A Land of Drought or Flooding Rains

EASTER Sunday in 1915 the community of Murrabit in the Central Murray Valley gathered for a picnic at a farm called Riversdale.   It had been so dry that the Murray River had run dry. 

 A photograph was taken of the buggies in the dry river bed. 

Today, March 9, 2011, I visited Riversdale and took a photograph of the Murray in flood.  

The third photograph shows me looking across to the exact spot where the buggies were parked in 1915. Water now extends for another 5 miles beyond the far river bank into the red gum forests.


38 Responses to A Land of Drought or Flooding Rains

  1. spangled drongo March 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm #


    Did the rice crop survive? Or was it even too wet for that?

    Maybe Tony Windsor’s out there helping with the harvest.

  2. jennifer March 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Visiting a rice farm tomorrow. Apparently it is the one crop that thrived this summer.

  3. Neville March 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    A friend of mine tells the story of his mother walking across the Murray at Wentworth in 1914, but within three years all the people were working hard sand bagging the town to save it from floods.

    The floods of 1917 were extensive with a short change in the PDO to negative and the strongest la nina until perhaps the la nina of this last season plus a very strong negative IOD.

    It might be nearly a century ago but still a land of droughts and flooding rains for sure and easily explained by natural, normal weather events.

  4. Luke March 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    “easily explained by natural, normal weather events.” not really – off the record rainfall deficit in a band right across southern Australia is what it says ! The detective story does not implicate ENSO !

    Why did the river run dry back in the day – lack of massive water impoundments perhaps? Pretty basic.

  5. el gordo March 9, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

    In a recent paper Gallant and Gergis (2011) produce an experimental reconstruction of River Murray streamflow to assess present day variations in the context of the past 200 years.

    ‘…the 1998-2008 drought was a 1 in 1500 year event.’


    Don’t know where that leaves us?

  6. David Joss March 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    An uncle of mine was a boy of 10 in 1914 when he walked across the Murray at Picnic Point, upstream from Echuca, without getting his knees wet. It is still the second driest year recorded at Deniliquin. Only the year 1862 was drier. 1915 was not a lot better.
    The years 1916 and 1917 were extremely wet in south eastern Australia, resulting in flood conditions along the Murray from winter 1916 until the end of spring 1917.
    According to newspaper reports from that time, NSW had experienced only two dry months (March and April) between June 1916 and November 1917.
    On November 22 1917 the river at Euston was four feet above flood level and still rising.
    It was claimed to have been the greatest flood since 1870, which still holds the record as the highest at Echuca but was not as protracted as the 1916-17 flooding.
    As has again been demonstrated, when big wets come along, as they do every 17-20 years, man-made barriers do little to mitigate the floods unless the dams are near empty.
    Dorothea McKellar, a poet, knew more about our cyclical climate than some of our current crop of academics.

  7. RWFOH March 9, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Victoria had it’s wettest summer on record in 2010/11 and there has been a couple of dams built since 1915 so there was no chance of a picnic in a dry river bed following our most severe recorded drought ending in 2009. Didn’t I just read an article here recently about Snowy Hydro having to constantly release water regardless of flood or drought conditions? I think I’ve missed the point of this post.

  8. el gordo March 9, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    According to the Gallant & Gergis paper above, we have an anomaly.

    ‘However, the relationship is more complex in the 19th century. Notably, a high flow period beginning in 1820 corresponds to positive IPO conditions spanning the 1824–1854 period. According to the established 20th Century relationships presented by Power et al. [1999], low streamflow conditions are expected during positive IPO conditions. Assuming both the streamflow and IPO reconstructions are valid, this potentially implies that the relationship between the IPO and River
    Murray streamflow is non-stationary.’

  9. Neville March 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    Luke of course the river ran dry without large dams but compare the rainfall anomaly graph from 1900 to 2010 with 15 year moving average and the first 48 years are entirely below the average then the next 48 are nearly always on average or above.

    De Deckker’s study shows massive rainfall across southern Australia for thousands of years then droughts for thousands of years then heavier rainfall from 2000BP to about 800 years BP then lower rainfall to the present day. So what’s new?


