn into a pyroconvective catastrophe. State Premiers missed a major threat to their people, their industry, our environment. On top of the death and destruction toll, just one industry, tourism, is looking at a $4.5b loss. Heads must roll. If they were misled, then name the names.

Our institutions failed us: The CSIRO didn’t save us, the ABC didn’t. What’s the point of them? Academics and CRC’s could’ve warned the nation, but instead most experts and the “reporters” said renewable energy would prevent these fires, even though climate change has made no difference to rainfall or droughts, which are driven by ocean currents, and solar cycles, not carbon dioxide. Let’s promote those who got it right, and turn off the tap to those that didn’t. Who pays damages? Who gets sacked?

Just do it: less fuel, less rules, more [...]

Climate change and bushfires — More rain, the same droughts, no trend, no science

Here’s the anti-witchdoctor kit for bushfires and “climate change”

Hi to all the new readers. Keep these graphs handy…

To Recap: In order to make really Bad Fires we need the big three: Fuel, oxygen, spark. Obviously getting rid of air and lightning is beyond the budget. The only one we can control is fuel. No fuel = no fire.   Big fuel = Fireball apocalypse that we can;t stop even with help from Canada, California, and New Zealand.

The most important weather factor is rain, not an extra 1 degree of warmth. To turn the nation into a proper fireball, we “need” a good drought.  A lack of rain is a triple whammy — it dries out the ground and the fuel — and it makes the weather hotter too. Dry years are hot years in Australia, wet years are cool years. It’s just evaporative cooling for the whole country. The sun has to dry out the soil before it can heat up the air above it.  Simple yes?  El Nino’s mean less rain (in Australia), that’s why they also mean “hot weather”.

So ask a climate scientist the right questions and you’ll find out what [...]

Skeptics win on fires: ABC quietly flips — suddenly it’s fire management not climate change to blame

This is how the paradigm changes. The old activism is quietly dropped down the memory hole…

Buried in a save-the-koala story on ABC News tonight is an ABC journalist saying for the first time that it is “current fire management practices” that are the problem. Rani Hayman didn’t say fuel load, but she might as well have. The reference to “indigenous fire practices” makes it obvious that the ABC means more hazard reduction burns (not that they can say so). She also didn’t say “climate change” — write it in your diary. On November 14th, the same ABC journalist was only interviewing the posterboys who blamed “climate change” for the fires. 

UPDATE: Holy smoke — the Sydney Morning Herald also appear to have flipped hours earlier in the morning and in a much stronger and more direct way. Regular SMH reader Dave B sends in the link and says “wow… here’s a huge surprise”. Finally a spot of real journalism. Was this story the last nail in the ABC fuel-load denial?

Prescribed burning ‘key to controlling fires’.  

By Tim Barlass, Sydney Morning Herald

Expert says blazes have burnt where hazard-reduction took place two years ago. [...]

Whole of NSW coast shrouded in dust and smoke, 47C in Hunter Valley (75 years ago)

This week 75 years ago. Dust storms, bush fires and unbelievable heat across New South Wales. 118 fahrenheit is 47 degrees C, and there were 100+ temperatures in many places. The sun appearred as a “red sky”. A dust storm created a “terror” in Mildura (just like last week in 2019).

In Parkes, it was the worst dry spell on record. People were going without milk because the cows have died. Thanks to Siliggy, Lance Pidgeon. Holy apocalypse!

RAGING DUST FURY INLAND, STRANGE CITY LIGHT GLOW The Sun, November 1944

The air was calm in Sydney today, but diffusion of sunlight through a dense blanket of fine dust bathed the city in a strange orange glow. Practically the whole of the NSW coast this morning lay under a shroud of yellowish-red dust and bushfire smoke blown from inland regions.

Maximum temperature in Sydney today was 98.7 degrees at 2.55 pm. Early reports at the Weather Bureau today indicated that a heatwave, unprecedented in intensity, was raging’ practically everywhere in northern, western and southern NSW.

Temperatures in many centres remained at over 100 degrees throughout the week-end. At Jerry’s Plains, Hunter Valley district, the mercury [...]

This is the “old normal” — these fires are mid to late season fires for NSW

Fires in Spring? It’s normal for fires to peak in Spring in NSW

Greg Mullins is a former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner and a councillor on the Climate Council, he implies in the Sydney Morning Herald that this is abnormal and that fires are starting earlier: 

If anyone tells you, “This is part of a normal cycle” or “We’ve had fires like this before”, smile politely and walk away, because they don’t know what they’re talking about.

In NSW, our worst fire years were almost always during an El Nino event, and major property losses generally occurred from late November to February. Based on more than a century of weather observations our official fire danger season is legislated from October 1 to March 31. During the 2000s though, major fires have regularly started in August and September, and sometimes go through to April.

This year, by the beginning of November, we had already lost about as many homes as during the disastrous 2001-2002 bushfire season. We’ve now eclipsed 1994 fire losses.

Mosomoso: The fire season in NSW is spring — this is not early, this is “late season”

For those [...]

California: maybe prescribed burns once every 500 years are not enough?

 

California’s devastating Kincaid Fire located in Sonoma County has grown to over 66,000 acres and NASA’s Terra satellite captured this dramatic image of the smoke plume cascading down the coast. OCt 27, 2019.  |  NASA image.

In Western Australia (WA) we have incendiary gum trees, regular droughts, and humidity so low that sometimes the clothes dry in the washing machine. Far be it for me to tell Californians how to manage their forests, but thought it worth a mention that Western Australian State govt do managed burns on 8% of the forest each year, and our top experts say it should be twice as much.

