The infernos of January 2020 will be remembered for destroying so much of southeastern Australia. I weep for the burns’ victims. So many people and so much wildlife in so much pain.
In terms of area of land burnt, these last few weeks may be recorded as unprecedented. This has everything to do with our mismanagement of the landscape, including the lack of hazard reduction burning especially in eucalyptus forests.
We were warned in the report from the 1939 Royal Commission by Judge Leonard Stretton, and in the more than 18 major inquiries since, forests are potentially dangerous and explosive places. Fuel loads must be kept within acceptable limits.
Blaming the recent fires on climate change is to rewrite our temperature history, something the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been doing for some time. This has involved the:
- remodelling of measured values
- addition of hotter locations to only the most recent years in the compilation of a national average trend
- transition to electronic probes that are designed to record hotter for the same weather, and
- deleting of the hottest day in the official record, which was January 3, 1909.
These misdeeds have all been comprehensively documented, yet the current government turns a blind eye, while referring the matter of a firefighter who claims an Indigenous heritage to the Australian federal police. It is as though we are ruled over by a political elite more interested in continuing subsidies to electricity companies, and continuing funding to corrupt coral reef researchers – both of which have a vested interest in catastrophe – rather than listening to practical solutions to these and other major environment issues currently confronting Australia.
BUSHFIRE HISTORY, REMEMBERING JANUARY 1939
The “Report of the Royal Commission to inquire into the causes of and measures taken to prevent the bush fires of January 1939 and to protect life and property and the measures to be taken to prevent bush fires in Victoria and to protect life and property in the event of future bush fires” begins:
In the State of Victoria, the month of January of the year 1939 came towards the end of a long drought which had been aggravated by a severe hot, dry summer season. For more than twenty years the State of Victoria had not seen its countryside and forests in such travail. Creeks and springs ceased to run. Water storages were depleted. Provincial towns were facing the probability of cessation of water supply. In Melbourne, more than a million inhabitants were subjected to restrictions upon the use of water.
“Throughout the countryside, the farmers were carting water, if such was available, for their stock and themselves. The rich plains, denied their beneficent rains, lay bare and baking; and the forests, from the foothills to the alpine heights, were tinder. The soft carpet of the forest floor was gone; the bone-dry litter crackled underfoot; dry heat and hot dry winds worked upon a land already dry, to suck from it the last, least drop of moisture. Men who had lived their lives in the bush went their ways in the shadow of dread expectancy. But though they felt the imminence of danger they could not tell that it was to be far greater than they could imagine. They had not lived long enough. The experience of the past could not guide them to an understanding of what might, and did, happen. And so it was that, when millions of acres of the forest were invaded by bushfires which were almost State-wide, there happened, because of great loss of life and property, the most disastrous forest calamity the State of Victoria has known.
“These fires were lit by the hand of man
“Seventy-one lives were lost. Sixty-nine mills were burned. Millions of acres of fine forest, of almost incalculable value, were destroyed or badly damaged. Townships were obliterated in a few minutes Mills, houses, bridges, tramways, machinery, were burned to the ground; men, cattle, horses, sheep, were devoured by the fires or asphyxiated by the scorching debilitated air. Generally, the numerous fires which during December, in many parts of Victoria, had been burning separately, as they do in any summer, either ‘under control’ as it is falsely and dangerously called, or entirely untended, reached the climax of their intensity and joined forces in a devastating confluence of flame on Friday, the 13th of January.
“On that day it appeared that the whole State was alight. At midday, in many places, it was dark as night. Men carrying hurricane lamps, worked to make safe their families and belongings. Travellers on the highways were trapped by fires or blazing fallen trees, and perished. Throughout the land there was daytime darkness.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF HAZARD REDUCTION BURNING
Just last week, at the height of the January 2020 bushfire emergency, Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton referred a complaint against a firefighter, who allegedly falsely claims Aboriginal heritage, to the Australian federal police. I have no opinion on Bruce Pascoe’s lineage, but I do know that the Mob he identifies with have real solutions to our recurrent bushfire tragedies. Their culture has a long history of land management through the expert use of fire as a tool to create visually pleasing and practical mosaics resistant to the spread of wildfires.
Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu draws from the more technical work by Bill Gammage entitled “The Biggest Estate on Earth”. This tome explains how Aborigines actively and skilfully managed the land in a far more systematic way than has ever been acknowledged. And I know, from my time spent reading original sources at the South Australian Museum about the Yaraldi of the Lower Murray River, that there were also complicated systems of governance, with a focus on a sustainable harvest and the storage of food.
Judge Stretton’s 1939 report also noted:
When the early settlers came to what is now this state [of Victoria], they found for the greater part a clean forest.Apparently, for many years before their arrival, the forest had not been scourged by fire … Their canopies had prevented the growth of scrub and bracken to any wide extent. They were open and traversable by men, beasts and wagons. Compared to their present condition, they were safe” (p. 11).
