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Outdoors in Victoria in Spring – it pays to plan your photography trips

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

Victoria in spring is a highly variable season – it could be quite cool, wet and windy, there can be thunderstorms and damaging winds, or beautiful sunny days progressing to warmer or even hot northerly wind days preceding the next cold front which always comes from the south-west or west.

This week I had a variety of short holiday options to consider:

  • head west to the beautiful Grampians
  • head south west to the Otways and Twelve Apostles
  • head north to the Murray River region
  • head north -east to alpine areas such as Mt Buffalo
  • head east to alpine areas such as historic Walhalla or further east to remote bush walks around Licola
  • head south east to Wilsons Prom again

I was leaving on Wednesday morning.

The weather was forecast to be beautiful and sunny on Thursday but with strong northerly winds in western Victoria hitting Melbourne in the evening then south Gippsland and the alpine areas overnight on Thursday, followed by a strong cold front which would make conditions more dangerous and more miserable on Friday and Saturday.

The northern areas of Victoria had already been flood affected and recent wind storms had caused further road closures so northern Victoria was not high on my list.

Snow had been forecast for the alps at the start of the week and most of the alpine roads are still in seasonal closure until end of the month so, the alpine areas for solo bushwalking were not a great option.

With the cold front coming in from the west, western Victoria was not going to be the best option as it would shorten my “nice weather time”.

So I headed off eastwards with no fixed destination, although Walhalla was my first priority, with camping gear and camera gear, range of clothes for whatever weather I was served up and some freeze dried food in case I ended up without access to a cafe for dinner (most close early in the countryside).

As I drove I saw the beautiful puffy clouds and I realised that with a bright sunny day forecast for the next day with possible strong winds coming, the cold forests would not be my best option, but the lovely beaches of the Prom would be optimal – hence I took my time meandering around the South Gippsland countryside in occasion rain showers exploring the beautiful rolling hills around Mirboo North before heading to Tidal River where I set up camp.

Mirboo

Three cows on a hillside

Mirboo

Rolling hills from Loves Lane on the way to Mirboo North

Mirboo

On the Grand Ridge Road circuit past Mirboo

Mirboo

Dilapidated building in Mirboo – presumably a town hall.

Convoluted decision making but in the end, the best decision, it was awesome down there – see my previous blog posts.

The weather makes an enormous difference to landscape photos:

  •  clear blue skies associated with a high pressure system to give the summer relaxation feeling or spaciousness to your image allowing your subject full attention, but which give very harsh midday shadows in the Australian summer
  • small puffy cumulus clouds which precede the high pressure system and which make for great sunset photos or lovely high contrast dramatic dark monochromatic skies, or a more subtle, dreamy look
  • wispy cirrus clouds after the high pressure system passes to create beautiful dramatic high contrast skies
  • storm fronts of the incoming cold front or thunderstorm systems
  • boring stratus clouds preceding a cold front which make the sky look ugly in most landscape images but are great for shallow depth of field work outdoors such as portraits, etc where the sky can be excluded or used as a white backdrop

Examples:

The Big Drift

Lovely cumulus clouds in the distance at the big drift

The Big Drift

Small puffy cumulus clouds in the late afternoon

The Big Drift

Lovely swirly cirrus clouds follow a high pressure system and precede the stratus clouds that envelope the sky before a cold front hits.

 

 

2011 – a disastrous few months gets worse – floods, cyclones, quakes, tsunamis and now nuclear risk

Monday, March 14th, 2011

2010 was the year the 12 year drought broke in south-eastern Australia thanks to La Nina.

But La Nina and tropical cyclones in northern Queensland brought the worst flooding in 100 years throughout much of eastern Australia, impacting vast areas of Queensland and north-western Victoria. 99% of Queensland now is covered by state and federal disaster relief arrangements.

Then Christchurch, New Zealand, was devastated by a second earthquake in a few months.

Now we have Japan being brought to its knees by one of the 10 most powerful earthquakes of the last century recording 8.9 on the Richter scale and which moved Japan’s main island an incredible 2.4m closer to the US and altered the earth’s spin.

Although causing surprisngly minimal structural damage to Japan’s earthquake-designed buildings, the resultant tsunami devastated the northern coastal cities and now, Japan faces a major risk of a nuclear meltdown at one of its nuclear power plants in Fukushima while a second one has leaked radiation, and suffered a hydrogen explosion at midday today and it too is at risk.

