Flash droughts are the new norm

A young devil on the prowl ... we have had a few around this year. Only one had obvious facial cancer
A young devil on the prowl … we have had a few around this year. Only one had obvious facial cancer

This story about flash droughts is interesting.

I am seeing a worsening drought-like effect on my southern Tasmanian farm.

That is anecdotally, as I don’t keep soil moisture or rainfall records.

This blog has already canvassed the fact that Southern Ocean wind speeds are increasing.

Data shows it is getting warmer too, but thankfully much more slowly here than the northern hemisphere.

Regardless, wind + warmth = more evaporation.

Which means dry soil, and hence dry plants.

We had a week of drizzle recently and the ground was dry almost the moment the rain stopped.

The water just evaporated off the ground in the relentless wind.

Having had a burst pipe to my dam, losing all my collected spring rain, we have not had enough rain since to raise the dam even an inch, and this is in a supposedly wet La Nina year.

Growing vegetables this year has been almost futile.

The ground is rock hard. Keeping it wet would use up all our potable rainwater tank supply.

Installing a bore is the only answer for future food security on our farm.

When will mainland wheat crops start keeling over from the combined effect of drought as global warming progresses?

Thankfully, it has been damp enough this year to at least keep Tasmanian bushfires at bay, so far.

Come the next El Nino year, that will all change, big time.

Record polar vortex last November

The southern polar vortex
The southern polar vortex. NASA image

We had powerful gales in southern Tasmania in December, after a fairly wet early November.

Gales are hardly abnormal here, but these seemed special, anecdotally speaking, based on my 10 years on the farm.

In Judbury, the grass up the hill was pressed hard against the ground for three days in footage from my trailcam video.

A tree fell locally and killed two cows.

Even when it wasn’t a gale front, it blew hard.

There was plenty of drizzle in December, but it evaporated off the soil. Very little soaked in.

Interestingly, the southern hemisphere had a record strong polar vortex event in November 2020 before the gales.

The polar vortex is the wind that spins around the earth’s poles at high altitude.

When the vortex is strong and cold over the South Pole it brings rain to Australia’s East Coast, and low temperatures.

When the vortex is weak, it brings drought, heat and fires.

I am unsure if the vortex brought the gales, as the vortex is 30km high, separate from land and ocean winds.

But it does affect the weather in complex ways.

Here’s the kicker, 2019 was an unusually weak vortex year, with sudden stratospheric warming.

The 2019 Australian fires were a true disaster.

Right now the North Pole is having a vortex breakdown, something that happens more often with global warming.

This brings unusual blizzards to some northern hemisphere countries, and when that happens climate change deniers say: “Look, it’s getting colder!”

What they don’t see, unless they look for it online, is the huge lump of heat over Greenland that forms during vortex breakdowns.

If you have been paying attention, you’d know Greenland ice melt has been off the scale in recent years, and being a massive ice sheet sitting on land, it’s melt will raise global sea levels.

We live in interesting times.

Sounds of the Weld

I don’t know what this sound is, some type of owl?

Tried listening to YouTube clips of owls and other birds and none of them match.

It was a persistent call, going for at least half an hour, but sometimes just for a few minutes.

I recorded it in the Weld Valley in the evening and early morning, and have also heard it recently at night in Judbury.

Don’t recall hearing it before in my 10 years in Tasmania, but I do tend to pay more attention these days, maybe I just missed it.

Gibbons? 🙂

Tasmanian Life