While quick to refer Bruce Pascoe, who is best known for his unorthodox perspective on Aboriginal history, to the federal police, Minister Dutton and his government have over a very long period of time turned a blind eye to the rewriting of Australia’s historical temperature record by Blair Trewin and David Jones of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The work of Trewin and Jones underpins the notion of an unprecedented climate emergency, when the real issues are perhaps management of fuel loads in forests and current resourcing.
Indeed, now absurdly corralled by the climate change meme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is actively promoting the need for yet another Royal Commission as though this will prevent future bush fire tragedies. Yet recommendations of previous Royal Commissions have never been implemented. For example, a hazard reduction burn across at least 390,000 hectares each year was recommended for the state of Victoria.
It is because “The Elites” don’t trust the work of practical land managers, whether that be thinning young forests to ensure that a proper over-storey canopy develops, or adopting straight-forward hazard reduction burningprogrammes. Climate change may be a convenient scapegoat, but it will not protect our land into the future.
HOTTER AND DRIER SUMMERS
Sunday morning on national television the Prime Minister said a Royal Commission into “the killer bushfire season” is necessary and reiterated claims that the nation is facing a “new normal”, with more severe natural disasters on the way; he said he would be seeking more powers to allow the Australian Defence Force to respond more quickly.
Bill Gates has famously said that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it, and that fundamental to improvement is the capacity to accurately measure.
Yet we have a situation where key statistics are either remodelled or ignored.
Mr Morrison mentioned hotter and drier summers in his television address. The historical record shows that the land mass of Australia is not drying out. Last year, 2019, was exceptionally dry. But the long-term trend is not towards a drier continent but rather we have on average had consistently wetter years since the 1970, as shown in Figure 1.
It is also the case that summers are not getting drier, as shown in Figure 2.
According to the Bureau, recent summers have been hotter, but such claims would not pass scrutiny if assessed, for example, for inclusion in the Guinness Book of records. This is because of all the changes to the way temperatures are now measured.
The Rutherglen agricultural research station has one of the longest, continuous, temperature records for anywhere in rural Victoria. Minimum and maximum temperatures were first recorded at Rutherglen using standard and calibrated equipment back in November 1912. Considering the first 85 years of summer temperatures – unadjusted, as in not homogenised – the hottest summer on record at Rutherglen is the summer of 1938–1939.
At Rutherglen, the first big equipment change happened on 29 January 1998. That is when the mercury and alcohol thermometers were replaced with an electronic probe – custom built to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s own standard, with the specifications still yet to be made public.
According to Bureau policy, when such a major equipment change occurs there should be at least three years (preferably five) of overlapping/parallel temperature recordings. Except the mercury and alcohol thermometers (used to measure maximum and minimum temperatures, respectively) were removed on exactly the same day the custom-built probe was placed into the Stevenson screen at Rutherglen, in direct contravention of this policy.
The policy implications are significant, far more significant than Bruce Pascoe paraphrasing some text from the early explorers to make a point, while claiming an Aboriginal heritage.
In 2011, the Bureau made further changes to how it measures temperatures in that it stopped averaging one-second readings from the probe at Rutherglen over one minute. The maximum temperature as recorded each day at Rutherglen is now the highest one-second spot reading from the custom-built probe. That is correct – spot reading.
Across Australia non-standard methods of measuring (spot readings) from non-standard equipment (custom-built probes) make it impossible to establish the equivalence of recent temperatures from Rutherglen – or any of the Bureau’s other 695 probes in automatic weather stations – with historical data.
REWRITING OUR TEMPERATURE HISTORY
It was at the Sydney Institute in 2014 that I first began to detail the extent to which the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has rewritten our temperature history to create the impression of catastrophic global warming using the technique of homogenisation. This is in addition to the issues with calibration.
Back in 2014, I showed how temperatures are changed in the ACORN database, and not by a small amount. I showed that the recorded values — the actual measurements — are often changed by more than a degree from the original measurements to remove the cooling trend from at least 1940 to 1960. Cooling the past, makes the present appear hotter.
If we consider, as an example, Bourke in western New South Wales, the temperature as measured using a mercury thermometer in a Stevenson Screen at the official recording station was 38.9 degrees Celsius. This value was changed to 38.4 in the first official ACORN database, and then dropped-down by a further 0.3 degrees when the Bureau published version 2 of ACORN.
This is in addition to the more recent issues that I have uncovered, issues caused by the transition to electronic probes without due regard to calibration. In the case of Mildura, I have shown that the official electronic probe is regularly recording 0.4 °C hotter than the mercury thermometer in the same shelter.
Then there is the issue of how all the temperature series are added together.
Concerned that the Bureau made many errors in its calculation of the mean Australian temperature, Merrick Thomson, a retired accountant, asked questions in a submission to a government inquiry some years ago, specifically:
- Why was the mix of stations changed with the transition to ACORN, and why was this not explained and declared, particularly given that it has resulted in a large increase in theannualtemperature for Australia.Hecalculates this was 56 °C.
- What criteria is used to determine whether or not a station becomes part of the national network, and specifically, why was the very hot location of Oodnadatta added to the national network in 2011?
