Friday, February 27, 2015

Global warming: Australian deserts to expand as tropical circulation changes

Just modelling, which has so far always been wrong

Australia's deserts will expand southward and dry periods will lengthen as global warming alters key tropical circulations, according to new research by US scientists.

The researchers studied how the Hadley Circulation – the movement of warm air and moisture away from the tropics – will be affected if carbon-dioxide emissions continue to rise at the rate of 1 per cent per year.

They found evidence of a so-called "deep-tropics squeeze", in which regions closest to the equator will experience increased convection as air rises faster.

Conversely, the drier sub-tropical regions characterised by descending air and resulting high-pressure systems will expand, according to the research published Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Our results provide a physical basis for inferring that greenhouse warming is likey to contribute to the observed prolonged droughts worldwide in recent decades," the paper said.

Existing dry zones in Africa-Eurasia, south-west North America and much of Australia will face increased risk of drought, said William K.M. Lau, of the University of Maryland's Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Centre, and co-author of the paper.

"As inferred from the model projections, the global warming effect on expansion of deserts is likely to be already going on," Dr Lau told Fairfax Media.

The paper found that while some components of the Hadley Circulation will strengthen – resulting in increased rainfall in the deep tropics – ther elements will weaken. These findings will aid the understanding of the overall changes under way, he said.

"Detection of changes in the Hadley Circulation has been attempted by many previous authors, with no clear results whether it has strengthened, weakened or [had] no change," he said.

Steve Turton, a climatologist at James Cook University, said the PNAS paper adds to other research indicating the tropical belt is expanding, such as signs that the location of the maximum intensity of cyclone is shifting poleward.

An intensification of deep tropical rainfall would mean more rainfall for regions to the north of Australia, such as Indonesia, Professor Turton said.

A further expansion of the high-pressure belt, on the other hand, means more rainfall missing mainland Australia, and falling in the Southern Ocean instead. "It spells a pretty grim forecast for Australia," he said.

Rainfall is already on the decrease in southern Australia. Important winter rains over south-western WA have reduced by about a quarter since the 1970s, adding stresses to ecosystems and raising doubts about the prospects for wheat farming in the region, Professor Turton said.

Other regions reliant on monsoonal rains, such as the Indian sub-continent, will also likely see a disruption of rainfall patterns, he said.


Muslim Australia:  19-year-old man charged over 'wedding' to 15-year-old

A backyard Islamic marriage between an 18-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl was only discovered when the young bride took herself to a western Sydney hospital believing she had suffered a miscarriage, police allege.

Mustafa Abdel Ghany, 19, was charged on Wednesday with marrying a 15-year-old girl in the backyard of her father's Sydney home in November.

A sheikh allegedly officiated over the ceremony and the couple moved into a granny flat at Abdel Ghany's parents' home in south-west Sydney soon after.

Detectives from the Child Abuse Squad were alerted to the marriage when the 15-year-old attended Bankstown Hospital on January 20 believing she had suffered a miscarriage.

It is the first time the state's Child Abuse Squad has charged a man with marrying an underage girl.

Abdel Ghany was granted strict bail in Bankstown Local Court on Wednesday and ordered not to go near his wife, not to drink alcohol or take drugs and to abide by an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order taken out against him.

His 15-year-old wife, who cannot be identified, had stopped attending high school at the time of her marriage and was not working, police said in documents tendered to the court.

Her parents did not know where she had been living for the past four to five months and had had little contact with her when police spoke to them in January.

When her horrified mother found out about the union, she confronted the couple and was allegedly told by her new son-in-law that he would "finish" her.

"What's done is done. She's my wife. If you want to start a war, I'll finish it," he allegedly told the mother when she questioned why he married her daughter in such a manner.

Police allege that the bride's father, who was present when they married, told police they were simply engaged.

In early February, Abdel Ghany and his parents grew suspicious that his in-laws were speaking to the police.

An intercepted phone call allegedly revealed he planned to harm his bride's parents, police documents state.

In other phone calls, detectives also allegedly heard Abdel Ghany's parents telling him to move his wife's belonging out of the granny flat and into the main house to hide the relationship.

Just days ago, however, Abdel Ghany struck up a relationship with another woman while his young wife was visiting his family in Canberra, police documents state.

"Police allege the accused has stated that he is considering divorcing the victim," the documents state. "The victim is unaware of the extent of the [new] relationship and is hoping that she and the accused will continue to live as husband and wife."

Abdel Ghany, who was 18 at the time of the marriage, denied that the ceremony took place when interviewed by police on Wednesday and has denied having sex with the 15-year-old girl.

A recent report estimated there were around 250 child bride cases across Australia.

NSW police made their first child bride arrest last year.

A 26 year-old man was convicted of several sexual abuse matters after marrying a 12-year-old girl in a backyard ceremony. The imam who oversaw the marriage was also convicted.


Disability Support Pension under fire as bill to write welfare cheques hits $3 billion per year

MOTHERS, young people and women over 65 will be encouraged to get off welfare and into work under proposals being considered by the government.

On the same day he delivered a major report into welfare reform, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison outlined three areas he was keen to pursue in the May budget and beyond.

Parents, especially single mothers, should be encouraged to work by making child care more affordable and simpler, he said.

Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison addressing the National Press Club.

“Because it’s good for their families, it’s good for their income, it’s good for their support,” Mr Morrison told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

And young people should be either learning or earning and prevented from a life of welfare dependency through early intervention programs similar to those in New Zealand.

Mr Morrison said the system needed reform, but would not be drawn on whether he was likely to accept advice to reduce the number of welfare payments to just five.

That is a recommendation of the McClure welfare review which argues for a tiered working-age payment, supported living pension, child and youth payment, carer payment and the age pension.

The minister said long-term reform should not be rushed, but wanted to lay the groundwork for Australians to start thinking about necessary, but hard, changes.

“What we sew now in apathy will be reaped in a future harvest for generations who will not get the safety net provided by those who went before us,” Mr Morrison said.


Queensland moves to bring back homosexual civil unions

QUEENSLAND will reintroduce state-sanctioned civil union ceremonies for gay couples.

As The Australian reported during the recent election campaign, same-sex relationship registrations fell two-thirds in the three years since the Newman government watered down civil union laws by scrapping commitment ceremonies.

Today, Queensland’s newly minted Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath confirmed Labor would honour its election commitment to reverse the policy change.

“It’s something that I’m getting briefings on as we speak,” Ms D’Ath told Fairfax Radio.

“We have made it clear we will change it back. We’re putting in place (measures) to do that now.”

It’s not known when the Palaszczuk government will address this issue. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will visit Governor Paul De Jersey tomorrow to decide when the first parliamentary sittings will occur, and the rest of the year’s parliamentary schedule.

In 2012, when civil unions were rushed through parliament by the former Bligh Labor government, 466 couples affirmed their relationships.

Following the Newman government changes in mid-2012, another 138 homosexual couples formalised their relationships.

In 2013, 227 gay couples registered their relationship. Last year, that had dropped to 184. To January 13 this year, four relationships were registered.

Throughout the period, 4677 heterosexual couples have also registered their relationships.

During the campaign, Ms Palaszczuk also committed to maintaining laws on altruistic surrogacy and no euthanasia.

The LNP’s changes to Queensland’s civil-union laws meant the state is in line with NSW and Victoria in having no official ceremonial recognition. Couples in the ACT and Tasmania can opt for a ceremony.

The legislative changes followed lobbying from the Australian Family Association during the 2012 election campaign and a private meeting between Mr Newman and the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, the day before the legislation was introduced.


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