  10. John Sayers March 9, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Thanks Jen – great photos.

  11. Perry March 9, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Posted at WUWT this morning:

    Andrew Bolt this morning on the radio in Melbourne this morning:

    “We chat to Jill Duggan, from the directorate-general for climate action at the European Commission, who says the opposition here to a carbon dioxide tax is ”slightly bizarre” when Europe has no problem with its own price on carbon dioxide. Really, I ask, with European unemployment at 10 per cent and growth at just 1.6 per cent? So I ask this salesman of the EU emissions trading scheme the two basic questions everyone should ask of anyone selling anything: how much does it cost, and what will it do? How many billions will Europe spend on this scheme to cut its emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and by how much will that cut the world’s temperatures by 2100? The interview suddenly goes very pear-shaped for one of us – and is a stunning indictment of the EU’s foolishness. The question about job losses caused by Europe’s green schemes goes no better. ”

    Please listen to this show. It will inform and greatly amuse. The link to the recording is under the picture of Jill Duggan. Make it viral.


  12. Ian Thomson March 9, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    We know the impoundments kept the river flowing. We saw the water flowing by.
    We also know it did no more than flush South Australia’s self made toilet bowl.
    Where do you think it went then? To SA irrigators, is where .
    Can we build more ‘ massive impoundments ‘ for the rest of us ?

  13. Bill Burrows March 9, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I’m certain Luke would have introduced you all (many times) to the excellent historical rainfall maps for Australia going back to 1890 & published at http://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/products/pdf/AustraliasVariableRainfall_LowRes.pdf . These maps unequivocally deliver QED to the ‘drought and flooding rains’ descriptor – no matter whether you are a believer or not in human induced climate change. The visual power of the maps also explain why climate change believers must acknowledge that climate change contributes to extreme drought, as well as extreme rainfall in this country, along with every precipitation event in between. This suggests a possible dilemma to me. Of course believers might then argue that human induced climate change has not yet occurred and that it is still somewhere ‘down the track’.
    Better still, if I was to argue the climate change case I think I would avoid the slippery slope of arguing on the basis of rainfall variability altogether. And for that matter I would give ‘climate disruption’ a miss too. Disruption doesn’t suggest permanent change which I think is the nub of the AGW position. In fact following ‘disruption’ it is usual to revisit the normal or average condition. I well remember having a beer on the verandah of a cattle station in the Alice Springs district in 1974. I asked the station manager what he thought of the season (they had just had 1100 mm of rain in the previous 12 months, compared with a yearly average of 300 mm). “Bloody marvellous”, he replied, “it’s the first normal season we’ve had since 1920”!
    No – if I was to promote AGW I would stick to temperature anomalies. Although I would be very wary of saying that increased snow falls mean the world is getting hotter also. After all we are all in this debate for our grandkids and beyond are we not? Trouble is when I tell mine that more snow is a sign of the world getting hotter they give me a funny look and slide away back to their music or computer games. I can’t blame them really, as I’m having trouble with this too.
    Yes, all we old timers bore climate doomsayers with our repeated quotes of Dorothea Mackellar & our absolute certain recall of all the seasons from the day we were born. The smug look and the “I told you so’s” as we describe the current state of the Murray River and the MDB (and the still ongoing deluge in the north) is driving young green evangelists nuts. Let’s cheer them up & remind them of these lines from another insightful poetical observer of Australia’s weather and climate:-
    ‘It’s dry, all right,’ said young O’Neil,
    With which astute remark
    He squatted down upon his heel
    And chewed a piece of bark.
    And so around the chorus ran
    ‘It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.’
    ‘We’ll all be rooned,’ said Hanrahan
    ‘Before the year is out.’

  14. Luke March 10, 2011 at 7:21 am #

    Bill – beware of uniformitarianism in respect to AGW – in general one might obviously expect less snow in a warmer world – but warmer seas can also feedback as increased snow pack or a change in circulation systems which may bring cold air to different parts of the world. Cold air outbreaks will still occur in a warmer world and in different places.

    The devil of course is in the details.

    And some good research in the last decade has unravelled many AGW-ish aspects of climate variability. Don’t you find it strange that sceptics are happy to draw on aspects of ENSO and PDO from the same people doing the AGW research. A peculiar selectivity perhaps?

    For my reading of the tea leaves, natural variability in Australia is the main game with some interesting AGW embroidery on the theme.

    But it’s not in the interests of opponents (and maybe advocates too) to have a full discussion.

  15. Another Ian March 10, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Not Australia but

    “NOAA finds”climate change” blameless in 2010 Russian heat wave”


  16. Another Ian March 10, 2011 at 8:48 am #


    Along the lines of

    “Old folks, young folks, everybody come
    To our little climate school and we’ll give you the drum
    Grab your cup of cool aid and sit down upon the floor
    and we’ll tell you climate stories like you’ve never heard before”?

  17. Luke March 10, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    You must be referring to the Wattups pensioner scaring tour.

  18. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Natural variability can be very scary.

  19. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Harking back to the G & G paper and the statement that ‘the relationship between the IPO and River
    Murray streamflow is non-stationary.’

