In lands ‘of droughts and flooding rains,’ predicting the weather means saving both lives and livelihoods.
The work of Indonesian and Australian scientists, which began with a visit to Jakarta in 1981 by climate scientist Professor Neville Nicholls, has given the countries the ability to forecast rain in the dry season, and during the lead up to the wet season. This means the fires, haze, and food shortages that often go hand in hand with droughts can be predicted—and planned for.
Flash flooding, brought on by sudden torrential rain, killed dozens of people in Australia in 2011. Because of their very nature, it has been difficult to provide effective warnings. And that is a significant gap in Australia’s natural disaster management, according to the submission of RMIT University’s Centre for Risk and Community Safety to the 2011 Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.
We now have the technology to deliver such warnings, says director of the Centre, Prof John Handmer. “But using it would raise issues about how quickly both the authorities and people at risk are prepared to make critical decisions when they receive the information.”
Kilometre-wide erosion gullies eating their way across Australia’s northern landscape are proving likely culprits as the main source of the sediments that are flushed into the Gulf of Carpentaria each year, possibly smothering prawn and barramundi breeding and rearing habitats.