Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Australian climate science

September 24, 2014

These are Climate activists in Australia, hard at work studying the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere. The action was to show their support for the UN talkshop.

It is Down Under after all.

It could be the BOM.

crankycurfew productions

Heads Down, Bums Up! Studying the climate Down Under  – crankycurfew productions

first seen at JoNova.

A platypusian tale of a raunchy rat and a promiscuous duck

November 6, 2013

A science story is doing the rounds today based on a new paper:

No living mammal is more peculiar than the platypus. It has a broad, duck-like bill, thick, otter-like fur, and webbed, beaver-like feet. The platypus lays eggs rather than gives birth to live young, its snout is covered with electroreceptors that detect underwater prey, and male platypuses have a venomous spur on their hind foot. Until recently, the fossil record indicated that the platypus lineage was unique, with only one species inhabiting the Earth at any one time. This picture has changed with the publication of a new study in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology that describes a new, giant species of extinct platypus that was a side-branch of the platypus family tree.

The new platypus species, named Obdurodon tharalkooschild, is based on a single tooth from the famous Riversleigh World Heritage Area of northwest Queensland. While many of Riversleigh’s fossil deposits are now being radiometrically dated, the precise age of the particular deposit that produced this giant platypus is in doubt but is likely to be between 15 and 5 million years old.

File:Platypus BrokenRiver QLD Australia2.png

Platypus BrokenRiver QLD Australia Wikimedia

But what I found far more interesting was the story from the Aborigine Dreamtime which is so much more attractive than any evolutionary history of this strange animal. The Dreamtime sounds fascinating – a kind of Brigadoon.

In the Dreamtime, Tharalkoo was a headstrong female duck who disobeyed her parents’ warnings not to swim downriver where Bigoon the water-rat could catch her and have his wicked way with her. Like anyone who disobeys their parents in a fairy story, things turn out exactly as they said they would and Tharalkoo is ravished by Bigoon. When she returns home, the other female ducks are all laying eggs, so she does the same. But instead of a baby duckling, Tharalkoo’s child is a chimera with the bill and webbed hind feet of a duck and the fur and front feet of a rodent – a platypus.

It is not hard to read between the lines that Tharalkoo had promiscuous tendencies and that Bigoon was the swaggering young tough who was the local heartthrob. Unlike Juliet, Tharalkoo got to having her offspring – which has since prospered. Presumably Bigoon fathered others for Tharalkoo’s child to mate with. What else Bigoon got up to and how he came to meet a nasty end (and there can be no doubt that he must have come to a nasty end) is unknown.

Abe wins and Rudd loses while Kerry lobbies for Obama’s war

September 8, 2013

It is a misty Autumn morning this Sunday and the last week has had its mix of stories. But a few small encouraging events are over-shadowed by the darkness of Obama’s determination to go to war. Abe won for Tokyo while Rudd lost for Abbott and Kerry lobbies the world for money and support for Obama’s war.

Shinzo Abe made a personal commitment to the IOC that the Fukushima radiation leaks were and would be under control. Tokyo was awarded the 2020 summer Olympic Games yesterday in Buenos Aires beating Istanbul by 60 votes to 36. Madrid had crept up to be perceived as a front runner with their low key, “low cost” games but the mood was not for “restraint”. Delegates were getting tired of financial crises. Moreover they were tired of doping scandals and these could not be ruled out in Madrid or Istanbul. And once Madrid lost to Istanbul in a run-off for second place, the Madrid support – especially from Europe and the Americas – was not ready to let the Games go to an Islamist country for the first time ever. Of Madrid’s initial 26 votes in the first round, only 10 went to Istanbul in the final voting. And that left Tokyo which is a good thing

In Australia, the bookies and the national polls turned out to be pretty well right. Kevin Rudd lost and Tony Abbott won as a consequence. But the Labour loss could have been much worse.  A clear majority in the Lower House for the Coalition but not in the Senate where they only secured the avoidance of a Red/Green majority. The Carbon Tax is toast but it will take a bit of horse trading in the Senate to finally bury it.  The peculiar nature of preference votes means that the Senate composition will not be firm for a few days and there will be some new Senators which could lead to some unusual alliances. The Greens will actually have an extra Senator but thier alliance with Labour may not be as clear-cut. The overbearing self-righteousness of Australian bureaucracy may begin to be curbed. Tony Abbott has already asked his bureaucrats to prepare to stop the Carbon Tax and to stop the asylum boats. The Carbon Tax may well go in 2014 and that is a good thing.