His submission was never acknowledged, and his questions never answered.
So, when the Bureau announce that last year was the hottest on record we can have absolutely no confidence that this is true. The charts they show, and values they present are totally contrived.
I recently explained to Chris Smith on Sky News that the hottest day ever recorded in Australia using standard equipment at an official recording station is 51.6 °C at Bourke in January 1909. I also explained that this legitimate record has been expunged from the record by Blair Trewin at the Bureau.
Over the last six years I have provided more and more evidence — some of it reported by Graham Lloyd and published in The Australian — which shows Blair Trewin, under the direction of David Jones, is falsely rewriting our temperature history.But nothing has ever been done about this. Rather, successive state and federal governments have let the meme of human-caused catastrophic global warming grow, while neglecting the forests.
I have it on good advice that the detail of my accusations against the Bureau have been discussed by the Australian Cabinet, including in the presence of Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison. At that time then prime minister Tony Abbott was apparently keen to have some sort of inquiry into the industrial-scale remodelling by Jones and Trewin through the process of homogenisation. But his efforts were thwarted by Greg Hunt and Julie Bishop.
REWRITING THE HISTORY OF THE LOWER MURRAY RIVER
When it comes to really important practical environmental issues like restoring the Murray River’s estuary, they also all turn a blind eye.
The Tauwitchere sea dyke has destroyed the once abundant fishing grounds of the Yaraldi. This Mob once caught both Murray cod and also mulloway depending on the season; it is all detailed in the South Australian Museum. The solution to the dwindling fish stocks in the Lower Murray River is simple: remove the barrages and bring back the sea tide. Instead some locals complain of climate change.
Since 1941, the barrages have blocked 90 per cent of flows between the lakes and the South Ocean. Over the last decade, a new and false history and geography of the Lower Lakes, Coorong and the Murray’s mouth have been created. But so far, no government minister has ever rallied against this rewriting of history.
When I wrote a report about it, explaining all the benefits that could come from restoring the Murray River’s estuary, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (our ABC), ran a campaign against me.
The restoration of the Murray River’s estuary would not only be good for the environment, but it would also free-up so much water for upstream farmers and firefighters.
ELITES RUN AUSTRALIA, BUT FOR HOW MUCH LONGER
For decades respected Aboriginal elders have been invited onto local bushfire management committees, only to find government-appointed chairpersons refusing to even record their advice. In the Dreaming active land management is so important, while a particular zeitgeist and red tape now most deliberately prevent it. Then there is the issue of adequate resourcing. So, much money is provided to science managers to fake news about the Murray River, the Great Barrier Reef and human-caused catastrophic climate change. Yet the real and pressing issues concerning management of weeds, feral animals, and fuel loads in forests is mostly ignored. Meanwhile, artificial constraints on commercial opportunities for the sustainable harvest of so much of our natural bounty, including kangaroos and crocodiles, are indirectly imposed by Hugh Jackman and other Hollywood celebrities who support campaigns led by Terri Irwin. Grahame Webb has spent a lifetime overseeing the successful resurgence of crocodile numbers in the Northern Territory, only to now be prevented from realising any commercial gain for his Aboriginal colleagues because of successful campaigning by Hollywood Elites.
As Bruce Pascoe writes in Black Emu:
Strangely, though, when Ross Garnaut, who prepared the climate-change policy for the Rudd Government in 2008, championed kangaroo farming as a way of conserving the land and cutting greenhouse gases, because cattle are greater polluters than motor cars, the press could hardly contain their contempt” (p. 53).
I’ve discussed the need to not only restore the historical temperature record, but also the need to restore the estuary of our longest river system, with Minister Simon Birmingham. But he tells me that there is no advantage in it for South Australia. Also, he has told me that the Australian Greens — effectively run by his mate and fellow South Australian Sarah Hanson-Young — would never support such an initiative.
I met with Sarah Hanson-Young back in 2011. She told me that while she sees some merit in the Murray River having an estuary, South Australian Greens and Liberals ‘will hold the line’ together on this one.
It is the case that here in Australia, just a few rule over us, and at the behest of their politics that has scant regard for the natural environment, and little more for the economy.
Contrary to the impression given by our ABC, quiet Australians of diverse lineage are not being heard, while the mostly white leadership across The Greens, Coalition and Labor parties together decide how key issues will be managed.
Worse, it is a fact that practical individuals who operate outside the current zeitgeist are hounded by our elites and our government.
Peter Ridd was sacked for telling the truth about the Great Barrier Reef under the watch of the current Coalition government. If Peter Dutton wants to be useful, he would refer Terry Hughes rather than Bruce Pascoe to the Australian federal police. Perhaps Minister Dutton has not yet heard about the latest revelation of misconduct from within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University?
The political Elite know there is a disproportionate influence from what is understood as the AGL* faction of the New South Wales Liberal party. It is this faction that not only ensures various subsidies for various energy sources, but also oversaw the taxpayer funded $443 million grant to the tiny Great Barrier Reef Foundation — to Malcom Turnbull’s mates. I heard not a slither of discontent from Minister Dutton on this, yet the faux research findings they sponsor directly and negatively impact all Australians.
