Thursday, February 05, 2009

Australian scientists blame Indian Ocean for "drought"

Given the vast dishonesty over global warming that has characterized climate science, I think I may be forgiven for questioning ALL climate science. The claim below seems junk to me. Both North-Eastern Australia and South-Eastern Australia are roughly equidistant from the Indian ocean so if the Indian ocean is involved in causing rainfall, how come huge areas of the North are having record floods while the South is having a slight downturn in rain?

Maybe I am missing something but climate scientists have their dogmatic selves to blame if their credibility is zero with the roughly 50% of the population who do not believe in global warming. I live roughly halfway between the flooded North and the drier South and it rains here nearly every day so "drought" is a very strange word to use about the present situation. Such misuse of words also does little to establish the credibility of these "scientists"

SCIENTISTS believe the Indian Ocean is the culprit behind the crippling drought of Australia's southeastern states and not direct El Nino events. "Our findings will help to improve seasonal rainfall forecasts and therefore directly benefit water and agricultural management," Caroline Ummenhofer, a post doctoral fellow at the University of New South Wales, said.

The group of Australian scientists, who made the discovery, has detailed for the first time how a variable and irregular cycle of warming and cooling of ocean water dictates whether moisture-bearing winds are carried across the southern half of Australia. The phenomenon, known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), has been in its positive or neutral phase since 1992 - the longest period of its kind since records began in the late 19th Century, according to the study. "When the IOD is in its negative phase, a pattern occurs with cool Indian Ocean water west of Australia and warm Timor Sea water to the north. "This generates winds that pick up moisture from the ocean and then sweep down towards southern Australia to deliver wet conditions," a spokesman for UNSW said.

And to make matters worse, this period has coincided with a trend towards higher average air temperatures over the land, which the study says may be linked to human-induced climate change. "The ramifications of drought for this region are dire, with acute water shortages for rural and metropolitan areas, record agricultural losses, the drying out of two of Australia's major river systems and far-reaching ecosystem damage," Dr Ummenhofer said. "During this latest drought ... recent higher air temperatures across southeastern Australia have exacerbated the problem."

Dr Ummenhofer expected the study, with further development, would enable forecasters to predict rainfall three to six months in advance. "There is certainly scope for a lot more work and a lot more understanding," she said. "Hopefully there will be more engagement with the Bureau (of Meteorology) to possibly incorporate this into their operational forecasting." She said there were indications the positive phase was becoming more frequent than the negative, leaving a grim outlook for farmers. "And that would be really alarming," she said.

It is understood negative phases, which bring rain to the southern states, are most likely to occur from March to May. The study explains the current record-breaking drought in southeastern Australia and solves the mystery of why a string of La Nina events in the Pacific Ocean, which usually brings rain, has failed to break it. It also reveals the causes of other iconic extreme droughts in recorded history.

"More than the variability associated with the El Nino-La Nina cycle in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean Dipole is the key factor for driving major southeast Australian droughts over the past 120 years," Dr Ummenhofer said.

The team, jointly led by Professor Matthew England from the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, has detailed its findings in a paper, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Review Letters. The team includes researchers from CSIRO Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research and the University of Tasmania.


A debt burden to shame Keating

By Malcolm Turnbull, Leader of the Federal Opposition

EVERY time I meet a school group visiting Parliament House, I tell them how every MP and senator is working hard to make Australia a better place for them to grow up. As of today, there is nobody who can look those children straight in the eye to tell them their economic future is secure. Not when the Rudd Government's latest $42 billion spending package includes provision to borrow up to $200 billion - that is, a total of $9500 for every man, woman and child in Australia.

It is important we understand exactly what Mr Rudd is threatening here: the single biggest spending binge since the Whitlam years, and a debt burden that would put the Keating Government to shame. And it is a package that doesn't do enough to protect and create jobs, support small business and strengthen the economy.

When in government, we in the Coalition delivered 2.2 million jobs. This was the result of rigorous, well-crafted policies to create one of the strongest, most successful and prosperous economies in the world. We sought to remove financial burdens from coming generations, and we did so. We recognised that every billion dollars spent, every billion dollars of extra debt incurred, would have to be repaid by our children. So, from 1996, we paid off $96 billion of Labor debt. This was hard work, involving tough decisions.