And in the meantime President Obama pursues his war with no objectives. He flew back to the US to shore up domestic support for his war on Syria. He is scheduled to make his weekly address on Tuesday and to have six interviews with leading news anchors broadcast on Monday. Remarkably it is the hawks and neo-cons in the US who are the strongest supporters of his war.. A “coalition of mutual contempt” according to the Atlantic.  John Kerry is travelling around Europe lobbying the European countries. His list of countries supporting the US is “now into double figures”. Even self-appointed policemen have to be paid and Kerry is also meeting with the Arab League in Paris today and its members have offered to pay for the entire cost of Obama’s war! A strike on Syria by the US seems inevitable and that is a bad thing.

Labour has given up and starts looking for Rudd’s successor

September 6, 2013

In theory I suppose the election is still there to be lost by Abbott and the Coalition.

I am biased. If I were in Australia – which I am not – I would probably prefer Abbott on policies but as an interested observer I find that my preference for Abbott is based – not so much on policies – but almost entirely on the the level of “squirm” that Rudd engenders in me. Trust is not something that politicians generally deserve but I perceive Rudd as being particularly insincere.

The betting money and the bookies are now expecting a rout.  It is no longer possible to place a bet on the outcome but Abbot may still not get his own majority in the Senate.

Sportsbet has decided the Coalition is likely to win at least 20 seats, increasing its position from 72 to at least 92 seats, giving it a hefty majority of at least 34 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives.

It has low odds of $1.85 for the Coalition to win 91 to 100 seats. The odds drift out to $2.35 for the Coalition to pick up 100 or more seats. They drift further out to $2.75 for a more constrained 81 to 90 Coalition seats. Sportsbet thus sees a landslide as much more likely than a tight election.

When you look at Sportsbet’s odds on a seat-by-seat basis, it looks even more grim for Labor, with 30 seats in danger.

But it’s not all good news for the Coalition. Sportsbet has essentially closed its books on the overall Senate election outcome. The Coalition is at long odds, $13, to win a majority in the Senate.

The politics of gridlock may thus drag on, with the Coalition declaring a mandate and the Greens and others declaring they have a mandate as a house of review.

Rudd, by party rules, has to vacate the leadership if he loses. And I suppose that it is only natural and to be expected that Labour politicians looking beyond this weekend are now beginning to position themselves for a new leader. I don’t suppose that there is a scenario which could bring Julia Gillard back. The speculation has begun though the contenders would first have to be returned in their own constituencies:

BOB Hawke has tipped Bill Shorten as the front-runner should Labor need to find a new leader.

With the Coalition looking likely to form government after tomorrow’s election, attention is turning to who may succeed Kevin Rudd as Labor leader if the ALP is defeated.

Mr Hawke said Treasurer Chris Bowen is talented but first needs to retain his seat, and Health Minister Tanya Plibersek is unlikely to be in the running.

“But she could be a candidate for the deputy. I think Tanya is a very impressive representative.”

The former prime minister was unsure if Immigration Minister Tony Burke would step forward.

“On all the indications … you would think that Bill (Shorten) has got the front running.”

Mr Rudd has vowed to stay on as the member for Griffith if Labor loses, but he would be forced by party rules to vacate the leadership and may be unlikely to renominate.

All relatively unknown names for me.

I still am of the opinion that Australia could be a major force for the region and a leader – by example – of how things can be made to work. From Japan to India. But that does require that Australia to be less of a blind “follower” of the US and to get rid of of the many trappings of the “nanny state” that have been indulged in. And that in turn requires that the leaders of the two main parties be capable of being taken seriously.

Interesting times.