There is a real need for Peter Dutton to make important referrals to the Australian federal police. Those who do fake science and attempt to pass it off as the truth, and those who remodel the historical temperature record to something completely different, need to be held to account.
The terrifying infernos of recent weeks are a wake-up call. It is time that the Prime Minister and all the Ministers in the current Australian Government showed some real leadership. They know the real issues, and they understand the politics. So, it is past time they climbed out from under the thumbs of the catastrophists embedded in our most important government-funded institutions. Stop taking orders from them, and start referring them to the Australian federal police. Their misdeeds are significant.
* AGL Energy Ltd is an Australian listed public company involved in the generation and retailing of electricity for residential and commercial use.
UPDATE JANUARY 16, 2020
Adding an east coast of Australia rainfall chart, as requested by a couple in the thread. Whichever way you cut the data, Australian rainfall data does not show a drying trend, and for non-UHI affected inland sites the temperatures generally show cooling to about 1960, and then warming since. Its about as warm now as it was back more than 100 years ago. This is no consistent with lots of homogenised data from other places … but I think many sceptics and alarmists should spend more time with the data before forming their opinion.
Dr Christine Finlay says
Well!! – a truckload of evidence that no one is stopping shonks getting $billions.
Scandalous behaviour by the politically compromised BOM. They need to be brought into the coming Royal Commission (yet another one) perhaps as a contributing factor to the disaster.
Frances Wellington says
The pieces in the puzzle are coming together. Ta Jennifer. Excellent investigating. BTW, there is a typo in the 4th paragraph: “deleting of the hottest day in the official record,which was January 3,” (missed the month/year here).
Chris Gillham says
There’s a fair chance 2019 was the hottest year since 1910 due to the record low rainfall.
However, the 2019 anomalies cited by the BoM are typical of why the validity of the record high national maximum should be questioned.
The ACORN maximum anomalies were 1.55C in 2018 and 2.09C in 2019. In other words, compared to the static 1961-90 baseline, the average absolute maximum at the 104 non-urban ACORN stations used for national averages was 0.54C hotter in 2019 than in 2018.
ACORN minimum anomalies were 0.73C in 2018 and 0.95C in 2019, suggesting averages increased 0.22C.
However, the average absolute maximum at the 104 stations was 26.60C in 2018 and 26.90C in 2019, so maxima at the ACORN stations rose 0.30C. This 0.30C has become 0.54C.
The average absolute minimum at the 104 stations was 13.70C in 2018 and 13.70C in 2019, so minima at the ACORN stations rose 0.00C. This 0.00C has become 0.22C.
ACORN anomalies rarely agree with actual temperatures but if 2019 was the hottest year on record, it’s worth asking why not.
Data at http://www.waclimate.net/2019-temperature-anomalies.html
It’s also worth checking http://www.waclimate.net/very-hot-days.html to see the correlation between hot season rainfall and Australia’s declining frequency of very hot days above 40C since 1910, with plenty of interesting data in the three linked pages.
Andrew Franz says
Somehow I don’t think current leadership will stand up.
1. We haven’t seen anyone tear up the cheque for the Great Barrier Foundation
2. No-one has halted the idiotic submarine contract
3. Snowy 2 is still proceeding.
Speaking of Snowy 2:
Why is the taxpayer funding Snowy 2?
Draw your own conclusions.
But the elites have an achilles heel. Nuclear.
If there really is a “climate emergency” (there isn’t, but say there is), then we need zero-‘carbon’ power able to be scaled up quickly. If there really is an emergency, we have to SHUT DOWN COAL now. The only ready-alternative, which is ‘carbon’-free is nuclear.
But the elites have their investments in ‘renewables’.
Start promoting nuclear and watch them squirm. Watch them write op-eds about how there “isn’t really an emergency” but we really have to “do something”.
Then apply the blowtorch: “But you said we have a climate emergency”, you said we’re “nearly at the tipping point”. Watch them squirm.
Promote nuclear and logically blow up their stupid investments.
Logic and facts are the best weapons.
Richard Bennett says
Sue the BOM for misreporting data which was originally recorded and published and the then subsequently altered twice. This alteration of the facts has impacted forestry management, water management, insurance fire-risk assessment and development planning, and as a result has directly increased the forest-fire hazard risk levels to life to man and wildlife.
There is a clear legal case for claiming damages against the BOM because they issued fake data which they later re-issued as modified data that has not been adjudicated as more or less fake. The failure of the BOM to correctly report data has cost many lives and resulted in $multi-million property losses.
The thing I can’t understand in your reasoning is that if the Oz BOM data really is suspect as you claim why do you continue to use this data to show (non) trends in global warming? There is plenty of other data in the world e.g. I live in the United Kingdom and the temperature anomaly records here are much longer (e.g https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadcet/). This and the data complied by NASA from 6,300 weather stations (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/DecadalTemp) shows similar trends to each other and the equivalent data from Oz BOM (http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/#tabs=Temperature ) that you are saying is suspect which doesn’t add up.
