Learn about Australian English, news, and current affairs in this episode of My Country on the Aussie English Podcast where I talk about Australian weather in 2019.
AE 531 – My Country: Australian Weather 2019 – Droughts, Bushfires, & Floods
What’s going on, guys? I was inspired to jump on today to do another episode on here about my country, about Australia, because the weather has been going crazy, right? Across the nation, there’s been a whole heap of different events and I thought it would be worth sort of showing you them and talking a bit about them. Let’s get into it.
So, at the moment, we have 28 bushfires raging through Tasmania. So, it’s really dry down there at the moment, in the height of summer, just after the height of summer I guess, we have 28 of these fires that are raging all around Tasmania and threatening a lot of households and there’s been quite a few buildings that have obviously been burnt down and damaged and yeah it’s been going on for about a month or so now so, it’s crazy and that is due to the hot temperatures, the dry climate down here, although I don’t think that Tasmania is currently experiencing a drought. I know that in New South Wales we have been experiencing a drought, ok? So, Australia is one of those countries where we don’t have very much water. We’re not always in drought like it’s a very, very dry country and there are definitely parts of the country where you just don’t expect water, but I guess drought, and again I’m not an expert, but I would imagine when when a place is in drought, it’s experiencing less water than usual, right? Less rainfall than usual. It’s not that it doesn’t have much rainfall or that it has a lot of rainfall it’s more about the average, ok? And if a certain period of time, say five years in a row, which has been happening for New South Wales is experiencing less than the average amount of rain each year.
So, that’s happening in New South Wales at the moment and there’s been quite a lot of stress on farmers. There was this photo that was shown recently where a woman was helping her her father and she captured an image of him. This photo here where he’s on his knees praying in the fields, hoping that rain will come because it’s affecting, it’s affecting the crops that a lot of these farmers are planting where if it doesn’t rain early on enough or even during that crop, the crops can’t grow to be harvested and then sold in order to make money and generate income for these farmers. The animals are really expensive to feed in these sorts of times because the price of the food that they get the hay and everything goes through the roof because you have farmers who make that hay obviously struggling as well to make it because of the drought.
And on top of that, you… if you can’t afford that sort of stuff, you have very little in the way of grass and hay on your own property, then the cows and the other livestock that you’re going to have tend to obviously get smaller and not grow as large, they’re not as healthy, and so when you try and sell those each year, you’re going to get much of a reduced sort of price for those animals too. So, for the last few years we’ve been seeing that farmers, especially on the interior of the West Coast of Australia, right? So, we have the Great Dividing Range in Australia. See if I can show you a map of that let me tell you you’ll see here on the screen. Right so we have what we call the Great Dividing Range which goes from about here in Cairns all the way down the East Coast. A few, maybe, a 100 or so kilometres in, maybe a few hundred kilometers in New South Wales, down into Victoria. And what happens is that that causes air to go up into the sort of higher level of the atmosphere, and I’m not a meteorologist, but my basic understanding is because of that mountain range, you get water generated or rainfall rather generated and it comes down and goes down both sides of the mountains into rivers and you have the Murray Darling Basin, which is this big base in New South Wales where you, and in the interior of Queensland as well as Victoria, the Murray Darling Basin, the Darling River and the Murray River and you have the water coming off the Great Dividing Range going west across those farmlands and you also have it going east down to the ocean on the other side of the Great Dividing Range. So, that’s why we have that green line or strip of forest up the east coast of Australia because there’s rainfall because of the mountains, right? You’ll talk about the Murray Darling Darling Basin and the other issues there. So, anyway there’s farmers on the interior there. There’s not enough rainfall down in New South Wales and South Western Queensland at the moment so, we’re having this drought and a lot of the farmers are obviously under pressure because they’re finding it very hard to survive.
