Saturday, 22 July 2017

Reflections on NZ's "weather bomb" and denial

A weather bomb hits New Zealand


Flooding at a service station in Timaru.

In the last 24 hours New Zealand has been hit by what can only be called a “weather bomb”, not for the first time this winter.

An indication of what hit New Zealand can be gained from the following weather map in which the whole country can be seen.

Also listening to a report on Radio NZ this morning it was reported that a rain gauge had indicated rain of 200 mm (8 inches) had fallen overnight whereas the average for the whole of July is 45 mm (1.8 inches).

A state of emergency has been declared for Dunedin and Timaru in the South Island and the army has been called in to help.

  • Dunedin, Timaru, Waitaki, Selwyn and the wider Otago region have all declared a state of 
  • emergency.
  • About 100 homes have been evacuated from Outram, a rural town west of Dunedin. Residents have been evacuated from Mosgiel and Henley.
  • The NZ Army has been called in to assist Civil Defence in Timaru and to take a sick Oamaru child to Dunedin.
  • South Cantabrians living near flood-prone areas have been urged to prepare for evacuation.
  • Homeowners have decided to leave some properties in North Otago after rising floodwaters submerged streets and bridges.
  • Wastewater was overflowing into some streets in Dunedin.
  • Civil Defence were preparing to evacuate some parts of Mosgiel if required.
  • Access to Milton, south of Dunedin, has been closed with State Highway 1 blocked north and south of the town.
  • Homes in Ashburton and eastern Christchurch were flooded on Friday morning.
  • Drivers were trapped in their cars in floodwaters near Rakaia in Canterbury.
  • Power is out in following roads in Dunedin: Old Brighton Road, Green Island Bush Road, St Leonards Drive, Berwick, Henley, Anzac Ave
  • Dunedin is expected to get the most rain - up to 200mm over a 27-hour period. Parts of Canterbury could receive up to 180mm of rain before noon Saturday.
  • The flooding has closed roads throughout Canterbury and Otago, including State Highway 1. The only highway connecting Canterbury and Otago is SH8 between Twizel and Omarama, but chains are essential.
  • SH7 Lewis Pass has reopened.
  • Up-to-date road conditions - full list.
  • The storm in pictures.
  • How to prepare for a storm.
Send your weather pics and videos to:
UPDATED JUL 22, 2017 10:48 AM

You’d think that people would be getting the idea that this is linked with, not just climate change but climate change happening “faster than previously expected”.

Instead Ms. Kim Hill said “this is not just weather – it’s a weather event, isn’t it?”

Wow, Kim, that’s radical, isn’t it?

It's possible to say anything when you just look at what is happening on your doorstep and you are unaware (or purposefully ignore) the evidence of what is happening on a global scale.

Typical of reactions is from a friend who was supposed to visit but put off his visit on account of the weather forecast despite my saying that the rain wasn’t that bad.

It turns out that Wellington was one of the few places in the country that was spared.

Rather than just be grateful my friend is saying “you can’t trust the weather forecasters”

What I can forgive in my friends I can't in public figures such as RNZ broadcaster who, in theory at least, are paid to bring us the NEWS, not pull the wool over our eyes.


I spend quite a lot of my time observing the weather in my locality and looking for patterns.  One thing I have observed in the last few years is a drought that never quite goes away in winter, despite periods of wet weather, illustrated by the fact that one of our friends living on the land had to get a water truck in, not in the middle of a summer drought but in the first half of winter.

There is no doubt that this has been a extraordinarily cold winter in New Zealand (certainly in comparison with previous years).

What I have noticed, above all, is that it has not been so much cold as damp. Here in Wellington we have not seen the sun for many days on end. It is as if we have a constant and complete covering of thick cloud that obliterates the sun.

Most importantly the winds that we are usually buffeted with (from the north and from the south alternately) have been missing and frequently there simply isn't any air movement in "Windy Welly".

