What goes around comes around

Wildfires in Siberia in 2019
Siberian wildfires have been accompanied by great floods happening at the same time

Siberia has been ablaze again this year, with the fires this decade worse than at any time in the past 10,000 years, according to this report.

What is bizarre this year is severe flooding and fires happening almost side by side, according to this report.

These are not everyday floods, but floods that have risen to the third floor of buildings.

Vast Siberian fires also happened back in 2015. And 2016. And 2017. And 2018.

Much the same is happening in the high latitudes elsewhere.

The point of this post in relation to Tasmania?

Tasmania is getting warmer and drier, and it is already a windy place, with dry lightning strikes hitting the forests in summer.

Forests across the world are burning.

The Tasmanian fires last year were possibly just a shot across the bow.

Take the hint and prepare your property for a more fiery world.

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder that it does get hot in Tassie, even in the Huon.

Dead trees in the Huon

Dead trees in the Huon Valley ... is this normal?
Dead trees in the Huon Valley … is this normal?

Seems to be a lot of dead trees in the Huon Valley, and they are well outside of last year’s burned areas.

They are on north and south facing slopes.

Is this normal? Or from cyclical drought? Or part of a trend related to a drying climate? Borers? Something else?

Or is the Huon joining the long list of regions around the world experiencing tree death, places such as these.

I’ll post up a few more tree pix in due course.

Free range too eggspensive for Tazgov

The Tasmanian Government has gone to caged eggs not long after giving grants to producers to produce more free range eggs … external story here.

Fortunately the average Jo wields plenty of power in his or her choices at the shops. Here’s a good story about Australian egg-buying preferences … here.

And a cage farming video, don’t watch it before your bacon and egg breakfast tho … https://youtu.be/Myqgi0Y-aXg

Soil and fuel dryness at a high

These maps show Tasmanian soil and fuel dryness in mid 2019
These maps show Tasmanian soil and fuel dryness in mid 2019. The numbers are explained below.

Tasmania’s soil and fuel dryness for mid-2019 is more severe than mid-2018, which went on to produce one of Tasmania’s worst fire seasons.

Take a look at the maps above, borrowed from the www.Fire.Tas.gov.au and BOM websites today.

The June 2018 figures, in tabbed format, are below.

Those are impressive dry soil and fuel figures above, mainly on the east coast and midlands, but extending south to Hobart.

Prolonged, heavy rain could fix it. Let’s hope so.

I am no fire expert, but it seems clear that without rain, much of Tassie will be a tinderbox for the 2019/20 summer.

Keep in mind that the previous summer, with vast bushfires across Tasmania, lit by dry lightning, was not a new normal, but just another year in the planet’s upshift to a new, more extreme climate.

As I write this the northern hemisphere (now in summer) is alight.

Global ice is hitting record lows, some of it disappearing faster than forecast.

With Tasmania’s fire history, there’s never been a better time to remove pine trees, eucalypts and other flammable vegetation from around homes.

Where there is enough water to do so, replant with less dangerous trees.

Fire pumps and even bunkers should be considered. Have a fire escape plan.

Check out www.Fire.Tas.gov.au and other fire websites to get the good oil straight from the experts.

June 2018 solid and fuel dryness data
June 2018 solid and fuel dryness data

Key to the numbers from BOM

Drought Factor (DF)
The impact of KBDI, and any periods of recent rainfall that might dampen fine forest fuels such as ground litter, is incorporated into the fire danger index through another variable known as the Drought Factor (DF). The DF reflects the degree of availability of these fine forest fuels for combustion. It ranges from 0 to 10 with 10 representing the highest value of short-term rainfall deficiency and highest availability of fine fuels. The DF is calculated daily, once 24 hour rainfalls are available. Due to assumed interception by forest canopies, rainfall amounts of 3 mm or less are reset to zero in updating the DF.

Mount Soil Dryness Index (MSDI)
The MSDI is a measure of the longer-term dryness. The MSDI changes according to the evapo-transpiration and effective rainfall each day. It is a number between 0 and 200 mm, which roughly represents the amount of rain (in mm) needed to saturate the top layer of soil. SDI Primary uses one canopy class, and SDI Secondary has the option to use a different second canopy class.