They’re getting support from other farmers, they’re getting support from the government. I think they’re getting a lot of donations though as well, although I’m sure it’s not enough and they’re really battling, but hopefully the drought will break soon and they’ll get through that. You might be asking though at the same time is having this drought, especially if you’re in Australia at the moment, you might be thinking well… I’ve just heard of all these reports that places like Cairns and Townsville are being flooded, right? So there’s all this stuff going on in Queensland with ridiculous amounts of rainfall and I guess I can show you that on a map here, I had it up here. So, this is the 2018 Australian rainfall decile map so you’re going to see here rainfall across the continent, where it’s blue it is up to, highest on record so, very good amounts, above average, right? And beyond, and where it goes from white to dark red it’s below average, right? So, you can see there on this map that most of Southern Queensland here almost all of New South Wales as well as Victoria are all experiencing droughts as well as South Australia here on the eastern side. And so a lot of our farming land is in this area and that’s why the farmers are having such trouble, but you’ll also see up here in the top of Australia that they’re receiving very much above average rainfall and there are even some places here that seem to be receiving highest on record levels of rainfall and even in the interior here in southern Western Australia.
So, what’s happening now is that you have all of these different weather systems, I guess, happening or going on at the same time you have flooding up in Townsville at the moment, in Queensland, where I was hearing crazy stories of them getting something like a year’s worth of water in a week. It may have even been less than a week. There were stories of, I think, 20 different suburbs around Townsville that have had to evacuate. They’ve had to take the people out because the water levels of the river are rising after the River has broken its banks, the water is rising, it’s going to submerge these houses and people just have to get out while they can. There was a woman saying that in her house she had to escape and leave, she went to drop the kids off at school, I think, and then came back after half an hour and the water had risen three metres in half an hour. So, imagine that a metre every 10 minutes, that would be visible, you would imagine the speed at which the water is rising and so, in the case of these floods as we were talking about on the podcast recently when we were talking about floods, these are fast onset floods where you have these… this weather with a severe amount of rain and the river systems can’t cope. So, the rain comes down and the water just rises, the rivers break their banks or even the rain ends up in the streets, right? Because you just have consistent rain that the drains can’t handle and the rivers can’t handle, they can’t drain away all that water. So, that’s what’s happening in Townsville at the moment, but yeah it is just, it’s crazy to see across the monsoon tropics there you have heaps of rain. Meanwhile, you know, 1000 kilometers or a few hundred kilometers below the monsoon tropics that northern sort of stretch of Australia, that sort of banana across the top, you have all of this dry, dry, dry drought sort of conditions as well hammering the country at the same time. So, Australia is very unique in that respect, I think, that you can have flooding in one part of the country, even within the same state. Meanwhile, you also have droughts in the same state, Queensland for example here. So, it’s very it’s a very crazy time.
I also want to touch on what’s going on in the Murray Darling Basin. So, there’s been story after story of these fish killings recently in the Murray Darling Basin and if I can go back to this map here, the Murray Darling Basin is let me just zoom out here a bit, it’s this section of Australia here. So, you have the Darling River I think coming from up here and going all the way down and joining with the Murray River, which is the border here of Queensland and the Murray flows from the Great Dividing Range, the Alps up here, all the way between Victoria and New South Wales into Adelaide and then out into the great Australian bite here. So, this whole section here is the Murray Darling base and you have a lot of farming there. You have a lot of cotton farms and I think they have been the biggest problem that I’ve heard so far with regards to taking water from the Murray Darling system.