The tsunami caused a terrible loss of life with well over 10,000 thought to have died in one city of 17,000 alone.

Over 200,000 have already been evacuated from the nuclear 20km exclusion zone which has been put in place.

A nuclear meltdown would not only be an environmental catsatrophe, but will have  massive effect on Japan with a potential to make an important region of 30km diameter uninhabitable for many generations. Japan and the world can ill afford another Chernobyl.

One must question the wisdom of building nuclear power plants in regions at risk of severe natural disasters.

It seems the Japanese engineers were falsely reassured that in the past 300 years, no earthquake larger than magnitude-eight had struck in the Japan subduction zone. That, in turn, led to assumptions about how large a tsunami might strike the coast.

Many of Japan’s manufacturing plants have either been flooded or had minor earthquake damage, or just closed down as a precautionary measure pending further risk assessment and the outcome of the nuclear plant instability.

Affected manufacturing includes:

  • Sony has halted production at eight electronics plants in the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures (including a Blu-ray factory which was flooded, stranding over one thousand workers who were forced to seek refuge on higher ground).
  • A Sony Technology Centre is also located in Sendai.
  • Panasonic revealed that falling building structures have caused minor injuries to several workers at its factories located in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. These facilities mainly dealt with digital cameras, audio equipments and electronic parts.
  • Panasonic’s Lumix camera factory in Fukushima is ~80km from Fukushima 1 plant.
  • Panasonic’s new EV Energy plant in Sendai (a joint venture with Toyota and run by the entity PrimEarth EV Energy Co) which makes metal hydride batteries for cars is said to have been destroyed.
  • Toshiba has shut down operations at its semiconductor plant in the northern prefecture of Iwate.
  • Sanyo is also said to have implemented shut downs.
  • Canon announced that although some damage occurred, it will not halt production.
  • Canon confirmed that around 12 employees suffered minor injuries at its lens factory in Utsunomiya which is 200km from Fukushima 1.
  • Nikon’s dSLR plant is in Sendai some 6km from Sendai airport (see this image for its proximity with Nikon’s factory marked as A) and 100km from Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant. It seems it has had little direct damage, but one could expect the regional devastation to surely impact its ability to be productive in the short term.
  • the Nikkor lens factory at Tochigi, is midway between Tokyo and Sendai
  • Olympus does not appear to have been significantly affected directly.
  • global production of LCD-related components may be severely impacted, as Japan accounts for a substantial share in the worldwide manufacturing of colour filters, glass substrates, polarizers, cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) used in LCD panels and products.
  • The Japanese car industry has been hard hit with Nissan closing four car factories, Toyota closing three and Honda closing two.
  • It is estimated that 7% of Japan’s industrial output will have been wiped out with this disaster assuming the nuclear situation is stabilised.

Japan’s economic situation was not great prior to this disaster with debt levels at 200% of GDP,  government budget deficit at 7% of GDP and a recent downgrade of its credit rating last month. Japan’s stock market fell 5% today on the concerns of the costs of this disaster.

2 million homes in Japan’s freezing north are currently without power.

Japan’s transport infrastructure has been severely impacted as its rail system on which Japan is heavily reliant upon has been compromised.

Fortunately, Japan’s steel industry has not been significantly affected.

The rising oil prices due to the current Libyan civil crisis/war and other unrest in the Middle East will not help their cause.

There is a still risk of further severe after-shocks with a greater than 50% risk of a quake greater than magnitude 7.0 occurring in the next few days with possible secondary tsunamis.

Meanwhile, a volcano (Shinmoedake) in Japan’s south-west erupted again, perhaps due to the earthquake. It had erupted for the first time in 52 years in January 2011.

Some images of before and after the tsunami hosted on Australia’s ABC news website.

Post script 15th March 2011:

Further explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant has raised local radiation levels and heightened risk of nuclear meltdown resulting in Japan’s PM wideing the exclusion zone from 20km to 30km and the Japanese stockmarket falling over 10% today after the 6% fall yesterday.

Now its Victoria’s turn for 100 year floods

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Queensland’s floods are subsiding and the clean up  has started in Brisbane. To date 17 have died and a further 21 still missing and likely to have died.