Whatever you think of these other datasets my point would be I don’t think you will be able to maintain these arguments for much longer just looking at Australia – as Craig Kelly recently found out when interviewed by Piers Morgan (who I think is a dickhead but no one would ever describe as left wing) these debates are now firmly part of a world wide discussion.
Thanks for your comment.
Good temperature data was collected for the period from at least 1910 to 1996 by the Bureau. So, I use this data, including to show how hot the summer of 1938-1939 was for places like Rutherglen in the south east.
For the location of Richmond in north western Queensland, the Bureau are still collecting data that has some integrity … with a mercury thermometer still in place.
I republish a letter with some ideas about how we might approach the issue of understanding regional trends in this blog post: https://jennifermarohasy.com/2019/06/the-gat-in-the-hat/
If you follow that link you will see the TMax temperature trend for Richmond, which is so similar to trends at other inland rural and/or regional locations (not UHI affected) with long records in northern and also eastern Australia.
Also, there is an application for AI, as Jaco Vlok explains here: https://jennifermarohasy.com/2019/05/robots-recreating-past-temperatures-are-best-to-avoid-australian-data/
The smugness of the BoM, particularly Trewin and Jones, is based in the protection the Federal Cabinet affords them. That won’t change. Yet another RC will have the Terms of Reference so organised as to ensure that protection – any conclusions it may draw that are counter to AGW, or to the RE money train, will be silently ignored. And that’s not a surprise, as Jennifer points out above.
There’s a line of comment now being seen in the MSM that Aus droughts, long controlled by the oceanic pulses (ENSO, IOD, SAM), are being affected by AGW. This speculative notion is not presented with evidence but, I fear, is emotionally so appealing that within a week the MSM will declare it is fact.
The best I have found so far with some actual empiricism to it is:
Perhaps others have references that may contribute some sense to this notion ?
Allan Cox says
The word for theses wilful and wrongful acts by various persons in the BoM is ‘malfeasance’:
Misconduct or wrongdoing, especially by a public official.
Evil-doing; the doing of that which ought not to be done; wrongful conduct, especially official misconduct; violation of a public trust or obligation; specifically, the doing of an act which is positively unlawful or wrongful, in contradistinction to misfeasance, or the doing of a lawful act in a wrongful manner. The term is often inappropriately used instead of misfeasance.
The doing of an act which a person ought not to do; evil conduct; an illegal deed.
Allan Lehepuu says
” respected Aboriginal elders have been invited onto local bushfire management committees, only to find government-appointed chairpersons refusing to even record their advice. ”
I sat on the Cooma – Monaro – Snowy Bushfire Management Committee from 2000 for five plus years as the volunteers representative.
The composition of a BFMC was set by The Rural Fires Act 1997.
At that stage there was a seat for the Local Aboriginal Land Council rep for each Local Govt area so there were two seats available on the Cooma- Monaro / Snowy BFMC.
In my time on the BFMC the local Aboriginal Land council never sent a rep even though reminder letters were continually sent.
So the above statement to my experience is at odds.
Otherwise, once again, your article is informative .
The BOM makes some very strange decisions such as closing Charlotte Pass AWS (71003) in March 2015.
This station recorded the coldest temp on the mainland of -23.0C on the 20/6/1994.
It has the cold record for each month of the year.
Nothing like chopping off one end of your extremes to change the average.
Thank you again for your work.
Climate change is the get out of jail free card for governments and bureaucracy’s. They can place the blame on something outside of their control. The bush fire’s are a great example deflect the accusations of poor land management to mhhhh climate change did it. It’s not our fault.
The BOM is a disgrace thank you Jennifer for highlighting this.
Thank you Jennifer for your wisdom.
Tim Blair this morning and his link to James Delingpole / Breitbart makes for compleing reading.
Does the ‘Global Warming denier’ insult actually mean:
1 Denying the globe is warming ?
2 Denying anthropogenic globe warming ?
3 Denying that if Australia reduces its carbon emissions by X tonnes per year, this will impact the world temperature by Y degrees in Z years ?
4 Denying the predicted catastrophic sea level rising or ice melting etc etc ?
5 Denying the current bushfires are a result of Global Warming ?
6 Denying the current bushfires have added 350 million tonnes of CO2, in the past three weeks, almost two thirds of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions (plus volcanos) into the atmosphere ?
7 That, no reason is needed – “you are a just a troglodyte, Global Warming denier” !
Ian Thomson says
Well written Jen.
Roslyn Ross says
In terms of Aboriginal ‘knowledge’ and its use. Can you explain how it would work in regard to the following:
1. Aboriginal fire-hunting took place when around 300,000 stone-age nomadic hunter-gatherers lived on this land. How can those practices work with 25 million people living in the modern technological world on the same land?