Mr Rudd has made not one hard decision since coming to office. He has wanted to be Santa Claus - everybody gets a prize. The problem with everybody getting a prize today is that our children will be carrying a very heavy penalty in the years to come. This is why we will vote against this package. That is why we do not support a further round of cash handouts. We know this will not be popular. But it is the right thing to do. Somebody has to stand up for future generations, and not cruel their chances in life by weighing them down with staggering levels of debt.

We in the Coalition do not reject the need for a stimulus at this time. But our judgement is that $42 billion is too much right now. The Government is looking increasingly like a frightened soldier who fires off all his ammunition in a panic in the first minutes of a battle. This downturn may be very long lasting. We cannot afford to spend so much all at once. We need to keep a few shots in the locker. A more appropriate stimulus would be in the order of between $15 billion and $20 billion dollars. As part of that, we would support the bringing forward of the July 1 tax cuts to January 1 this year.

Our plan would benefit all taxpayers, most significantly those on low and middle incomes. It is very well targeted. It would not put $950 in everybody's pocket today. But it would increase permanent income and create greater incentive to work and to invest, providing a bigger economic boost than public spending.

We have said again and again that we are prepared to sit down and discuss with the Prime Minister the range of responses to deal with the economic challenges we face. All of our offers have been rejected. For my part, I am committed to ensuring every dollar is spent wisely. Most Australians will know in their hearts nothing comes for free and that, one day, somebody has to pay.


Taste is hereditary. How amazing!

To anybody who knows how pervasive heredity is in medical matters, the first part of my headline above is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the matters reported below. But that is not of course the conclusion that the "researcher" below draws in the never-ending but quite futile attempt to get people to be slimmer than is their natural tendency

CHILDREN copy their parents' food choices, University of South Australia scientists have found. Researcher Dorota Zarnowiecki has studied the health and not so healthy habits of more than 200 families. She gave them options ranging from fruit and vegetables to lollies and potato chips and found children's choices tended to echo their parents', despite other influences.

Ms Zarnowiecki, who will now do a PhD looking at the dietary behaviours of older children, said the findings had important implications for obesity prevention programs. "We looked at five and six year olds because we wanted to gauge their parents' influence, as they haven't had that much exposure to the outside world," she said. "(This) shows firstly that young children are able to learn and . . . distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods. It also shows that parents are really important at that young age, so it could be used even in pre-natal classes." Ms Zarnowiecki said it was much easier to teach children healthy habits than to try to change them when they got older.

Yesterday, a parliamentary inquiry was told an obesity campaign featuring a young man who becomes fatter as he grows older [Most people do] has struck a chord with more than six million Australians. The $30 million Measure Up campaign, which encourages Australians to measure their waists, has been described by Health Department experts as highly successful. Giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the nation's obesity crisis, experts said the campaign had resulted in 6.8 million hits to the website. Overweight Australians have requested almost 300,000 healthy eating plans and tape measures from the site. "It has attracted a great deal of interest," Health Department first assistant secretary Jennifer Bryant said yesterday. The campaign only began in October 2008, with the website averaging 3259 hits a day since then.

Committee chairman Steve Georganas welcomed the success of the promotion, saying it was a "very visual campaign". Ms Bryant said she believed the campaign had been successful as research had shown obese people understood they had to do something to tackle their weight - but did not know where to start. She said simplicity was crucial in obesity campaigns. "Eat smaller serves, drink water and keep the messages as simple and straightforward as you can," she said. [But does all that "success" translate into any weight loss? That question is too hard, apparently]



Brisbane hospitals turn away emergency patients

The lack of public hospital capacity has caused overflows at private hospitals too

The emergency room meltdown that created chaos across Brisbane hospitals yesterday looks set to continue today with two hospitals already in strife. Shortly before 7.30am Wesley Hospital was placed on bypass until further notice and Caboolture Hospital has issued a capacity alert. The situation is expected to continue to midday, meaning paramedics can expect lengthy delays at the hospital and should take patients elsewhere. Yesterday half a dozen emergency rooms at major hospitals were forced to turn away patients on the same day because they were full. Six hospitals around the city issued capacity alerts as a flood of high priority patients threatened to overwhelm services stretched to the limits.