    My guess, without evidence to support it, the Dalton Minimum brought a lot more snow to the highlands and hence streamflows were maintained through the warm IPO of the 1820s through to the 1850s because of ice melt.

    Any other rational explanation?

  20. Neville March 10, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    Luke about the selectivity, I’ll try again perhaps being a bit more pertinent.

    I’ve stated there are some things I wouldn’t believe from my nearest and dearest, not much but some things , now why should I believe EVERYTHING a scientist might say on CAGW, particularly when to some it seems like a religion?

    According to the hard copy I have of a Lake Keilambete study the author says there is a downgrading of climatic stability in the later holocene with predominance of wet and dry periods as we know them today. He adds this is is influenced by ENSO but less so in earlier holocene.

    Here is an article that shows a video capture of De Deckker’s Catalyst graph but only covering the last 5,000 years, unlike the lake Keilambete graph that starts at 11,000 BP.
    He said this is strongly influenced by ENSO but that was less effective prior to 5500 BP.

    The climatic stability he talks about from 9,000BP to 5500 BP is very heavy rainfall, much more than our present era and it lasted for around 5000 years.


  21. Neville March 10, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    A very good column from Miranda Devine today full of facts to rebut the nonsense and half truths from the fundamentalists.


  22. wes george March 10, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    So what Luke is saying is that any kind of weather is evidence for catastrophic AGW.

    Snowy winters? Ah Ha! Warming oceans changed currents so that the entire Northern Hemisphere is experiencing blizzards.

    AGW-induced drying that was going to end farming in the MDB ends instead to the normal cyclic floods??? Obviously, more robust evidence that coal mining causes anomalous rain. The coal miners should pay up.

    We all knew it was going to come to this.

    If there was any real evidence for CAGW the Alarmists would be rubbing our noses in it. But there isn’t. So we play footsie with local weather event. Rain? CAGW! Drought? CAGW!

    Next it will be: Tsunami? CAGW! Riots in Tunisia? CAGW! Wayne Swan’s budget deficit? CAGW!

    We’ll know when we hit bottom when we start hearing CAGW used as an excuse in daily life.

    Didn’t do your homework? …CAGW ate it!
    Late for work? …CAGW induced sleep!
    Didn’t mow the lawn, again? …Yes, I did… CAGW made it grow back!
    Went on a bender last night? …CAGW induced drinking!

    Cowering in the corner sucking your thumb while watching the weather channel? …CAGW paranoia!

  23. wes george March 10, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Luke sez:

    “beware of uniformitarianism in respect to AGW…”

    See I told you. Now Luke invoking geological theory as an explanation for AGW.

  24. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Because of the high river flow in the MDB, extensive forest and floodplain environments are being inundated 
    for the first time in many years, resulting in a lot of organic matter entering the river. 

     Naturally, water of very low dissolved oxygen is having an impact on the main channel of the River Murray downstream.
    Currently more than 1,400 km of the Murray is affected by this event, extending to the Lower Lakes.

    Over the past few weeks there have been pockets of fish deaths reported due to the low level of oxygen in the water, particularly cod around Mildura.  

  25. wes george March 10, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    in general one might obviously expect less snow in a warmer world

    ROFTL. No. NO. It will snow MORE in a warmer world. Warming causes Colding!

    Cold air outbreaks will still occur in a warmer world and in different places.

    “Outbreaks” is a climatological term describing the mysterious appearance of cold air where warming is expected. T-data is normally adjusted higher to eliminate this aberration from the observation record in accordance to the robust climate models. Where cooling can’t be eliminated due to FOI requests, “cold air outbreaks” will occur.

    The devil of course is in the details.

    Because to explain outbreaks of climate cooling through AGW is a devilishly tricky task, sometimes referred to as “Hiding The Decline” (HTD) in climatological circles.

    And some good research in the last decade has unravelled many AGW-ish aspects of climate variability.

    It’s this ambiguous, unravelling “AGW-ishness aspect of climate”, which inspires the fierce moral urgency to wreck our economy with regressive tax policy.

    Don’t you find it strange that sceptics are happy to draw on aspects of ENSO and PDO from the same people doing the AGW research.

    Not at all. It’s obviously a Big Tobacco and Single Flush Toilet Cartel thought-control conspiracy .

    For my reading of the tea leaves, natural variability in Australia is the main game with some interesting AGW embroidery on the theme.

    All the more reason for fierce moral urgency! You keep reading those tea leaves, Grandma Luke, and doing your AGW embroidery and leave the main game to us.

    But it’s not in the interests of opponents (and maybe advocates too) to have a full discussion.

