JoNova

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


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Forgotten: Historic hot temperatures recorded with detail and care in Adelaide

What I found most interesting about this was the skill, dedication and length of meteorological data taken in the 1800′s. When our climate is “the most important moral challenge” why is it there is so little interest in our longest and oldest data?

Who knew that one of the most meticulous and detailed temperature records in the world from the 1800′s comes from Adelaide, largely thanks to Sir Charles Todd. The West Terrace site in Adelaide was one of the best in the world at the time, and provides accurate historic temperatures from  “Australia’s first permanent weather bureau at Adelaide in 1856″. (Rainfall records even appear to go as far back as 1839.)  Lance Pidgeon went delving into the National Archives and was surprised at what he found.

If we want to understand our climate the records from the 1800′s in Adelaide are surely worth attention?

The BOM usually shows graphs like this one below starting in 1911. You might think you are looking at the complete history of Adelaide temperatures and that smoothed temperature is rising inexorably, but the historic records remain unseen. While “hottest” ever records are proclaimed in [...]

Extreme heat in 1896: Panic stricken people fled the outback on special trains as hundreds die.

Photo: Jo Nova

Post by: Lance Pidgeon with assistance from Chris Gillham and others.

It is as if history is being erased. For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.

In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days (1)(2)(3). The maximumun at or above 102 degrees F (38.9°C) for 24 days straight.

By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, the thermometer recording 109F at midnight. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels). Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains.  As reported at the time, the government felt [...]

Charles Sturt’s time: so hot that thermometers exploded. Was Australia’s hottest day in 1828? 53.9C!

Australia’s hottest day? Not 2010, but 1828 at a blistering 53.9 °C

Back before man-made climate change was frying Australia, when CO2 was around 300ppm, the continent savoured an ideal preindustrial climate, right? (This is the kind of climate we are spending $10bn per annum to get back too?)

We are told today’s climate has more records and more extremes than times gone by, but the few records we have from the early 1800’s are eye-popping.  Things were not just hotter, but so wildly hot it burst thermometers.  The earliest temperature records we have show that Australia was a land of shocking heatwaves and droughts, except for when it was bitterly cold or raging in flood.

In other words, nothing has changed, except possibly things might not be quite so hot now.

Silliggy (Lance Pidgeon) has been researching records from early explorers and from newspapers. What he has uncovered is fascinating. — Jo

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Charles Sturt  (1930 postage stamp) Wikimedia

Lance Pidgeon writes:

“EXTENSIVE FLOOD”, “AWFUL BUSH FIRES”, “PROLONGED DROUGHT“ AND “CHANGES OF CLIMATE“.

These Australian headlines from the 1800′s above describe extremes the early colonists faced. At the time the European explorers who were instructed and equipped to [...]