The chaos left stressed ambulance officers trying to care for people in their vans. The drama began at 8.30am when Queensland Ambulance Service was advised the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital was on "patient bypass", with all except for trauma or critically ill patients being redirected to other hospitals. Twenty minutes later, QAS was advised Redland Hospital was also experiencing significant delays and paramedics were told to use other facilities. At noon, the RBWH was able to accept patients again, but then The Wesley Hospital was put on complete bypass until midnight, meaning it could accept no emergency patients. Then for varying periods during the day the Princess Alexandra, Logan and Redcliffe hospitals were all placed on high-capacity alert.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the peak in demand could not be put down to any particular event, but rather was due to a coincidence of a large number of high priority patients presenting at once.

A frazzled nurse from the Wesley, who withheld her name for fear of losing her job, described the situation as "meltdown". "Today is out of control, our departments are in complete meltdown," the nurse said. "What is scary is that there is no good reason for it - it isn't a terribly hot day, it isn't flu season, there is no outbreak of disease, we just don't have enough resources."

Ambulance union spokesman Kroy Day said the lack of hospital resources meant it was "only a matter of time before someone dies in a van". He warned that having multiple hospitals on capacity alerts meant paramedics could be left caring for patients in their vans for up to four hours. "If this is what we are seeing on a mild summer's day, I hate to imagine the trouble we'll be in when flu season rolls around," he said.

When asked about the RBWH being on bypass, Health Minister Stephen Robertson blamed a record amount of elective surgery patients.


Clerks 'given nurses' duties' at notorious Bundaberg Hospital

Lots of covering up going on but some whistleblowers are coming out. An independent enquiry is needed

CLERKS with no medical training were allegedly made to bandage wounds and assess patients at Bundaberg Hospital's emergency department. The clerks were also asked to perform other nursing duties such as putting ice on patients suffering strains, the Crime and Misconduct Commission has been told.

The Courier-Mail reported yesterday that staff at the hospital sought official whistleblower protection after detailing allegations of gross medical neglect and incompetence, overcrowding, bullying, intimidation and cover-ups. The couple at the centre of the latest allegations successfully sued the hospital, said Julie Bignall, state secretary of the Australian Services Union clerical division. "We pursued work cover claims for stress and psychological injury," she said. "Their WorkCover claims got up. They are now keen to go back to work." Ms Bignall said she was annoyed the allegations against the hospital had been made public by Member for Burnett Rob Messenger.

He took detailed accounts of hospital shortcomings to the CMC. There were allegations a doctor had cruelly mistreated a baby and at least one elderly patient had been left to die on a trolley. Mr Messenger said it was his duty to expose misconduct and accused the union of pressuring whistleblowers to withdraw their statements to the CMC.

Ms Bignall denied this. "We didn't put pressure on them," she said. "We just don't recommend they go to politicians."

The controversy widened yesterday when more nurses came forward with specific allegations against the hospital. There were also fresh claims that staff complaints and patient records had been manipulated to hide hospital shortcomings.

Mr Messenger said he spoke to another nurse who claimed she was denied promotion because she gave evidence at an earlier inquiry. "It's payback time for her," he said.

State Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the allegations were being taken seriously. He said two cases, that an elderly man had been left to die and a doctor had assaulted a baby, were both investigated 12 months ago. "They were investigated at the time they were made by the Queensland Health Ethical Standards Unit [The notoriously corrupt Queensland Health bureaucracy investigating itself! What a laugh!] and they were found not to have been sustained," he said. But heads would roll if health investigators found there had been cover-ups, he said

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg questioned how Mr Robertson as the minister did not know of the claims when they came up. "They of course are troubling allegations and the CMC needs to investigate them," he said.


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