Friday, March 11, 2022

Water releases from Wivenhoe have been halted. So what's the status of south-east Queensland's major water supply?

The flooding would have been much worse without it. Unlike 2011, the dam was intelligently managed this time, with orderly and timely water releases

SEQ Water has stopped releases from Wivenhoe Dam, more than a week after they commenced. So does that mean Wivenhoe's full? How long will that water last? And how did it ever surpass 100 per cent capacity?

How did Wivenhoe just go well past 100 per cent capacity?

Yes, Wivenhoe Dam is now at the full supply level, something it hadn't reached since 2015.

In fact, only two weeks ago it was at 58 per cent capacity and in September it had fallen as low as 41.8 per cent.

Wivenhoe is a dual-purpose dam: it provides 1,165,238 megalitres of drinking water storage as well as 1,967,000 megalitres of temporary flood space.

That's a grand total of 3.132 million megalitres.

So, when Seqwater says "full supply level", they're talking about drinking water. There's still another 1.9 million megalitres of water storage available. That's how we saw figures like 180 per cent capacity during the floods.

Wivenhoe only supplies 50 per cent of south-east Queensland's drinking water but, according to an Seqwater spokesperson, the downfall from the last two weeks alone will last a couple of years.

"The significant increase in the SEQ water grid over the past two weeks is expected to deliver an additional two-to-three years of drinking water supply."

Did Wivenhoe actually do its job during the recent rain event?
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said last week that Wivenhoe had held back four Sydney Harbours worth of water during the floods.

"Wivenhoe has two purposes: to hold our drinking water … secondly, it does flood mitigation," she said. "Flood mitigation means that it can actually have that extra capacity to have all of that extra water.

"In 2011, it was uncontrolled releases. What we're seeing now is, it is being managed and it's controlled releases. "That means that the controlled releases will not have any further impact in terms of the height of the floodwaters."

"The Wivenhoe Dam was managed in accordance with the manual."


Researchers discover drug-resistant Covid in Australian patients

One of the main medicines used to combat severe cases of Covid-19 is causing the virus to mutate and there is a risk it could spread in the community.

If this happens, elderly and immunocompromised patients can’t be treated with the drug Sotrovimab.

Sydney University researcher Dr Rebecca Rockett studied 100 Covid patients in health care facilities in the Western Sydney Local Health District in New South Wales during the Delta outbreak between August and November 2021.

For four of the patients given the drug, the virus in their body mutated within six to 13 days and the treatment was no longer effective at containing the infection.

Samples of the mutated virus taken from these patients were able to be grown in a laboratory dish and this proved the new version of the virus was capable of spreading to others.

“The worrying thing is the fact that the virus was still viable and persisting in these patients after they develop the resistance,” Dr Rockett said.

“What we don’t want to see is that someone in the community develops resistance and they can pass that resistance to other people and that makes the drug ineffective, not just for that individual but for who they transmit the virus to,” she said.

Many of the patients in the study were severely immunocompromised and Dr Rockett said one theory about the emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants of the virus was that they developed in such people.

“There are definitely cases in the literature where these patients with really immunocompromised conditions are given a lot of different therapies and could develop a number of mutations that can make the virus less more likely to evade current vaccines and treatment strategies,” she said.

This is a key reason this population of patients should be kept under surveillance, she said.

To keep control of the virus, doctors must undertake active surveillance of severely ill patients and identify treatment-resistant mutations earlier so they can be contained, she said.

The research team has not conducted experiments to determine whether current Covid-19 vaccines could combat the mutated virus that developed in these patients.

Sotrovimab is one of three key Covid-19 treatments called monoclonal antibodies that doctors were using to stop patients from becoming seriously ill.

These types of treatments are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses.

In January, the US FDA revealed that two of these treatments no longer worked against Omicron leaving Sotrovimab as the only weapon in the arsenal.

In another worrying development last month a Colombia University study that is yet to be peer reviewed found the cousin of Omicron – BA. 2 – had developed resistance to Sotrovimab.

This leaves recently approved treatments paxlovid, molnupiravir which are in short supply as the mainstay of treatment.


BOM deception

The recent torrential rains in South East Queensland are not unprecedented. The Australian 24-hour rainfall record of 907mm is still Crohamhurst in the Brisbane catchment recorded on 3 February, 1893. We don’t know how much rain fell at Crohamhurst in February 2022 because that weather station (#040062) was closed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) in March 2003.

