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Cyclones and Flooding and Pollen, Oh My: The Queensland Floods

With the imminent threat of climate change impacting Australia’s weather conditions, Jackson Robb recaps the national disaster caused by the Queensland floods. 


As 2023 came to an end, Queensland (QLD) was welcoming the former tropical cyclone, Jasper, that drenched part of the states during the final weeks of December. Initially slow to impact, Cyclone Jasper was first predicted to hit QLD shores in late November, with its arrival accurately timed for December 15. As a category two cyclone, Cyclone Jasper recorded patchy levels of rain across the state, with some areas seeing up to 2 meters of rain in a 24-hour period, whilst others only received 0.8 [1]. Major flood warnings were issued, and the SES were kept busy up to and during the Christmas holiday, but QLD had not seen the last of the intense rain that would provide a soggy start to the new year. 


In the early days of 2024, the rain intensified with 3-5 metres of rain falling in areas of the state [2]. Residents located near rivers and other large bodies of water were told to take caution as the state prepared for a second round of rain. Attractions such as Dreamworld and Movie World were closed whilst beaches on the Gold Coast were also closed due to unsafe surf conditions [3] The Australian Bureau for Meteorology (BOM) also warned residents of the threat of landslides and debris across the roads whilst the State Disaster Coordinator, Shane Chelepy, commented “we've had no serious injuries, no loss of lives but we're still seeing people driving into flooded roadways.”


At the time of writing, the Federal government had deployed around 50 Australian Defense Force personnel to assist with the cleanup and access to essential infrastructure. However, could the combination of the El Nino summer and rapidly changing climate also have a part to play in the heavy downpour QLD has faced in the last month? One article synthesised the comments of Dr Andrew Dowdy, an associate professor and expert on tropical cyclones, who states how the one degree increase in temperature due to climate change is leading to extreme rainfall becoming more intense. Dowdy further suggests that Australia should brace for continual changes as each degree of warming could lead to as much as 15 per cent increased rainfall across the country. 


A report from the ABC also highlights the indirect effects of climate change in Australia, such as longer and more potent allergy seasons [4]. Pollen was found to produce at higher levels when exposed to carbon dioxide, ensuring that as Australia gets hotter, the allergy seasons are likely to get longer. This poses a risk to the 19.3 percent of Australians who suffer from hay fever and the 80 percent of asthmatics who are also affected by hay fever. In combination with the poor air quality produced by bushfires and climate change stands to impact a significant portion of the country, making the government’s pledge to net zero by 2050 simply not good enough. 



[1] - Readfearn, G. (2023). Cyclone Jasper: how did it cause so much rain and could global heating be to blame? The Guardian. [online] 18 Dec. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/dec/19/cyclone-jasper-how-did-it-cause-so-much-rain-and-could-global-heating-be-to-blame.


[2] - Touma, R. (2024b). Queensland weather: ADF personnel deployed to south-east amid life-threatening flood warnings. The Guardian. [online] 2 Jan. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/jan/02/queensland-weather-flood-warnings-evacuations-maryborough-nsw#:~:text=Queensland-.


[3] - Rigby, M. and Vujkovic, M. (2024). ADF deployed to Queensland as threat of rainfall and flash flooding moves north. ABC News. [online] 1 Jan. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-01-02/storms-wet-weather-heavy-rainfall-south-east-queensland/103277556.


[4] – Schubert, S. (2023). The reason millions more Australians are expected to become hay fever sufferers. ABC News. [online] 26 Dec. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-12-27/climate-change-making-allergies-hay-fever-worse/103247852.



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