2. Aborigines had no way to put out or control fires. How does modern equipment play a part in such practices.
3. Given the intermixing of Aboriginal peoples since 1788, and the fact none have lived stone-age lives since at least the middle of the 19th century, how can any relevant practices have been handed down since it is human nature to forget that which is no longer needed? They lit fires to get dinner. Once that became unnecessary they did not light fires and within generations, any such knowledge would be lost.
4. What are the key differences between Aboriginal fire-hunting practices, common to all humans at the same level of development, and modern fuel-reduction practices?
You ask some good questions. Thank you. There are also, I think, some misconceptions embedded within your questions.
I would encourage you to read Bruce Pascoe’s book to understand the possibility that Aborigines cultivated the land (e.g. growing types of wheat and also yams), and stored food (e.g. salted fish, made flour). It is an easy read, and Pascoe provides lots and lots of examples.
I spent some time, some years ago, in the South Australian Museum reading about the Yaraldi, from primary sources. What I read supports some of what Bruce Pascoe claims.
There are still settlements in the Northern Territory that practice traditional culture including traditional methods of burning.
There are aborigines keen to share this knowledge for example, this fellow:
Also, there are botanists who have documented and improved on traditional knowledge, for example David Ward. He wrote a series of blog posts for me drawing from his knowledge of the traditional practices of the Noogars in WA. You can find links to some of these posts from this post if you scroll to the bottom of it: http://jennifermarohasy.com/2009/04/the-mathematics-of-connectivity-and-bushfire/ .
I grew-up in the Northern Territory and fire management was something my late father (Jack Turnour) did in consultation with Aborigines on our property at Coomalie Creek. Dad was also a keen long-range weather forecaster relying on the moon, as did many northern Aborigines. You can read something about this method of forecasting from the chapter by Ken Ring in the book I edited a few years ago ‘Climate Change: The Facts 2017’. Ken got started with this techniques learning from Maori fishermen in New Zealand.
A knowledge of weather and the capacity to forecast is critical to successful fire management, including a knowledge of wind patterns. These follow not only annual cycles (seasons), but also the lunar cycle (in valleys the atmospheric tides are more obvious as the moon makes its daily overhead pass). This can all be observed, if you live outside.
Then it is important to know to fire on a rotational basis, and not everywhere. Some detail on mosaics and burning is in the powerpoint that you can download from here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/2005/09/noongars-knew-best-part-2/
All of what I have just written is going to depend on the type of country.
This is just a quick response. I shall ask David Ward if he might write me another blog post, and answer you questions more systematically.
My connection with the land, and traditional practices, was broken when my parents sold-up soon after my seventh birthday and left the Territory. Back then the government was insisting my father undertake more development of the lease than he wanted, than he thought was necessary for sustainable management of that country. Back then there was an expectation from government that if you had a lease you had to clear the land of all timber and sink bores … Things now seem to have swung in the other direction, and government experts don’t want landholders to do anything? I exaggerate?
I did study botany as my first degree at university, and learnt a lot during that degree about ecological communities and how they are affected by different land management systems, and different types of fire regimes.
I spent three years in the bush in Madagascar (island near Mauritius) working as an entomologist in the mid-1980s. I felt that while the Malagasy cattlemen of the western plains also used fire, they didn’t have nearly the understand of it, and country, as my father did, and as the NT aborigines I once knew did.
Jenny, recommending that white fellas listen to black fellas about stuff. Be careful girl, you’ll get drummed outa the IPA for sure if you keep being sensible.
I cannot recommend Gamage’s book highly enough.
I cannot say the same for Pascoe’s.
Ian McClintock says
Jennifer, what you say about the BoM and their blatant manipulation of temperature data are unfortunately only too true. It has been building for some time. Much evidence.
This is a scandalous disaster shredding the previously high regard and wide respect held for this essential service provider.
The miserable exponents of this detrimental and worsening scam deserve the disgrace, dishonour and opprobrium that will surely inevitably follow them.
Good science cannot be done with falsified data and good policy development cannot be achieved if it is based on falsified science.
The scientific method, and its insistence on the continual checking of every detail of all new hypotheses, theories and data to verify their accuracy or not, has been crucial to the dramatic improvement in mankind’s standard of living over recent centuries. This regrettably is now being threatened by this inexcusably low, deceitful form of behaviour.
Thank you for your vital work in highlighting this appalling state of affairs.
Would you like to comment on this article if you have time:
“Some say we’ve seen Australia’s bushfires worse than this, but they’re ignoring a few facts” https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/australia/118770134/some-say-weve-seen-australias-bushfires-worse-than-this-but-theyre-ignoring-a-few-facts?cid=app-iPad
Thanks for the link. But the fellow who wrote it is working from remodelled temperature data. He needs to spend more time with the actual measurements from rural and regional locations, and then he will see that he is drawing correlations from patterns that don’t exist in reality.
Over-and-over I say that we need to hold the Bureau to account for their remodelling. Otherwise it is inevitable that those with some knowledge will draw wrong conclusions, because the cycles have been stripped-out of the remodelled data.