The Bureau has a habit of closing inconvenient stations. It closed the Charlotte Pass weather station which holds the record of −23.0 °C for the lowest daily minimum temperature in Australia, set on 29 June 1994. That weather station was closed in March 2015. Meanwhile, in June 2017, the Bureau opened several new stations in very hot western New South Wales. One of these stations, Borrona Downs, had a hardware fault and in August 2017 was spuriously recording temperatures as low as –62.5 °C. At the same time, in the cold Australian alps a limit of –10.4 °C had been set on how cold temperatures could be recorded.

The idea of such a limit on cold days does sound conspiratorial and it was reluctantly acknowledged in an official report from the Bureau – but only after I alerted Josh Frydenberg, then the minister responsible for the Bureau, to the problem at the Thredbo and Goulburn stations in July 2017. I could go on. The Bureau deleted what was long regarded as the hottest day ever recorded in Australia – Bourke’s 51.7°C on the 3 January, 1909 recorded at an official recording station in a near-new Stevenson screen with a mercury thermometer. It was scratched from the record in 1997 and replaced with the lower 50.7 °C recorded at Oodnadatta, South Australia, on 2 January, 1960.

These stunning examples of unacceptable behaviour pale into insignificance when compared with the industrial-scale remodelling of the historical record over the last 20 years that has stripped away the natural climate cycles, so even cool years now add warming to the official trend. In denying the very nature of Australia’s climate, which is dominated by wet and dry cycles, the experts are now unable to anticipate extremely wet weather because they have lost all sense of history. February 2022 was extremely wet in South East Queensland. The city of Brisbane flooded again. There were tens of thousands of homes inundated. It is a tragedy. This is the second time in eleven years.

The flooding in 2011 was caused by the emergency release of water from Wivenhoe Dam, a dam built for flood mitigation following devastating flooding in 1974. The 2011 flooding was the subject of a class action with the Queensland government, SunWater and SEQ Water (the dam operators) recently found negligent.

During the worst of the flooding this year the dam operator again kept releasing water as the city flooded. Though the torrential rains had stopped, water kept being released because the Bureau forecast that more – even worse – rain was imminent. Rain that never eventuated. As usual, the Bureau’s skill at forecasting proved dismal with devastating consequences. I benchmarked the skill of the Bureau’s simulation modelling for seasonal rainfall forecasting in a series of papers with John Abbot published in international peer-reviewed journals, conference papers and book chapters from 2012 to 2017. Our conclusion was that the Bureau’s simulation model POAMA, developed over a period of twenty years in collaboration with other IPCC-aligned scientists, had very limited skill at rainfall forecasting despite being run on an expensive supercomputer.

Back in late 2010, it was evident from the very high Southern Oscillation Index that we were likely to experience a very wet summer. But there was no preparation – Wivenhoe Dam was kept full of water until it was too late. This last summer it was not as obvious that we were going to experience torrential flooding rains. It could be that the relatively mild La Nina conditions this year across the South Pacific were made worse by an atmosphere exceptionally high in volcanic aerosols from the explosion of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai a month earlier.

Very high rainfall totals in Hong Kong in 1982 correlate with the arrival of stratospheric aerosol plumes from the eruption of El Chichon, which spewed 20 million tonnes of aerosol.

Atmospheres high in aerosols can contribute to exceptionally high rainfall, but this is ignored by mainstream climate scientists who continue to run simulation models mistakenly emphasising the role of carbon dioxide in climate change.

The most accurate seasonal weather prediction systems rely on statistical models using artificial intelligence software to elucidate patterns in historical data. So, the integrity of Australia’s temperature and rainfall record is paramount. Yet both temperature and rainfall records are being constantly eroded by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Important weather stations are being closed and the available temperature data remodelled, stripping away evidence of past cycles of warming and cooling that correspond with periods of drought and floods.

Back in 2014 an investigation of these issues was proposed by then prime minister Tony Abbot but prevented because of intervention by his environment minister Greg Hunt. He argued in Cabinet that the credibility of the Bureau was paramount so the public would heed weather warnings. No consideration was given to the accuracy, or otherwise, of these warnings.