An incredible 700,000 square kilometres of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone, with substantial inundation damage, severe infrastructure damage, shortage of fresh food or drinkable water, and many thousands still without basic amenities of power, sewerage.

What is worse, there is still 2 months of their wet season to go and La Nina will threaten more floods.

La Nina has now sent NSW, Victoria and Tasmania unseasonally heavy rains which in the north-western plains of Victoria has resulted in current flood disaster with over 40 towns affected, many with record flood levels or at least the highest in 100 years, and still the flood waters threaten towns as it flows towards the Murray River.

This flood appears to be likely to be Victoria’s worst flood disaster on record and comes only months after many of the towns were flooded in September.

La Nina has also produced major rainfall event in Sri Lanka which has had its annual rainfall in the past week, and drought to Argentina.

A major flood event that is not caused by La Nina has killed over 500 in Brazil, largely from resulting mudslides.

Queensland flood catastrophe worsens

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Australia is a land of extremes, we have had 12 years of drought over much of Australia with the hottest decade on record which culminated in the devastating Black Saturday bush fires in summer 2009 when temperatures in Melbourne hit an unprecedented 47degC – my posts regarding this can be seen here.

La Nina has brought a wet, cool, humid 6 months to Victoria and our unseasonally wet summer continues, but this is nothing to what has happened in Queensland over the past few weeks where they have often been receiving Victoria’s annual rainfall in a day and repeated episodes of this. The last major La Nina was in in 1974 which resulted in Australia’s wettest year on record and major flooding as well as cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin.

Much of Queensland has been covered with flood waters for weeks and all the dams are not surprisingly full with limited capability for further flood mitigation.

Heavy rain and storms continue over Queensland.

Yesterday, the Queensland town of Toowomba was hit by a devastating, surprise “inland tsunami” – an unexpected 8m wall of water rushing through the main streets washing away all before it and resulting in 8 dead and 72 missing as of this morning with that figure expected to “rise dramatically” according to Premier Bligh. This wall of water came from torrential rain (80-200mm in 30 minutes – a ” 1 in 100 year localised event”  for that region) in the nearby Lockyer Valley and disappeared almost as fast as it came, to continue on to cause major flooding downstream, washing away houses.

Here is a sample of how fast the creek rose:

To try to understand this type of event, imagine that if you had a 1km wide and long flat paddock with no inflows or outflows other than the direct rain, at 100mm in 30 minutes, the whole paddock will be filled with water 100mm deep (ie. 4 inches). This equates to a volume of 100,000 cubic metres = 100 megalitres.

Now imagine a potential 10m wide creek within a valley which is 1km wide, if there was no run off from the mountain sides, and no inflows or outflows, that creek would become 100mm deep after this amount of rain.

BUT, as a crude calculation, if all the run off from the mountains 0.5km on either side of the creek ran into the creek immediately, then 1 kilometre of catchment draining into 10m wide creek results in a 100x multiplier effect (1000m valley width / 10m creek width) – ie. the creek would rapidly rise to 10m and this wall of water would rush downstream. For every 1km length of valley, 100 megalitres will be added to the flood plains below.

This is why bushwalkers and campers do not camp in dry creek beds in areas at risk of heavy rain in the catchment of the creek bed – which could be a 100km away!

Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane lies on the banks of the Brisbane River which is now at risk of major flooding in the next 36 hours.

Major flood level of the Brisbane River is regarded as being at a level of ~3.6m, with the Wivenhoe Flood Mitigation Dam still managing to delay water flows into the Brisbane River.

At 9am today, the forecast was that the river is expected to peak at 3m tomorrow which will inundate perhaps 500 houses but if levels are more than this perhaps 7000 homes are at risk. Authorities have indicated 30-70 suburbs are at risk.

The Wivenhoe Dam reached full flood mitigation capacity today and further inflows will by necessity be allowed to flood Brisbane.

At 3pm today, this forecast has been revised to give a peak height of the Brisbane river at major flood levels of 4.5m at the high tide tomorrow afternoon, not too far off the 5.45m of the 1974 flood, but levels on Thursday are expected to EXCEED the 1974 flood and “devastating”!

The nearby city of Caboolture on the Sunshine Coast has been advised to evacuate today.