Guardian’s “catastrophe” correspondent supports Rudd: Could be the final straw

September 5, 2013

If anything convinces me even more than the bookies that Rudd will lose the election this weekend, it is that George Monbiot of the Guardian has developed the catastrophe scenario for Australia if Abbot wins. He has the uncanny knack of picking dead – and useless – causes.

For those who have not been exposed to George Monbiot, he is the Guardian’s “catastrophe” correspondent. He can manage to find a looming disaster in every human development. His articles tend to lurch from one catastrophe scenario to the next. That his “catastrophes” never happen and keep disappearing into the future never discourages him. He can always find a new catastrophe. And now he has picked on Tony Abbott! He does write for The Guardian and support for Abbott would not be possible but the demonisation of Abbott – like carbon dioxide – is a Monbiot speciality.

Fighting global warming is his reason for living. He detests – and denies – the hiatus in global warming since it might prove that there is no impending catastrophe. He denies that changes to climate may be due to natural variability. He doesn’t like fracking or the Farmers Union. In fact he doesn’t like fossil fuels of any kind. Coal – he thinks – has been disastrous for Australia. Tourists and sheep in the Lake District should be banned. Exotic trees should be banned and only “native” trees should be planted. He has a fantasy that woolly mammoths could be brought back to life. Neonictinoids are like DDT. The shooting of one of the Boston bombers was an “execution”. Oil companies and tobacco companies are to be shunned. He really does believe in “peak oil” and “peak gas”. Earning money and creating wealth is fundamentally wrong. Faith in the markets is misplaced and only governments can save our living planet. Having resources is a curse. Exploiting such resources is to court eternal damnation. He is a firm adherent of the precautionary principle.

In short he knows best what is best for others.

And he does not like Tony Abbott – probably to Abbot’s great advantage. His headlines can be worth looking at but to read through his articles requires a strong stomach. It’s not just that he does not like humanity; he does not like people doing well. Coal and its exploitation – he believes – has degraded and brutalised Australia.

The Guardian: 

If Abbott is elected, Australia’s natural wonders will gradually be rubbed away

Tony Abbott’s climate policies are about removing the social and environmental protections enjoyed by all Australians to allow the filthy rich to become richer – and filthier.

…. Why? The answer’s in the name. Coalition policies begin with coal: getting it out of the ground, moving it through the ports, stripping away the regulations that prevent mining companies from wrecking the natural beauty of Australia – and from trashing the benign climate on which we all depend. The mining boom in the world’s biggest coal exporter has funded a new, harsher politics. 

… Like the tar sands in Canada, coal has changed the character of the nation, brutalising and degrading public life. It has funded a vicious campaign of mud-slinging against those who argue for the careful use of resources, for peace and quiet and beauty and the health of the living planet. Australia, like Nigeria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, suffers from a resource curse. …

Read the whole article (if you really must).

Rudd trailing Abbott in the final stretch and the bookies start paying out

September 2, 2013

My perception is not so much of Abbott taking or stretching his lead but rather of Rudd trailing and falling further behind. Like an over-the-hill runner attempting a come-back, who cannot quite keep up and who falls increasingly further behind as they enter the home stretch.

There is less than a week to go and they have had 3 debates. Neither scored a knockout but neither  fell down either. The personal popularity that was Rudd’s calling card is just a shadow of what it used to be. His beaming smile now has a hint of being sinister. If this election is in any sense a referendum on the carbon tax, Rudd is on the wrong side – even if it is Julia Gillard who takes most of that hit. The nexus between corrupt union leaders and Labour politicians lives a life of its own and a mere election will not put a stop to that. But all the recent headlines don’t particularly help Rudd.

In the critical state of Queensland, Rudd is going the wrong way.

Poll results.

The ALP is going the wrong way in Queensland. – The Age

I can’t help thinking that part of the ALP’s problem is that Rudd (and Gillard before him) had an over-inflated perception of their own importance on the world stage. Part of that was no doubt due to the elevated position Howard had in US eyes with his support of the Iraq War. Being a little more realistic can be to Abbott’s advantage


TONY Abbott says Australia should stop boasting on the world stage and bring some “humility” back to foreign policy.

