Saturday, February 4, 2023



Tonga Hunga volcanic eruption, 12 months on

In Australia in 2022 we saw pink sunsets. The evening of 14 December 2022 was one such occasion. Those who follow the heavens might see this as a sign of an auspicious new year present for us all ... The question is what impact Tonga Hunga might have on earth’s weather or climate?

Moulamein Notebook – River dropping slowly

China Gibson. The 2022 flood will be the new 100-year flood level in the Edward at Moulamein. The old record was 6.094m. I think we got to 6.235m ... When you start to open banks, block banks or leave banks that stop water flow, it always affects someone else. That is the way floods are. The old saying has always been, “Fires unite, floods divide.” Pretty close to the truth ... Before all this flood stuff got real, I noticed that some of our frogs had laid their eggs in some wheel tracks that had water in them ...

Food industry warns government of long-term food supply chain disruptions: National Food Supply Chain Alliance

The National Food Supply Chain Alliance, made up of nine influential national food industry associations, says long term supply chain issues, including ongoing natural disasters and labour shortages, are set to increase food prices for the foreseeable future ... The Alliance has, over the past two days, met with government and the opposition to explain the risks to the economy and Australians’ wellbeing should a National Plan not be developed and implemented as a matter of urgency.

Andrews SEC plan is a mixed bag

When Daniel Andrews announced his plans to revive the State Electricity Commission (SEC), he said: “Unreliable, privatised coal will be replaced by clean, government-owned renewable energy.” This is a distorted claim.

Philip Zylstra’s response #4 – self-thinning forest understoreys and wildfire debate

The critique of our study of fire history in southwestern forests illustrates the difficulty of discussion around such emotive issues. We reported that according to Departmental records, bushfires were seven times more likely in areas of forest that still had the dense understorey that had been germinated by prescribed burns than they were in other areas where the understorey had self-thinned because it had been left alone. These are the facts, but they leave us at an impasse.

Playing for sheep stations

Farmers in Australia are watching the New Zealand Government with growing horror as they move from the announced 10 per cent cut in methane emissions to actual regulatory rules mandating these cuts take place, starting 2025. The climate change game was great fun while everyone played with monopoly money and they could afford to outbid each other with their virtue, but now that that we are moving to playing with real money and going from targets to taxes, it is clear the virtue signalling has ended and the targeting of who pays has begun.

Caring for national parks – a conservationist’s perspective evolves: Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth

Cam Walker. After World War Two, a growing appreciation of the Australian landscape and an emerging conservation movement led millions of people to become involved in campaigns to protect our wild and special places ... Once a campaign was won, we often thought that the battle was over ... Several decades ago I was a volunteer with an environment group that campaigned to gain protection of wild ecosystems. In those days I supported a ‘let burn’ policy when it comes to managing fire in wild landscapes.

North Queensland flood warning infrastructure project complete: Miles

An $8 million project to upgrade North Queensland’s flood warning network is now complete with 180 new flood warning assets installed across 28 council areas in the Far North, North and North West of the state. 

Undera update – the water recedes, the community hopes to future proof

Daryl Wiltshire from Undera reports that while the floodwaters are receding, the community is waiting and hoping that the rain that is forecast will not affect the region too much. Undera people are "hoping for a show of resolve from the authorities who control levees to future flood proof the farming area."

Peter Rutherford to Philip Zylstra #2 – self-thinning forest understoreys and wildfire debate

Both researchers I referenced show regular low intensity burning, as practised by Aboriginal people across the landscape, has been lost and Dr Fletcher believes the loss of cool, mosaic burning since European settlement has left us, as a nation, dangerously fire prone. Philip Zylstra seems to have missed this critical point.

Jack Bradshaw to Philip Zylstra #2 – self-thinning forest understoreys and wildfire debate

In his 24 October response on this issue, Zylstra states that in their study seven times more area of recently burnt forest was burnt than long unburnt forest. That is not in dispute. But was this because there were seven times the number of ignitions in these areas to start with because of chance or differences in area or because of some flammability factor? We simply do not know because this basic statistical requirement was not considered in the study.  Is the conclusion biased, by how much, and in what direction? Who knows?