Compare that to California, where the rate of prescribed burning is now around 0.2% of the forest or so. Not the same type of fire-loving trees, but still the flammable kind…

BushfireFront: WA burns about 8% annually

  A regime of green burning also produces a healthier and more vigorous forest and is better for biodiversity. This approach was applied rigorously in WA forests for nearly 30 years, with tremendous success. Unfortunately since about the 1980s green burning has been under constant attack from environmentalists and academics. As a result, in Victoria [...]

Forest fires may produce as much CO2 as half of all fossil fuels burned

Globally, fires have been overlooked as a key player in the global CO2 cycle. Tom Quirk has dug up some studies showing that CO2 emissions from fires can be as high as half of the total emissions from human fossil fuel use.

“In October and November 1997, the haze from fires in Indonesia spread as far the Philippines to the north, Sri Lanka to the west, and northern Australia to the south. In the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo, there was a pollution index reading of 860.” | Annette Gartland

Peat deposits can be an extraordinary 20 metres thick. In 1997, a fire consumed 8,000 square kilometers of mostly peatland in Borneo. Researchers estimated 0.2 Gt of carbon were released in this one area that year, and that carbon emissions from fires across Indonesia in 1997 emitted between 0.8 and 2.5 Gt — or “13 to 40%” of the size of global human fossil fuel emissions.[1] Obviously uncertainties are large, but so are the numbers. It all makes the idea of a “carbon market” pretty meaningless: the largest players in this market can’t play and don’t pay. In carbon accounting, fires are “an act of God” (non-anthropogenic), and [...]

Low Carbon building at Nottingham University destroyed in High Carbon Fire

As the wonderful Delingpole puts it, timber framed buildings have been banned in the UK since the Great Fire of London in 1666. But in 1999 environmental experts decided it was alright again, and the rules were changed. Nottingham University used all their intellectual prowess and rigorous training, and decided to make their new science labs “Carbon Neutral” in the hope that they might be able to change global weather. The labs were designed to meet the most rigorous bureaucratic rules, but burnt down before they were finished.

Late last week the £20 million GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry was razed.

More than 60 firefighters dealt with the fire at its peak, after the first 999 call at 8.36pm on Friday.

Notts Fire and Rescue Service received more than 150 calls from concerned members of the public as flames and plumes of smoke could be seen for miles around. Social media was filled with photos and messages of shock and support.

It must be comforting to know it was built to the most stringent bureaucratic standards and designed by teams of top research academics.

[...]

Bushfire predictions in 2070 are nonsense on stilts. Models can’t predict rainfall

Showing that academics can cost the country more than they return, ANU’s Geoff Cary posits that there is an 80% consensus (an unmeasured, meaningless statistic) that there will be more fires in Australia 60 years from now.

This is an opinion about opinions of experts who use models that we know can’t predict temperatures. Not only is this “fact” already piled three layers of nonsense deep, the most abjectly stupid point is the fourth layer, the pretense that these models might, in their wildest dreams, be able to predict rainfall — which is an order of magnitude harder than just predicting global temperature. Predicting bushfires is dependent on knowing not just total rainfall in one region, but how that rainfall is spread throughout the year. Not to mention that bushfires depend on wind speed, wind direction, land-use (fuel load), and humidity.

Everyone knows that different climate models predict both higher and lower rainfall in the same areas at the same time, and the type of phrases used to describe the ability of climate models are: “low confidence”  (National Centre for Atmospheric Research),  “irrelevant with reality” (Koutsoyiannis ), or an “absence” of skill (Kiktev). Compare the different projections of climate models [...]

A few facts on Flannery, Climate Council, and prophecies of bushfire: no long trends for Katoomba

Flannery and the Climate Council are at it again — trying to scare money out of people with their prophecies of bushfires. They are milking the fear factor from the October fires in the Blue Mountains, telling us disaster planning means we have to get “the facts straight”.

Let’s get the facts straight on exactly how human emissions of CO2 have affected the temperature and rainfall in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. How much hotter and drier is the climate? Ninety percent of human emissions have been produced since WWII. Katoomba has the longest running temperature series I could find in the BOM records -see below. But where is that rising trend? The string of hot years in the late 1930s appears to be just as hot as the last decade.  The 1920s and 30s look a lot like the 1980 and 90s.

The facts about Katoomba annual temperatures

Source: Katoomba annual mean temperature

see also Katoomba October mean temperatures

 

But wait, the Climate Council tells us “Hot, dry conditions create conditions favourable for bushfires. Australia has just experienced its hottest 12 months ever recorded.” Any sane person would assume the Blue [...]

Heat and fires from when CO2 was “ideal”: Black Thursday, 1851

The year 1851 and CO2 is 287ppm in Law Dome Antarctica. The climate is perfect, but Australians are dealing with the worst fires in recorded history, scorching heat, drought, searing wind and by the sounds of it, an arabian dust storm. There are no skycranes, no mobile phones, and no helitankers. Temperatures in the shade hit 117F in Melbourne (that’s 47C), 115 in Warnambool, 114 in Geelong. But those are not BOM official records  (the BOM didn’t exist until some 50 years later). The conditions were unprecedented in living memory even though, at the time, many people said fires and droughts were commonplace. Businesses stopped, and it was described as “wanton martyrdom” to go out in the streets. People fighting the fires realized they had to flee instead and took en masse onto galloping horses to head for bare hilltops or watercourses. One writer two weeks later suggests the fire consumed 150,000 pounds of life and property, “to the utter ruin of many families.” The population was around 80,000. Despite the devastation, no one suggests a carbon tax.

‘When the smoke turned day into night’  Painted by William Strutt | Library Of Victoria

Apparently the pall of smoke was [...]