Ian Thomson says
It is worth noting that along the Murray in our area , the land was as you describe it, when first sighted by Europeans and it is a matter of history that their cattle tramped the swamps , allowing redgum seeds to “see the light ” and germinate. The resulting forests were then managed by foresters, for timber. Some are known by older aborigines , as “whitemans’ forests”. Now they are all locked up and full of trash, etc, aided by both deliberate and accidental watering.
As Mr Timothy Flimflan says , ” gumtrees are colonisers”, they do this mainly by fire and creation of arid landscapes.
Re your father not wishing to clear , an older , now deceased, farmer from Blighty area said ,”We used to go to town and they’d say ,” you should have your land taken off you, because you haven’t cleared enough,” Now we get told “You should have your land taken off you because you cleared it all. ” ”
Another older bloke told me that at one stage the govt payed Chinese labourers to ringbark trees and some remnant glades are there , because the farmers paid them not to ringbark.
Brett Hilder says
I have been fighting another battle with another bunch of bureaucrats for eight years now. The damage they are doing to people’s lives and businesses is appalling. But they do it with impunity.
The parallels between the two groups of bureaucrats are far too familiar.
Houston, we have a problem with the Australian public service. A big one. And the self identifying elites have a lot to answer for already.
-ex-farmer and volunteer bushfire fighter.
Garry Stannus says
Jennifer, I think that your caption/title for Figure 2, “Average summer rainfall since 1900 ” needs explanation. The BoM image itself carries the information that it is “Based on a 30-year climatology (1961-1990)”.
Looking further, I see that the BoM Australian rainfall trend map…
(for the period 1970-present) [http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/trendmaps.cgi?map=rain&area=aus&season=1202&period=1970])
…appears to show a trend/decline in rainfall for nearly all of eastern Australia.
What does that mean, I wonder?
I don’t consider, Jennifer, that your elevation on the causal scale: of insufficient hazard reduction over (anthropocentric) climate change is realistic. And I think that your use of the Annual average rainfall for Australia, 1900-2019 … misses the point: it seems to me that it is possible that total Australian rainfall may have increased, as you put it…
“we have on average had consistently wetter years since the 1970, as shown in Figure 1”
…but in my view, to write of national rainfall totals in an article dealing with southern and eastern seaboard bushfires is to obscure the point.
Interestingly (to me) the last national rainfall (2019) figure, shown in Figure 2, may be thought of as indicative of the late arrival of the cyclone. Now that it has come, we are getting some rain – even down in Tas, where I live. But, it should be also seen as incontrovertible evidence that in the one hundred and nineteen years since federation, Australia has this last year had its lowest rainfall total – lowest by what is in my view, quite a significant margin. It’s there in Figure 2, which you have reproduced in your article.
Finally, could I ask about your response (in the comments thread) to: Bruce says
January 14, 2020 at 5:41 am)?
Bruce, by and large, was putting the point that U.K. data, along with U.S.A. NASA data…
“shows similar trends to each other and the equivalent data from Oz BOM.”
In your reply, you dealt with Bruce’s initial ‘why use Aussie data if you think it’s suss’? But you do not seem to have made a response to his ‘what about the U.K. and U.S.A. NASA’ question.
Harry Audus says
I second Garry Stannus.
Thanks for your reply to my previous comment Jennifer – I can see what your saying in relation the Oz records but I still can’t see how that reconciles with data from other parts of world (and you might expect a lot of noise associated with the much more variable climate in OZ).
On a different point you ( and others ) make – and something I know a little bit more about – I think it’s wrong to compare those historical fires in Victoria (like 39) with current fires that are mainly in NSW. This is because as you go from north to south in Australia the worst fires move from winter (in the NT) to spring (SEQ) to early summer (much of NSW) to the peak of summer (in Vic) with associated reduction in humidity, reduction in fire frequency, increase in (forest) fuel load and an order of magnitude increase in fire intensity (which I have personal experience of having fought fires in Vic, Seq and NT). Justin Leonard from CSIRO gives a very level headed presentation on this ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEf1UDKvxs8 ) which includes the point that fires in NSW have been associated with over 5 times the number of lost houses and 4 times the number of deaths compared with fires in Vic over the same period. As in anything you need to compare apples with apples.
Ian Thomson says
Hi Bruce, two things regarding the rest of the world and temps , the Canadians have just been caught out and The British Met have real form.
Regarding your comparison between NSW and Vic fires , houses , etc, lost doesn’t mean a lot.
The scale of the actual fires is not so different, if you take out the Sydney bias which has nsw, (Newc/Syd/ Woll), being “right across NSW”, most of the State is having a more normal summer.
Our public servants aren’t public servants anymore. Our public servants are more like dictators now, making laws that are dictated to them by the lobbyists, etc. Most of what our public servants do is not in our countries best interest. Lobbyists are identical to mercenaries, they fight for the highest bidder. One day they’re advocating for cattle farmers the next for vegans, they don’t care they work for who ever is paying the highest.