Think fire, know fire: Roger Underwood

I have recently re-read Think Trees, Grow Trees, a 1985 publication from the Institute of Foresters of Australia. This excellent little book was the brainchild of, and was edited by Dr Wilf Crane, one of my contemporaries at the Australian Forestry School, a notable forest scientist and famous and eccentric character ... To me, the most important part of the book (in terms of contemporary relevance) is the chapter called Living with Fire. It is written by Phil Cheney.

Dialogue to help Gippsland’s forests

Scott McArdle is blunt. “Gippsland’s forests need our help. Fire, floods, storms, drought, pests, weeds, neglect, exploitation and the changing climate are all taking a huge toll – but if we all work together, the future can be different.” Mr McArdle is the executive officer of a new group, the Gippsland Forest Dialogue (GFD), that aims to do just that – meet the challenges facing the region’s forests and find ways to move forward.

Residents relieved as Marton Swing Bridge re-opens ahead of schedule

Cook Shire Council is pleased to announce that with repairs to the approach ramps of the Marton Swing Bridge coming to completion, the bridge is scheduled to reopen in coming days – ahead of the approaching wet season.

Philip Zylstra’s fire research: Adding value or creating risk? : Peter Rutherford

Following the critique of a research paper by Zylstra, Bradshaw and Lindenmayer “Self-thinning forest understoreys reduce wildfire risk, even in a warming climate,” by Jack Bradshaw, readers might be interested in some broader analysis of Mr Zylstra’s fire research work ... His research appears to be the base to advocate for what might be described as a wilderness approach to fire management across the broad Australian landscape.

Politically correct fire management: Vic Jurskis

Elders of Australian forestry temporarily reinstated sustainable fire management more than half a century ago, before a new generation of ecologists dismantled it. These new experts employ the Climate Cop-Out to explain the inevitable resurgence of pestilence and megafires. Now Forestry Australia is collaborating with them to ‘reimagine’ our future. To achieve this, they have to reinvent our past.

Albanese and King – throwing rural communities down the drain – literally

For rural and regional communities, especially those crying out for dams for flood and drought mitigation for decades, Budget Paper Number 2 from the Commonwealth 2022-2023 Budget makes depressing reading.

Undera – the community left to take responsibility

As at 26 October, the flooding continues at Undera and, with no authority prepared to take responsibility for the levees, it's left to the community - somehow, sometime - to repair the multiple levee breaks.

Philip Zylstra continues the debate – self-thinning forest understoreys and wildfire risk

Our paper published in 2022 shows that, according to DBCA records, bushfires have been seven times more likely on land previously burned by them than on land that they have not burned. Mr Jack Bradshaw’s educated guesses about the causes of karri regeneration prior to 1850 do not change this, they use speculation to distract from the hard evidence we are discussing.

Statement on Australia signing the Methane Pledge: NFF

Farmers have been given assurances there will be no new taxes or regulation on livestock methane, and no reduction to agricultural production nor livestock numbers. This commitment recognises agriculture’s existing achievement, future plans and dedication to ongoing partnership with government to develop technology-led solutions and associated innovation. We are confident Australian agriculture and farmers will retain a seat at the table as the conversation continues and this dialog with government is open and dynamic.

Self-thinning forest understoreys and wildfire risk debate – Jack Bradshaw responds to Philip Zylstra

In his response to my critique of his paper, Zylstra agrees that the proportion of an area burnt is influenced by the likelihood of a fire starting and the effect of the fire suppression effort. He also agrees that these factors were not taken into account. The degree and direction of bias in their results in therefore unknown, invalidating the results. This is exacerbated by the fact that they have treated the dry north-eastern jarrah forest and the wet karri and tingle forests, with their very different fire behaviour, as one type.

MINCo continues plan traditions

Last week, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority sang the praises of the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MINCo) meeting outcomes. Hot topics were climate change, delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in full, water buybacks and First Nations water. When it came to the almost $2 billion unregulated water trading industry that impacts communities, rural economies and the environment, it seems implementing legislation already in place was not on the radar.

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