I was in Brisbane just after the recent flooding (3 March) helping with the clean-up. Tools were downed at 2pm because of the Bureau’s weather warning that described our situation as ‘dangerous’ and ‘potentially life threatening’. All the while the sun kept shining. Not a drop of rain fell from the sky. As I drove out of Brisbane that evening, on my way home, the flash flooding forecast for that same afternoon was cancelled by the Bureau. Next, on the radio there was discussion about the ‘Rain Bombs’ of five days earlier. How they had been ‘unprecedented’. More than one metre of rain had fallen at some locations in just a few days. There was no mention of the more than two metres of rain that fell at Crohamhurst in early February 1893 or the 24-hour record of 907mm that still stands as the highest 24-hour total for anywhere in Australia.


NT police officer Zachary Rolfe found not guilty of murder over fatal shooting of aggressive Aborigine

Northern Territory police officer Zachary Rolfe has been cleared of all charges over the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker during an attempted arrest in the remote community of Yuendumu.

The jury found Constable Rolfe not guilty of murder as well as the two alternative charges of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act causing death.

Constable Rolfe, 30, showed no emotion as the verdict was announced in the NT Supreme Court. Afterwards, he smiled and hugged his defence lawyer.

The jury returned following just under seven hours of deliberations.

Mr Walker was shot three times during a struggle with officers in a home in the community 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs in November 2019.

The first shot, which came after Mr Walker stabbed Constable Rolfe in the shoulder with a pair of scissors, was not the subject of any charges.

Constable Rolfe's legal team argued he was acting in defence of himself and his partner and in line with his training and duties.

Constable Rolfe addressed a media scrum outside the court shortly after the verdict was announced. "Obviously I think that was the right decision to make," he said.

"But a lot of people are hurting today — Kumanjayi's family and his community ... and I'm going to leave this space for them."

Constable Rolfe's defence lawyer David Edwardson QC told the waiting media "there are no winners in this case." "A young man died and that's tragic," he said.

"At the same time, Zachary Rolfe, in my view was wrongly charged in the first place. "It was an appalling investigation and very much regretted."

The jury heard almost five weeks of evidence and testimony from more than 40 witnesses before retiring to deliberate at lunchtime on Thursday.

Constable Rolfe had pleaded not guilty to all charges laid over the shooting, which happened just after 7:20pm on Saturday, November 9, 2019.

Police body-worn camera footage played throughout the trial captured the struggle that started less than a minute after Constable Rolfe and his policing partner, Constable Adam Eberl, entered a home in Yuendumu and identified Kumanjayi Walker.

The 19-year-old was wanted by police because of an incident that took place three days prior, when he had confronted two local officers with an axe as they tried to arrest him for breaching a suspended sentence.

Prosecutors agreed the first shot was legally justifiable because it came after Constable Rolfe was stabbed in the shoulder with a pair of scissors and while Mr Walker was on his feet and struggling with Constable Eberl.

But they argued that Mr Walker had been effectively restrained on the ground by Constable Eberl when Constable Rolfe fired his second shot 2.6 seconds after the first and a third shot 0.5 seconds after the second.

The prosecution case was that Constable Rolfe did not have an honest belief that the second and third shots were necessary and therefore was not acting reasonably and in good faith in the performance of his duties.

Constable Rolfe said Mr Walker was not restrained and that he feared for his fellow officer's life when the second and third shots were fired.

He said police training held that officers should fire as many rounds as necessary to "incapacitate" a threat involving an edged weapon.

He rejected the prosecution's suggestion that he lied in his evidence about having seen Mr Walker stabbing Constable Eberl in order to justify his actions.

Mr Walker died around an hour after the shooting, in the Yuendumu police station, where he was given first aid because health clinic staff had been evacuated earlier that day.

Constable Rolfe, who was bailed after he was charged and suspended on full pay, faced the NT's mandatory minimum non-parole period of 20 years if found guilty of murder.

Mr Walker's death and the charge against Constable Rolfe made global headlines and sparked protests against Aboriginal deaths in custody around Australia.

Constable Rolfe was the first NT police officer to face trial over an Aboriginal death in custody since the 1991 royal commission.

In his closing address, Constable Rolfe's defence lawyer said the murder charge, which was laid four days after the shooting, came before a proper investigation was carried out. He described the pursuit of the case by the NT Police executive as a disgrace.

Senior NT police officers, including an assistant commissioner, gave evidence as prosecution witnesses during the trial.




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