In a direct swipe at Kevin Rudd, the Coalition leader suggested the Government should stop “overstating” its influence and be realistic about what authority it could command internationally.

The Prime Minister yesterday continued to use to the Syria crisis to attack Mr Abbott’s apparent lack of depth on global affairs.

But in a stinging rebuke to the man once dubbed Kevin 747 for his extensive world travel as PM, Mr Abbott said Australia could be more effective as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council if it stopped exaggerating its power.

“Australia should do what it can to build a better world but we shouldn’t exaggerate our own influence,” he said following a Press Club address in Canberra to make the case for a Coalition government.

As always, following the money is usually very revealing. If the bookies had just stopped taking bets on Abbott it would have been pretty telling. But when a bookie starts paying out even before the polls have opened – let alone before the result is announced – it can only mean that one contender is overwhelmingly dominant or that the result has been fixed. Either way the result is a done thing, and one bookmaking company has started paying out bets on Abbott a full week before the election.

Reuters: Thu Aug 29, 2013

An Australian bookmaker on Thursday began paying out bets on a conservative opposition victory, declaring the country’s September 7 election race already over for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s struggling Labor government.

With nine days to go, online bookmaker Sportsbet said it had begun paying A$1.5 million ($1.34 million) in bets received on a victory for opposition leader Tony Abbott’s centre-right coalition, because the outcome was already clear.

“As far as Sportsbet’s betting markets are concerned, the Abbotts can start packing up their belongings ahead of their imminent move to Kirribilli House,” Sportsbet spokesman Haydn Lane said, referring to the prime minister’s residence in Sydney.

The race it seems is over.

Sea level dropped in 2010/11 but only because it rained in Australia!

August 19, 2013

Wonders will never cease! If we just make sure that more moisture is trapped in clouds and that it rains more over land we can prevent sea level rise and even cause sea level to fall

Sea level is rising to catastrophic levels because of global warming and that, of course, is due the our using fossil fuels – or so the global warming theology would have us believe. But sea levels dropped by 0.7mm in 2010/2011. But not to worry. The catastrophe theory remains intact. This was just due to it raining too much over land in Australia and the tropics that year.

A new paper but an old tired song:

John T. Fasullo, Carmen Boening, Felix W. Landerer and R. Steven Nerem, Australia’s unique influence on global sea level in 2010–2011, Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/grl.50834

AbstractIn 2011, a significant drop in global sea level occurred that was unprecedented in the altimeter era and concurrent with an exceptionally strong La Niña. This analysis examines multiple datasets in exploring the physical basis for the drop’s exceptional intensity and persistence. Australia’s hydrologic surface mass anomaly is shown to have been a dominant contributor to the 2011 global total and associated precipitation anomalies were among the highest on record. The persistence of Australia’s mass anomaly is attributed to the continent’s unique surface hydrology, which includes expansive arheic and endorheic basins that impede runoff to ocean. Based on Australia’s key role, attribution of sea level variability is addressed. The modulating influences of the Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode on La Niña teleconnections are found to be key drivers of anomalous precipitation in the continent’s interior and the associated surface mass, and sea level responses.

PhysOrg recites the dogma:

When enough raindrops fall over land instead of the ocean, they begin to add up. New research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) shows that when three atmospheric patterns came together over the Indian and Pacific oceans, they drove so much precipitation over Australia in 2010 and 2011 that the world’s ocean levels dropped measurably. Unlike other continents, the soils and topography of Australia prevent almost all of its precipitation from running off into the ocean. 

The 2010-11 event temporarily halted a long-term trend of rising sea levels caused by higher temperatures and melting ice sheets. 

Now that the atmospheric patterns have snapped back and more rain is falling over tropical oceans, the seas are rising again. In fact, with Australia in a major drought, they are rising faster than before.

“It’s a beautiful illustration of how complicated our climate system is,” says NCAR scientist John Fasullo, the lead author of the study. “The smallest continent in the world can affect sea level worldwide. Its influence is so strong that it can temporarily overcome the background trend of rising sea levels that we see with climate change.”