Tasmania ... cold and misty one day, on fire the next
Tasmania … cold and misty one day, on fire the next

If you didn’t already know, TEOTWAWKIT stands for “the end of the world as we know it”.

The phrase appeared so much in online banter it required an acronym.

TEOTWAWKIT has been used to title an episode in a zombie TV series, and is now the title or theme of umpteen blogs and websites.

TEOTWAWKIT is relevant to Tasmania because people across the globe are looking to the island as a potential refuge from climate change.

Tassie may be a good place to escape heat, but it is already suffering from climate change.

Is the Apple Isle a climate refuge? Here’s some discussion on another site.

The scourge of municipal parking meters

The day of the parking meter has expired. Picture (cropped) by Chris Yarzab
The day of the parking meter has expired. Picture (cropped) by Chris Yarzab

Parking meters were never popular, but for today’s bricks-and-mortar retailers they have become downright terrifying.

Once-upon-a-time, councils could get away with using these as revenue raisers.

Not any more.

Online shopping gives people an easy alternative to visiting bricks-and-mortar shops.

If people are going to keep visiting shops, it has to be a pleasant experience. If not, they’ll stay away.

Hobart City Council is helping people stay away … read this and weep.

And before you say fewer vehicles taken on shopping trips is good because it creates less traffic and less CO2, consider that online purchases must be delivered, often right across the world from the land of the online bargain, China.

The material world makes greenhouse gas. There is no escape.

And here’s an external story about the crash in retail outlets in the USA, a trend quite possibly coming to a store near you in the near future.

Here’s a story about the death of shopping malls.

Retail, that great employer of young Australians, needs all the help it can get.

The heat is on: Huon Valley Council hammers ratepayers with 6% increase

The Huon Valley
The Hammered Huon Valley

Tasmania’s Huon Valley Council (HVC) increased its rates by almost 6% in 2019, a huge increase over the CPI, which is 1.3%.

The HVC operates in the south of Tasmania where the annual median household income was just $38,701 in 2016 (ABS figures), compared to $47,692 nationally.

Why are cash-poor Huon ratepayers being slugged?

According to a Mercury newspaper report (paywalled), the increase was to pay for an electric vehicle and solar panels.

The amount raised however, about $700,000, appears to be far more than the cost of an electric vehicle and solar panels.

Regardless, the rate increase will increase greenhouse gas production over any benefit gained from an electric vehicle and solar panels.

Given wage stagnation, additional cost-of-living increases will force people to work more shifts or longer hours.

Everything we do, other than sitting around at home, generates greenhouse gases. Even sitting around at home produces CO2 if you have a heater on, or eat meat.

There’s no escaping it. A Huon farmer might breed an extra beast or two to cover rising costs, and the livestock will add to already skyrocketing global methane levels.

I also question how the council’s new solar panels will be helpful with regard to greenhouse gases, in an area that uses clean hydro electricity.

There are other things the council could spend its money on.

Cash must be set aside to mitigate the inevitable effects of climate change.

Money is needed to develop plans and resources to fight worsening summer bushfires, and to help people who are affected.

Fires are likely to become the Huon’s No.1 problem with climate change.

Given the surge in Antarctic ice melt since 2014, and more recently Greenland, soon enough, low-lying roads and council infrastructure along the river and coast will need raising or relocation as sea levels rise.

This is an inevitable future cost for which setting up a “future fund” may be prudent.

Separately, the Huonville tip (Southbridge Transfer Station) is, surprisingly, located on the bank of the Huon River. It should be relocated. There is an eternal pile of chemical containers and other rubbish just metres from the riverbank. Is the soil under this pile contaminated? Is it getting into the river? Regardless, this is prime real estate that should not be a tip/waste transfer station.

The HVC has an unfortunate history.

The council lost a small fortune through poor investments at the time of the Global Financial Crisis.

More recently, the council became so dysfunctional it had to be sacked. A commissioner was installed, at great cost, to get the show back on the road.

Having already wasted enough of ratepayers’ money, the least the council could do is make rate-rise decisions that reflect reality.

In a struggling economy, in a low-income municipality, in a world suffering a climate emergency, that means holding rate increases at or below CPI.

Tasmanian Life