Extreme rain in Australia’s New South Wales is causing life-threatening flooding that has so far forced the evacuation of at least 18,000 people. About 10 million people over an area the size of Alaska are at risk for excessive rainfall. The mid-north coast, an area of coastline between Sydney and Byron Bay, has been deluged by 35 inches of water in the past week, in some cases five times the average March rainfall in just four days. Weather patterns shifting the rain inland caused some areas to resemble “inland seas.” Australian PM Scott Morrison said Sydney’s largest dam would overflow for at least a week, inundating populated areas with a deluge of water equivalent to Sydney Harbor.
Extreme precipitation is a clear signal of human-caused climate change; global warming increases ocean evaporation and the amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold, effectively creating and filling a bigger bucket that can dump more water when it rains.
The flooding comes about a year after massive bushfires — which are also fueled by climate change, and which killed hundreds of people and killed or harmed approximately 3 billion animals (not including arachnids and insects) — devastated the same region. “I don’t know any time in state history where we have had these extreme weather conditions in such quick succession in the middle of a pandemic,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. Rising floodwaters generated Ron Weasley’s and Indiana Jones’s collective nightmares as spiders and snakes swarm anything (relatively) dry, from trees, to houses, to “your legs … if you’re not careful.”
The flooding also disrupted coal shipments to Newcastle, Australia’s biggest coal export port. (Extreme rainfall and flooding: BBC, CNN, Washington Post $, 9News, Earther; Record rainfall: The Guardian; Spiders and snakes: The Guardian, CNN, BBC, HuffPost, Coal exports disruption: Maritime Logistics Professional, Reuters; Climate Signals background: Extreme precipitation, Wildfires)