So, a lot of the farmers that are there rely on the water in the Murray Darling system to feed their cattle or their livestock or water their crops, right? For Irrigation and that sort of stuff. Now obviously when you have a drought you have a lot less water in the system and so, the cotton crops, which I’m not 100 percent sure on their location, but I would imagine they’re further up the system further to… and again I’m not sure, I’m just double, I’m just double checking, I have to have a look, but I think they’re up sort of further in the north here and they had been, it’s been found as far as I’m aware that they’ve been taking more water at least some cotton farmers had been illegally taking water out of the system in order to grow their cotton. There might have been other types of farms as well. Effectively, what’s happened, though, is that you have had this blue green algae, this algae grow in the water and it’s boomed in the water as a result of the conditions that have occurred and this has led to massive, massive amounts of fish dying because when the algae blooms in the water, it sucks the oxygen out of the water and the fish simply suffocate. So, we’ve had the Darling River with extensive mass deaths of fish that’s been occurring for weeks now, you know, and you would just see millions of dead fish, some of them are up to 40 or even 50 years old, you know, like massive fish. So, it’s really tragic.
Another problem is that the fish that are surviving tend to be invasive species and I think I was reading something the other day about the carp, which is a problem species in Australia because it digs up all the soil on the bottom of these river beds and it leads to them becoming very muddy and silty and it’s just they outcompete the native species, anyway, it seems like those species are actually surviving better than the native ones and this thing is spreading down the Darling River. So, we’re having areas where there are fish kills upstream and then I think that the algae is spreading downstream in these same conditions are occurring more and more and we’re getting more and more fish deaths. So, just one more thing that’s happening to the Australian environment at the moment.
The last thing that I wanted to touch on was the feral brumby culls that are finally coming in. So, we have a problem in Australia where in the south east part of Australia we have feral horses. These are horses that have been released into nature, into the wild and they live there, but they damage the river systems. They eat a lot of the plants, the native plants, they… the hooves on the animals, destroy the ground because Australia, before Europeans came, had no livestock at all, had no source of animals that had hooves like horses, sheep, cows those kinds of animals, donkeys etc. And so the land, the plants and the soil system effectively wasn’t used to these animals and this the sort of I guess the hardness of their feet compacting the ground and so, quite often we have a problem where if you get lots of these animals feral in an area, they can actually destroy the soil and the ground systems and the plant systems and so it’s a sort of cascading effect. It’s almost from the bottom up, disturbing sort of the balance of the ecosystems so, there was a massive sort of to do recently about this brumby death that they… someone stumbled upon in Santa Teresa here where this drought is going on in New South Wales and southern Victoria and north western Victoria, southern western Queensland, and these these feral horses had obviously been everywhere doing their thing and then when a few hot days rolled through, which recently occurred, where we had like days up to 49 degrees, I think, in South Australia, it was definitely over 40 here in Victoria and NSW hit it as well so, that centre of Australia definitely got really hot, we had a heatwave and tragically or, you know, I guess it depends if you like horses or not, but these these brumbies that were spread out in this landscape went to where they thought water was and there was no water there because of the drought and because of the temperature and they all died in this one location. So, someone obviously found, them took these photos, a lot of people were sort of… I don’t know necessarily if they were outraged, but they were definitely upset because people tend to like horses, right? You don’t really think about rats and other animals that live there naturally that have probably died as well, but horses people like.
The problem that I have, though, is that we have a lot of horses here and people won’t allow the government to kill them or to cull them or to reduce the numbers because their horses and people have it in their head that horses are these cute cuddly animal, whereas the native animals like kangaroos and dingoes and wombats and those other animals that also live in the environment, that are also cute and cuddly, are sort of competing with these horses, anyway. It looks like the government has decided to roll out some culls in order to control the numbers of Brumby’s which I wholeheartedly support. I don’t like… I don’t like animals… feral animals in our environment destroying the environment or competing with native Australian animals and I also hate the idea of these feral animals suffering in this kind of way. So, I’m sure that a bullet and a humane death is much, much much, much more of a… what would you say? A better option than dying of dehydration in the heat.
Anyway, that is it for this my story about Australia guys and their sort of climate and weather that’s going on, I hope you enjoyed it. If you find any good articles feel free to send them my way. I’m going to start rabbiting on I’ll let you get on with your day. Thanks for joining me! See you later!
Here's what you get when you sign up!
- Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
- Understand every word in every episode.
- Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
- Get access to bonus member-only episodes.