    It’s never been in your interest to have a full discussion about AGW, Luke. ROTFL

  26. Neville March 10, 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Geezz Wes I reckon Jennifer should charge you to post here, you seem to be enjoying yourself too much.
    I mean go a little bit easy on the Luke desk for pitys sake.

  27. Rob Moore March 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Hello Jennifer,
    If you have a spare moment could you open this link please. Re the comments- if there is anything you can give us for the meeting- It would be greatly appreciated.


    Regards ,

  28. Luke March 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Well that’s about it for Wessy Woo’s daily intelligence test. More framing, corralling and verballing.

    But mainly filler, waffle and drivel ….so boring …… zzzzzzzzzz…..

  29. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Go easy on Wes, he’s been away for a while. Waiting for your next post, comrade Luke.

  30. Neville March 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Good stuff from John Christy in an address to the Energy committee in the USA, you can download his presentation here as well.

    Just confirms what BS the whole sorry fraud is, but at least we should be grateful that it’s coming apart at the seams.

    When NSW alp blows apart after 26th the repercussions federally should be interesting to watch when these fools start to concentrate their tiny minds on the Gillard govt’s future as well.


  31. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    During the warm IPO of 1820-1854 it was unusually wet and there was snow about. ‘In the Maneroo plains east of the Australian Alps in July, 1834, a snowstorm lasted three weeks, and on the mountains the snow lay from four to fifteen feet deep, burying the cattle in groups.’

    The River Murray was up for good reason, it was cool and wet, but there is no evidence to suggest it was due to low sunspot numbers.

  32. cohenite March 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    el, that paper on the MDB and the IPO and PDO is good stuff: this is interesting;

    “580 The wet/dry flip seen in the early 19th century is the most prominent feature of the record, as is
    581 the descent into the Federation drought in the late 1890s. The broadly drier first half, and wetter
    582 second half, of the 20th century is also evident. There is divergence in the two series from the
    583 middle 1860s to the early 1880s. At this time, the Lake George data indicates wet conditions, while
    584 the streamflow reconstruction indicates normal and slightly dry conditions. Though the reason for
    585 this discrepancy is unknown, one explanation could be land-surface changes associated with land
    586 clearing.”

    Now, before luke goes completely crazed weasel I have to say that this very point was drawn to his attention after David Stockwell did a snap-shot analysis of land-clearing and rainfall patterns: see slides 11-13:


  33. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    I note that Rog is a day behind the news cycle – the SMH and the Oz ran that story yesterday. Still, we can be sure of one thing, at least this young man has a real job, unlike Luke Desk who dreams of a career in the arts.

    But I digress, don’t know what to make of the NASA press release. It has been my belief that Antarctica was building up more ice over the past 30 years.

  34. cohenite March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    There are inherent problems in measuring Antarctic land ice mass variation as this paper on GRACE and IGA shows:


    I am sceptical of these announcements because the best way of measuring such ice loss is non-steric sea level rise which is not increasing.

  35. wes george March 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Some good research there, Cohenite, thank you for the links.

    I wonder how Grandma Luke will embroider these tea leaves into the AGW-ish-ness of climate variability?

    Of course the devil is in the detail, but we might expect the main game will be continued outbreaks of cold air caused by global warming. However, we must consider whose interest it is in to have such discussions.

    Unless you can produce an FOI request.

  36. el gordo March 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    Then there is the paleoflood of 1750, discovered by Sully and Snowball who looked at the distribution of the Black Box Gum in the River Murray valley.

    ‘Black Box is considered to be a reliable biological indicator of past flood levels because it grows in distinct horizontal lines on the River Murray floodplain. Its seeds germinate in the debris deposited on the floodwater fringes of the riverbank.

    ‘Radiocarbon dating of samples collected from existing gums revealed that the trees were of a modern age, with establishment in the last 250 years. This gives us an indication of the possible timing of the pre-historic flood of around the year 1750.

    ‘The researchers also undertook a survey to obtain the heights of individual trees at their bases. This showed that the palaeoflood reached a maximum height on the River Murray at Overland Corner of 18.01 metres, making it greater than the largest flood on record, rising 2.11 metres above the 1956 flood height.’

  37. debbie March 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    I like this one that turned up in my email box


    I love our sunburnt Country
    Just not the massive flooding rains
    That’s left people homeless
    …And in all types of pain

    I love our far horizons
    And our Jewel Sea
    Just hope the Tsunamis
    Stay right away from Me

    Her beauty & her terror
    Have really shone this year
    So I say enough is enough
    Australians don’t live in fear!!!!

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