Take this, from NZ Metservice:

Our major winter storm will continue to cause challenges and problems through the day, with heavy rain, gales and snow lowering to low levels. This is significant event & people should keep up to date, through radio, news and social media.

I have observed that frequently, instead of moving quickly across the country as has historically been the case, weather systems STALL, so that even after a major weather event the usual clear, sunny weather that is typical is absent.

Look at this forecast for Dunedin (the epicentre of the weather bomb) for the next week.   Not much let up here for the poor people of Dunedin!

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Now look at the weather map in the lead-up to yesterday's rain (from 36 hours ago)....

And compare that with the situation as of an hour ago (after the weather event). 

No "calm-after the- storm" for New Zealand!

The present pattern (if there is one) is completely different from what I have experienced for the previous 60 years of my life.

I have never seen weather getting "stuck" like this at any time before this.

The reactions I get from people is either people going around with their eyes shut and thinking dualistically ("isn't it 'nice' weather today" or "isn't the weather horrible?"). 

A good proportion of society, aged 40 or less, have no idea what more-or-less stable weather is like.

The weather I experienced growing up in the 60's has more in common with the weather my father experienced growing up in the 20's than anything we have now.

When I point out my observations people's responses are like my friend who pointed out that there was a frost a couple of days ago - so somehow that made my observations invalid, despite the fact that this may have been the first or second frost in a winter that is theoretically half over.

That brings me back to denial.....

When I started to realise that climate change is happening "faster than previously expected" and that many positive feedbacks later we have passed numerous trigger points that weren't supposed to happen until 2100 so that, at the very least, human civilisation is doomed - or, if you have any understanding of conservation biology and habitat - we are headed for the precipice, not in 2100 but in short order.

I have always seen Nevil Shute's  On the Beach as being, not only about a nuclear holocaust but about denial and how people respond to their inevitable, short-term demise.

In this piece, "Dr. Doom", scientist  Julian Osborn is telling a few home truths about background radiation when he encounters the inability of c Holmes, wife of an Australian naval officer to deal with the truth.

In the past I was also a party pooper by insisting  on telling the truth like the character in the film.  The responses have often been similar to those in this scene.

By the end of the film, when the radiation cloud reaches Melbourne and people are directly confronted by their near-term mortality Julian Osborn commits suicide with carbon monoxide poisoning after doing what he wanted to do most in his life - win a race with his racing car, while the chief denier, Mary, ends her life, and those of her children, with cyanide while Cmndr Towers and the crew of the submarine Sawfish decide to "go back home" - to a home that no longer exists, to families that are long dead.


This has set me thinking about my own position now that the news on every front gets worse and worse and our demise (either as a species or as a civilisation - take your pick) it may in fact be better to just inform those "with little dust in their eyes" and not insist that we are all doomed (which I believe with every cell in my body).

To those people who say that because I don't have any "solutions" I'd better not tell the truth I have very little to say.

I also have zero respect.

All this brings back an interaction with Nigel, a Green Party wallah who tried to convince me there was "scientific proof" (his words, not mine - I kid you not), that to be successful a "message" had to be 80% "positive" - one of the most blatant justification for LYING.

People like Nigel, or the liars at Radio NZ and elsewhere, will always feel the lashing of my tongue while I have breath in my body.  They are responsible and don't have the privilege of being deluded.

As for the rest I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it does little good to disturb the illusions of those who are incapable, or unwilling to see things as they are although, with my restricted lifestyle I am quickly running out of things to say to such people.

Like the characters in On the Beach they will come to a realisation - in the end.

In the meantime my main wish is that people live their lives fully.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, live your life fully among the fully foolish & blind? It's impossible to live fully without communion & community with others. & when those others are, well, as you describe (it's the same here in Southern California) it's a loney plod - one day into the other, feigning normalcy, while a knowing, gnawing at the back of the mind etches the meaning off of everything you do. That's my experience.