The Wivenhoe Dam was built above Brisbane to prevent a recurrence of the devastating 1974 flood when the Brisbane River hit just over 5m, and it was calculated that it would reduce flood levels in the Brisbane River by ~2m. See history of Brisbane floods here which show the highest flood on record was the Feb 1893 flood when the Brisbane River hit over 8m resulting in boats floating onto their Botanic Gardens.

The Wivenhoe Dam supply capacity is 1.15 million megalitres (“100% capacity)”, and can hold a further 1.45 million megalitres in a flood before it runs risk of failure. On the 6th Jan it was at 100% capacity, and by 9am yesterday it had reached “148%” capacity – filled to half its flood additional capacity in only 4 days!

Remember, assuming 100% run off, as in saturated soils, each 1mm rainfall results in 1 megalitre per square kilometre of catchment.

The dam has a 7000 square kilometer catchment and the recent inflows have equated to water twice the volume of Sydney Harbour EVERY DAY!

This has forced water authorities to release water from the dam which is contributing by necessity to minor flooding of Brisbane River at this stage and moderate flooding later today and tomorrow as levels reach 2-3m.

The ongoing heavy rain and fog  is not only hampering rescue efforts by limiting helicopter rescues but it runs the risk of further unprecedented flash flooding throughout Queensland and it was hoped the dam will prevent major flooding of Brisbane itself.

Some areas between Maroochydore and Warwick are expecting further rain today well in excess of 50mm per hour (2 inches per hour)!

Many spent a cold, wet night on their roof tops last night and are still to be rescued this morning.

Ipswich levels will hit 16-18m today (in 1974 they hit 21m) – this has now been revised to be forecast at more than 22m and up to a third of the city is expected to be inundated.

One third of Queensland has been declared a disaster area – that is ~600,000 square kilometres – an area larger than the whole of France.

Best case scenario for many Queenslanders is that they are likely to be isolated in their homes for perhaps a week or more as roads continue to be closed, many others will have severe damage and losses to their homes and businesses from which it will take many months if not years to recover.

Bureau of Meteorology warnings here.

11th Jan 2011, 9pm update:

Premier Bligh has announced a revised figure, with up to 40,000 homes now at risk of being affected by the Brisbane floods while 100,000 will lose power for the next few days.

Today, after 123 consecutive days, the temperature in Melbourne failed to reach 20deg C – a new record

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The previous longest running consecutive days of maximum temperatures above 20deg C in Melbourne was 78 days – easily beaten by this 123 day run of warm days!

NASA images of Australia’s recent extreme weather, floods and bushfires

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Jan-Feb 2009 will go down in history as 2 months of extreme weather conditions for Australia.

NASA has captured these events via their satellites showing us a new photographic perspective of the world – you can subscribe to new “image of the day” at their NASA Earth Observatory website.

First, the meteorological engine that started it all off – the tropical rains in far north Australia which not only flooded a vast region of northern Australia, particularly northern Queensland, but the massive amounts of ascending air which formed the clouds and rain to produce these floods had to descend elsewhere as hot, dry air mass with strong winds – and these came in unprecedented extremes from north-west Western Australia flowing south-east across the Australian deserts where they became even hotter and finally hitting south-east Australia producing the hottest temperatures on record in Victoria reaching 47.6deg C near Melbourne following an unprecedented 3 day heat wave and a record driest start to a year.

See before and after images of the flood waters reaching the Gulf of Carpentaria in far north Queensland

This image from the NASA site shows the extremes in temperature variation from normal for the regions in Australia which clearly shows the extreme heat in south-eastern Australia while the north is flooding – dark red his 10deg C or greater hotter than normal, blue is colder than normal (click on image to be taken to its source web page):

NASA temperatures

and the extent of the main bushfire damage only 65km north east of Melbourne which claimed well over 200 lives in its extremely rapid spread of previously unseen firestorm ferocity:

Kilmore bushfire aftermath

Heat wave – a harbinger of worse to come

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Have not been out much this week as Melbourne is going through its hottest heat wave on record, fortunately things have cooled down today and we only are expecting temperatures in the high 30′s degC.

We had 3 days in a row in higher than 43 degC (a record for Melbourne) including a top of 45.1degC (2nd hottest on record, and this comes after a month of < 1mm rainfall following 12 years of drought.