….. As the climate warms, the world’s oceans have been rising in recent decades by just more than 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) annually. This is partly because the heat causes water to expand, and partly because runoff from retreating glaciers and ice sheets is making its way into the oceans.

But for an 18-month period beginning in 2010, the oceans mysteriously dropped by about 7 millimeters (about 0.3 inches), more than offsetting the annual rise.

Fasullo and his co-authors published research last year demonstrating that the reason had to do with the increased rainfall over tropical continents. They also showed that the drop coincided with the atmospheric oscillation known as La Niña, which cooled tropical surface waters in the eastern Pacific and suppressed rainfall there while enhancing it over portions of the tropical Pacific, Africa, South America, and Australia.

But an analysis of the historical record showed that past La Niña events only rarely accompanied such a pronounced drop in sea level. ….

When sea level rises it is due to global warming. But when it falls it is due to too much rain over Australia. Nothing to do with the standstill in global temperatures for the last 17 years of course!

As I posted a month or so ago

Sea levels in the past have been 10 m higher than today and 150 m lower than today.

Alarmism will have us believe that +5 cm ±15 cm in sea level that may actually happen by 2100 will threaten the very existence of humanity!

new paper from Nils-Axel Mörner.


……. The Earth’s rate of rotation records a mean acceleration from 1972 to 2012, contradicting all claims of a rapid global sea level rise, and instead suggests stable, to slightly falling, sea levels.Best estimates for future sea level changes up to the year 2100 are in the range of +5 cm ±15 cm

Australian betting points to Labour losing by 22 seats

August 15, 2013

The Australian election campaign is still fairly low-key. The most exciting event in the last few days was Abbott’s remark praising a fellow candidate that she had “sex appeal”. He should have known better than to say something so politically incorrect. Kevin Rudd is trying to make political capital out of that but his denial that “sex appeal” exists seems a little contrived. The difference between the genders will not change by legislation.

The polls have not been very exciting either.  But I suppose that money talks and following the money may be a better predictor of the Australian general election results than just simply asking people how they intend to vote. The Financial Review carries a forecast of the election results based on betting on the elections. The money is on Kevin Rudd and Labour losing by a substantial margin. Of course it could be biased in that betting odds generated by gamblers may not be representative of the electorate,  but presumably the algorithms converting betting odds to election results try and take that into account.

From the Financial Review:

Election results forecast based on betting data from 11th August

Labor won’t have to stay up late on the evening of September 7 for the bad news of the electoral result, according to a new analysis of betting market odds.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s party will lose the election by 22 seats, collecting 63 seats to the oppositions’s 85, according to analysis done for The Australian Financial Review by statisticians Kaighin McColl and Leng Lee.

The analysis is based on betting data from 11 August.

The number of seats Labor is expected to win dropped from 65 to 63 in the five days between August 6 and August 11.

Mr McColl notes that the ALP has now slid backwards twice since the analysis began.

“It is still early days, but the ALP has consistently been a long way behind according to the electorate-level betting data. What they’ve had going for them is momentum. That momentum appears to be slowing or reversing,” he said.

The analysis, which takes betting market data and subjects it to an algorithmic process known as Monte Carlo simulation in order to determine odds, predicts just two seats will be won by non-major parties. ….

Australian election show makes a quiet start

August 12, 2013

Elections in a number of countries have fantastic entertainment value.The campaigns, the scandals, the gaffes, the TV pundits, the “fringe” idiots and personal animosities all can contribute to the fun.  Of course a certain amount of distance and having a real interest in the country while not being overly affected by the result does increase the potential. In my case having friends in the country on both sides of the political divide adds to the “fun index”. The US Presidential Elections of course lead in the entertainment ratings. Even though they go on for much too long they usually manage to keep the flow of scandals and blunders coming and the inanity level high enough to maintain the “fun level”.