Mercenaries do the same but admit it.
The pen is mightier than the sword, so who’s worse lobbyists or mercenaries?
Best wishes for a productive trip. Thank you for sticking with this important work regarding the distortion of the record and misrepresentation of the risks.
Chris Gillham says
Re Garry Stannus citing a BoM national rainfall map showing decreased eastern Australia rainfall to criticise the use of national data, the BoM’s eastern Australia data show average annual rainfall to be …
1900-1959 : 599.3mm
1960-2019 : 614.8mm
If you prefer a more focused timescale rather than first and second halves …
1900-1909 : 571.9mm
2010-2019 : 623.8mm
In eastern Australia, 2019 was the 8th driest year on record – (1902 – 330.5mm, 2002 – 391.7mm, 1982 – 408.1mm, 1915 – 409.1mm, 1919 – 409.3mm, 1965 – 428.1mm, 1994 – 434.0mm, 2019 – 442.2mm).
For southern Australia …
1900-1959 : 373.8mm
1960-2019 : 391.7mm
1900-1909 : 373.6mm
2010-2019 : 392.6mm
However, 2019 was the driest year on record for southern Australia with an average 199.1mm.
To be more specific, rainfall averages for south-eastern Australia …
1900-1959 : 627.1mm
1960-2019 : 622.2mm
1900-1909 : 608.5mm
2010-2019 : 623.5mm
In south-eastern Australia, 2019 was the 6th driest year on record – (1982 – 367.2mm, 2006 – 379.7mm, 1967 – 386.1mm, 1940 – 428.4mm, 1944 – 431.5mm, 2019 – 440.7mm).
Any decline in southern Australia rainfall seems to be caused almost entirely by rainfall in the south-west, a relatively thin coastal strip in southern WA where annual average rainfall was …
1900-1959 : 708.6mm
1960-2019 : 639.3mm
1900-1909 : 709.5mm
2010-2019 : 582.4mm
Although in south-western Australia, 2019 was only the 4th driest year on record – (2010 – 394.6mm, 1940 – 439.1mm, 1969 – 451.4mm, 2019 – 460.3mm).
My reading of the volumes and years is that there’s not much to worry about with rainfall, although northern Australia is nowadays getting quite a lot more than it used to – which I regard as a benefit for such a hot area, and I’m dubious that the flora and fauna in northern Australia vote green.
2019 was a very dry year but the explanation is a January 2020 arrival of monsoonal troughs tied to the highest weekly Indian Ocean Dipole values since records began in 2001, along with a sudden stratospheric warming above Antarctica (strongest since 2002), inducing a negative phase of the Southern Annular Mode which suppressed rainfall and increased maxima in eastern Australia during October, November and December.
As for extremely hot days and their correlation with rainfall, more can be learned at http://www.waclimate.net/very-hot-days-seasonal.html
Andrew Franz says
Brett (and other people hurt by the bureaucracy),
The Liberal democrats are gathering a list.
You might also want to tell your story to Helen Dalton or Phil Donato – NSW State MPs from Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.
Julie Hoegh says
The post After the Tragic Wildfires: History is Rewritten or Forgotten appeared first on Jennifer Marohasy .
John Pfeiffer says
Interesting article.Seems the BoM have given up on observational science and go by”consensus” which is a load of bull. These people need to be held to account.Re aborigines , there is a book titled “And their ghosts may be heard” or some similar title, detailing the aborigines in WA where the Dutch ships were shipwrecked (are these the Noongars) grew yams and built villages, They assimilated the Dutch survivors into their culture and adopted a few Dutch words 200 years before the Brits arrived. I’ve got the book in my library but its a while since I read it and I forget the name of the author. There is another book I have about the Ngarringeres of Raukkan near the Coorong written by a bloke named Jenkins- again it’s a while since I read it but it is in my library at home. These people knew what they were doing in managing their country and if we’d had some decent land management without greenies interference the current tragedy could have been averted to some extent
Ian George says
Thanks again for your detailed report, Jen.
I’m not sure if it has been noticed that from at least 1995 – 2017 the annual mean has been increased for each year.
If you check the annual summaries and then compare them to the annual mean temp graph for Australia the increase is around 0.1C.
For instance, both 2001 and 2011 were below the average mean in the CS but are now above and average respectively now, probably due to ACORN2 adjustments.
So have they quietly added another 10% more warming this century so it is now ‘worse than we thought’.
Geoff Walker says
Scott Morrison would do well to listen to his ‘quiet Australians’ who simply want their lives and properties saved by cool winter burns. If he gets sucked into the climate change hysteria he’s finished. The ABC is using the current crisis to pump up its greenie / lefty crudade. My book ‘White Overall Days’ tells the inside story of bushfire mis management and my Quadrant article ‘Why We Burn Again and Again’ does the same.
Max McMillan says
Point 1 from Merrick Thomson’s submission says that he calculated a temperature increase of 56 degrees C, this should be 0.56 degrees.
Thanks for advocating common sense, truth and decisions based on real evidence.