human activity and the destruction of the planet

Leave a comment

Record temperatures in Australia this month

A report in The Observer (20.1.19) states that temperatures in the high 40s and edging up to 50°C are making it impossible to do much in sweltering Australia.  So far, the highest record daytime temperature is 49.1°C in Tacoolain South Australia. Most people are staying indoors, as handling tools can burn hands, and letting their dogs outside can lead to blistered feet.  The road surfaces are also melting.

It is hot in the night time too, with record highs every single night of one week in January 2019. Last week, there were reports of millions of river fish dying, due to depletion of oxygen in the water (related to an algal bloom caused by the heat).  The mass fish death has led to criticism about water management.

dead fish

Dead fish along the Murray River

The Guardian published a piece about poor water management on 25th January 2019:

Further information can be found in the Australian press:

australia heatwave

23rd January 2019

And now a terrible story of the mass deaths of wild horses in the centre of Australia.  These are feral horses – Australian’s call them Brumbies – who have gone to a water hole in the extreme heat to drink but found it completely dry.  See the following link for the story:

dead brumbies Source: Facebook/Ralph Turner

Australia, being in the southern hemisphere, is in the midst of its summer, whilst the northern hemisphere is facing a freezing winter.  A colleague has suggested to me that Australia could be a  kind of climate change testbed or warning. First masses of dead fish and now dead horses.  Is this the face of things to come?

Let us hope that these awful scenes cause a change of mind by the Australian government so that they stop plans for allowing the mining of coal in Queensland.

More fish deaths – 30th January 2019

Locals around the Darling River were confronted with a sea of white, as dead fish carpeted the waters near the southeastern Outback town of Menindee.

Just weeks after up to a million were killed — with scientists pointing to low water and oxygen levels as well as possibly toxic algae — another mass death occurred in the key food growing region.

With temperatures expected to rise and no rain forecast, there remained a “high risk of further fish kills over the coming days and week,” officials said.

While the federal government has blamed the deaths on a severe drought, experts and locals say they stem from the systemic depletion and pollution of the river.

The inspectors added that the latest bout of kills were likely linked to “critically low levels of dissolved oxygen” caused by a sharp drop in temperatures after an extended period of hot weather.


January 31st 2019: Flying Foxes falling out of trees in Australia

Australia is in the midst of an unrelenting, record-smashing heat wave that has left temperature maps so red the country looks like it’s on fire.

The country has hit highs exceeding 120°F (49°C) during the day. And New South Wales set a new record for all of Australia last week when nighttime temperatures never fell below 96.6°F (35.9°C).

The temperatures have been so brutal in South Australia, in fact, that heat-stressed bats are literally falling out of trees.

Australia’s fruit-eating bats cannot regulate their body temperature when the thermometer hits 104°F (40°C). Nursing females are vulnerable because they already have raised body temperatures. Young pups are the most vulnerable.

Leave a comment

Mass deaths of some species being witnessed – is this the prelude to a mass extinction of species?

In my book, I mention research carried out by scientists, in which they predict that we could be facing a sixth mass extinction of species within three generations of our time.  Indeed, it is this report which was behind the title of my book – “Three Generations Left?”  I give further details of this research report in chapter 1 of my book, which can be found on this website.

Then, in the news today, is the discovery of thousands of dead starfish – and other sea creatures – washed up on beaches in Kent.  People are speculating that the deaths have been caused by the intensely freezing weather conditions we have been experiencing in the UK over the last week. Indeed, there was a report of the sea freezing around the Isle of Sheppey, also in Kent.  The sea in this area is probably less salty than elsewhere, because several (freshwater) rivers flow into the sea here (Medway, Swale, Thames) but it is still a significant event for the sea around the British Isles to freeze.  At the same time, further north in the Arctic Circle, the ice was melting.

A similar mass death event occurred in 2014 off Mexico and Alaska, when millions of starfish died there, though this would appear to have been caused in that case by warmer seas and an outbreak of parvovirus in the starfish.

Dead starfish on a Kent beach

In a parallel theme, an article just over a week ago, in The Observer (Science and Tech section) by David Derbyshire, mentions a mass death event in Kazakstan in 2015, when  200,000 Saiga antelopes suddenly died in the grassy plains where they were feeding. This represented 60 per cent of the global population of Saiga antelopes and, as a result, they are now critically endangered. Derbyshire questions whether this mass death event was caused by climate change.  Other articles about this suggest that the animals died of hemorrhagic septicaemia, caused by a bacterium called Pasteurella multocida, which was  isolated in tissue samples from the dead animals.  This pathogen normally lives harmlessly in the respiratory tract of these antelopes but it appears to have run amok in 2015, causing the mass deaths.

Further details can be found in:

Mass mortality events (MMEs) – single catastrophic incidents that wipe out vast numbers of a species – are on the increase and may be triggered by climate change.  Other species that are affected by MMEs include starfish, bats, sardines and coral reefs.  The scientist who studied the 2015 antelope event, Richard Kock, published an article in Science Advances, which concluded that a rise in temperature, combined with an increase in humidity, had stimulated the bacteria to pass into the blood stream, where it caused blood poisoning and death.

In 2014, during a heatwave in Australia, 45,000 fruit bats (flying foxes) died on one hot day.

Climate change is leading to more extreme weather events and it is in these circumstances that we may observe more MMEs.  It would appear that some organisms live harmlessly within a species but, in extreme weather conditions, may rapidly increase, causing death an possible extinction.

In The Guardian on 22nd March 2018 is an article by Patrick Barkham, which reports that there has been a catastrophic decline in France’s farmland birds (by 55% over three decades).  This includes skylarks, meadow pipits, partridges.  These declines mirror similar reductions in bird populations across Europe, whilst those species which have been able to adapt to urban areas have not declined.  The conclusion is that farmland is turning into a desert induced by increased use of pesticides.