Generally it requires a strong divide between two major parties to inject some excitement for voyeurs like myself. Single party states don’t provide any level of uncertainty and have too high a level of election violence to have much entertainment value. Proportional Representation – as in most of Europe  – tends to reduce the excitement level but even in the Scandinavian countries does not manage to kill all the fun. Generally in much of Europe the inanity and “fun” comes from the idiot fringe parties – usually on the far right but also from a few remnants of hard Marxists and Maoists.

Following the US Presidential I would put the UK General Election next for fun and games. The political and media circus that accompanies the multiple waves of voting in the Indian General Election are always good entertainment. Then – in my estimation and reflecting my interests – come the Australian, German, French and Japanese Elections.

The first week of the Australian Election campaign called by Kevin Rudd is over. It has been relatively quiet and there has been no heat – yet – and no real fireworks. But I still have hope. Murdoch made his views known – as if there was anybody who did not know what they were. I suspect – but I am not sure – that the days of Murdoch being King-maker (as he was for Tony Blair) have long gone. His stuff is now all pay-walled and the cyberworld has passed him by.

Most of the fun in the first week of this election has actually come from a candidate – Stephanie Banister – representing one of the idiot right fringe parties. She got her knickers properly into a twist and confused the Koran with haram, haram with halal, halal with kosher, Islam with a country and Jews with the worship of Jesus. She quit the next day. Quite amusing but peripheral, short-lived and of little consequence.

Keven Rudd – having disposed ruthlessly of Julia Gillard – flexed his new-found muscles and sacked two of his own candidates. There was a faint whiff of an old gender scandal surrounding one of them and the other was accused of accusing others as being too Catholic and racist. ( A case of against.against= for?). Nobody except some union members, seemed to care very much.

Rudd sees himself as a Shakespearean hero in the assassination of Julia Gillard – “for Gillard is an honourable man” (and “man” here is intentional).  He aroused some feelings of  machismo among his supporters and his party “bounced” in the polls. But that bounce has now withered away and Abbott’s coalition is back in the lead. No real trends are visible yet. Last night there was a pretty tame TV debate. Rudd and Abbott shook hands and came out mewling.  Not much “roar” or “cut and thrust”. Rudd was very cautious and apparently “cheated” and had to make use of “crib-sheets” during the debate. As the SMH put it “More mock and bore than shock and awe, Sunday’s debate was a crushingly dull affair where risk avoidance was the chief aim of both sides.” Tony Abbot got his tongue in a twist and instead of “repository of all wisdom” used the phrase “suppository of all wisdom”! I suppose a suppository – for some – could also be a repository.

As entertainment goes it was not a compelling start. Moscow and Usain Bolt took clear precedence yesterday. But there is still time for the fun and games to get up to speed.

Great Barrier Reef bombed by US jets

July 21, 2013

US jets on a training exercise – said to have gone wrong – have dropped  four 500lb  bombs on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The bombs are said to have been unarmed and did not explode – apparently.

BBC: US fighter jets dropped inert bombs on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast during a training exercise that went wrong, it has emerged. The two planes jettisoned four bombs in more than 50m (165 ft) of water, away from coral, to minimise damage to the World Heritage Site, the US navy said.

The jets had intended to drop at a bombing range on a nearby island, but Tuesday’s mission was aborted. The AV-8B Harriers were low on fuel and could not land loaded, the navy added. The emergency happened during the training exercise Talisman Saber, involving US and Australian military personnel. The two jets had been instructed to target the bombing range on Townshend Island. However, the mission was aborted when hazards were reported in the area.

The planes then dropped the bombs in the marine park off the coast of Queensland. None of the devices exploded.

blog post photo

King of the Coral Reef

The Reef put up no resistance and is expected to surrender shortly, The worlds largest coral reef is known to harbour many dangerous species. It is uncertain if any are affiliated to Al Qaeda. The King of the Coral Reef was unavailable for comment.

The animals of the Great Barrier Reef include some 1500 species of marine fish, 360 species of hard corals, between 5000 and 8000 species of mollusks, 600 species of echinoderms, 17 species of sea snakes, 1500 species of sponges, 30 species of whales and dolphins, 6 species of marine turtles, 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds which breed on the reef’s many small islands.

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