Thursday, 26 March 2015

Extreme weather in northern Australia

Three cyclones line up across Australia

Tropical Cyclone Pam, Tropical Cyclone Nathan, Tropical Cyclone Olwyn

25 March, 2015

Looking at this Earth image, you would be forgiven for thinking that Australia has become the planet's cyclone alley, with three major storms pounding the region at the same time.

This image is a mosaic of the three tropical cyclones, Pam, Nathan and Olwyn, taken during three orbital passes by a weather satellite on March 11.

On the right of the picture is Tropical Cyclone Pam, which produced winds gusting up to 270 kilometres an hour and was classified as a category five cyclone.

After forming east of the Solomon Islands on March 6, the deadly storm hit Vanuatu on March 13, killing 16 people and devastating much of the island nation's infrastructure.

At the centre of this image is Tropical Cyclone Nathan which initially formed in the Coral Sea on March 10.

The storm came to within 50 kilometres of the coast the following night, before moving back out to sea, strengthening and returning to Cape York early Friday morning.

The category four system hit between Cooktown and Hopevale with wind gusts of up to 230 kilometres per hour lashing the area.

After crossing Cape York, Nathan strengthened again over the Gulf of Carpentaria before finally striking Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory on Tuesday and weakening into a tropical low.

On the left of our image is severe category three Tropical Cyclone Olwyn which was at its peak when it hit the Western Australian towns of Exmouth, Coral Bay and Carnarvon on Friday March 13.

The cyclone carved a path of destruction through the region with vast swathes of crops destroyed by the strong winds.

Olwyn was downgraded to a tropical low pressure system as it continued down the mid Western Australian coast, dumping heavy rain as far south as Perth.

The mosaic shows the three swirling storms - Pam, Nathan, and Olwyn as seen by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite aboard the Suomi NPP weather satellite from its 833 kilometre high orbit.

The satellite is jointly operated by NASA and America's weather bureau, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA.

Australia also copped a double whammy cyclone hit last month when category five Tropical Cyclone Marcia hit central Queensland, while on the same day category four Tropical Cyclone Lam struck the Northern Territory Gulf of Carpentaria coast.

Queensland to create permanent disaster recovery agency
New body to get $30m annual funding to deal with aftermath of increased number of severe natural disasters caused by climate change

Cyclone Marcia damage
Damage in the coastal town of Yeppoon in north Queensland after cyclone Marcia hit in February. Jackie Trad estimated that the cost of the storm would be about $750m. Photograph: Shelly Allsop/AFP/Getty Images 

23 March, 2015

The Queensland government is to establish Australia’s first permanent disaster recovery agency to deal with a future of more extreme cyclones and floods brought on by climate change.

Deputy premier Jackie Trad said it was inevitable that Queensland, which already “bears the brunt of most of the natural disasters that beset Australia”, would face more catastrophes, more often.

The Queensland Reconstruction Authority – originally set up to deal with the 2011 floods, rated by the World Bank as Australia’s largest natural disaster of recent years – was due to wind up in June.

But Trad said new laws before parliament this week would make the agency – currently dealing with the aftermath of 14 natural disasters between 2013 and 2014 alone – a permanent arm of government costing about $30m a year.

An ongoing series of natural disasters have cost the state billions since the 2011 floods, which killed 38 people and, according to the World Bank, cost an estimated US$15.9bn ($20bn).

Trad said the growing number and intensity of disasters like cyclones and floods had been “made clear by key scientists in the field of climate science” and was “the lived experience of regional Queensland”.

Just ask the people of Cooktown today when tropical cyclone Nathan crossed the coastline,” she said.

It is unfortunately a feature of living in Queensland that we do attract natural disaster and unfortunately they are becoming far more extreme.”

Tropical cyclone Marcia, which last month lashed the central Queensland coast, damaging 1,938 properties and triggering $13.77m in immediate financial assistance to victims, would cost about $750m in total, Trad said.

The freak hail storm that hit the centre of Brisbane last November, punching holes in high-rise buildings and lifting roofs of unit blocks, cost more than $1bn, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

The reconstruction authority is the only agency in Australia with statutory powers coordinating disaster assistance for local government, small businesses and individuals.

Trad said recent history showed that communities typically took about two years to recover from a natural disaster.

This included dealing with the mental health impacts that emerged in the months following the initial cleanup.

Trad said the authority had “proved its immense worth in ensuring local communities, local councils, and people can rebuild their lives after extreme natural disasters”.

She called on the Abbott government, which is currently reviewing funding under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), to play its part in rebuilding the state.

I do want to make it clear that Queensland unfortunately is that state that bears the brunt of most of the natural disasters that beset Australia and we are not going to be diddled when it comes to the NDRRA arrangements,” she said.

We know that it’s a problem in terms of the budget but we cannot leave communities stranded after a natural disaster.

We have got to respond and the government has got to be there to help rebuild and that includes the commonwealth government.”

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