A quick shot of a Melbourne sunset at the peak of the heat wave.

Melbourne's heat wave at sunset

Fortunately there is a little reprieve with the next 7 days forecast to only be in the low to mid 30′s and the heat is bearable as there is little humidity.

Most of us have air conditioners but these don’t help when the electricity supply goes down due to excess demands or in my case when it went down for 18 hours at the peak of the heat when a local transformer over-heated.

I was lucky in that I had to work most days indoors in an air conditioned environment, but commuters felt the heat as the urban train system practically came to a stand still due to combination of failing air conditioners on trains, tracks buckling in the heat and then the power cuts.

The tennis players at the Australian Open had to endure their hottest Open tournament yet, and to top it off, last night’s semi-final men’s game went for over 5 hours – a record for the tournament!

Construction workers took the week off and headed to the beach as their rules give them a day off if it hits 35degC.

Many slept on the beaches overnight to cool off, and fortunately only a few elderly appear to have suffered enough to require medical treatment.

It was a different story for wildlife – Melbourne’s population of flying foxes (bats) fell from the sky as they died en masse in the heat – ringtail possums fell from trees – kangaroos too exhausted to jump fences – Melbourne’s Plane trees dropped their leaves prematurely.

But most importantly, the usual fierce hot winds associated with such weather has been limited and major bush fires have not eventuated thus far apart from one in Gippsland and another small one which threatened Melbourne’s power supply.

So we can all be grateful that things were not as bad as they could have been and although our water supplies are the lowest in 30 years, we still should have enough to last us until the drought breaks (if it ever does) or the desalination plant is built.

Once known as the Garden State, Victoria’s long drought has savaged our gardens – few have lawns worth looking at (we have not been able to water lawns for the past couple of years), some replace them with artificial lawns and plastic pot plants. Most trees are drought-stressed and the majority of birches have died in the past 12 months.

But this is nothing compared to the hardships of those in Africa whose crops have failed for the 2nd season in a row due to drought and now face famine in an economic environment of rising global food prices and shortages with little hope of real help from economically struggling and increasingly inward looking “wealthy” countries who are likely to become less charitable to others in need.

see some of my photos of Victoria and Melbourne here

more information about Melbourne here

and… as hot as Melbourne’s heat wave has been, it was not as deadly and prolonged as that in Adelaide, the state capital of South Australia which ended up having almost 2 weeks of consecutive days greater than 40degC – see here.

post script: The Age Feb 22nd reports that in fact it appears there were at least 100 excess deaths in Melbourne and over 200 excess deaths in south-east Australia during those 3 days of heat – mainly of elderly with cardiac failure who were found dead in their homes.

It proved to be a harbinger of worse days ahead – and an omen that life will be more extreme this century unless man can reverse the damage he has done.

Our rainfall in south-east Australia is dependent on La Nina and El Nino events, but recent research suggests that ocean currents in the Indian Ocean called the Indian Ocean Dipole – “positive Dipoles” can over-ride the potentially rain inducing La Nina events – and this is what has happened in the past 3 of these – no rain just prolonged drought. Positive dipoles were also responsible for the droughts that ruined thousands of outback pioneers at the start of the 20th century and the drought that spanned World War II.

Aerosol levels over Asia reduce Asian temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius and this change in the distribution of surface temperatures can force changes in wind direction and ocean currents and forces more heat into monsoon winds over NW Australia and increases high pressure systems in southern Australian which produce hotter, dryer conditions.

meanwhile, northern Queensland is lashed with floods from cyclones (Townsville receiving 242mm rainfall in 48hrs which is half Melbourne’s ANNUAL rainfall) and London is brought to a standstill by the worse snow conditions in 20 years.

New cloud cover, astro seeing and wind forecasting website

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I have been waiting patiently and finally someone has created a graphical weather map style website which forecasts low, middle and high level cloud cover, wind strength and direction, dew, astronomical sky transparency and seeing.

See SkippySky.com.au.

Currently there are forecasts for Australia, Europe and Nth America, with the data derived from the American NCEP GFS computer weather model data (ie. not from Australia’s Bureau of Meterology which is at bom.gov.au and thus may have different forecasts).

This website will be very useful for astrophotography as well as general outdoor photographers wishing to find out the likelihood of good cloud conditions for their photos.