Study: Cultural shift and centralized planning helped Melbourne adapt to Australia’s Millennium Drought

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Australia’s blistering Millennium Drought spurred wholesale changes in water use.

Regional water czar directed coordinated drought response

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Drought-prone cities and regions around the world can look to Melbourne, Australia to get an idea of what it takes to tackle water shortages during extended dry spells — and to prepare for future droughts, which are projected to become more frequent in some regions as global warming intensifies.

As the worst drought in Australia’s history took hold during the late 1990s, the city’s 4.3 million residents were able to cut their daily water use by half, to just 41 gallons per per person, according to a new study. Continue reading

Environment: How to save the Great Barrier Reef

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A section of the Great Barrier Reef photographed from the International Space Station.

Australian scientists offer common-sense plan to restore coral reef ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a 40-year span when the Great Barrier Reef lost half its coral cover, and with global warming looming for the future, Australian scientists say fundamental changes are needed to protect the reef.

Better policies focusing on science, protection and conservation are the key, a team of leading researchers wrote this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that all the stressors on the Reef need to be reduced for it to recover. Continue reading

Australian scientists find largest-ever meteor impact zone

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Earth hs often been marked by meteor impacts, and a new impact zone in Australia may the largest ever. Photo via USGS.

Geothermal exploration leads to unexpected discovery

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists exploring deep underground for geothermal resources in Australia got more than they bargained for when they found signs of an ancient 400-kilometer-wide impact zone from a huge meteorite that broke in two moments before it slammed into the Earth.

The crater from the impact millions of years ago has long disappeared. But a team of geophysicists has found the twin scars of the impacts — the largest impact zone ever found on Earth — hidden deep in the earth’s crust. Continue reading

Climate: New ice core data help show long-term rainfall record for parts of Australia

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A recent weather satellite image of Australia, via NASA.

‘The Millennium Drought was far from an exceptional event for eastern Australia during the past thousand years …’

FRISCO — Even without the added factor of global warming, eastern Australia is susceptible to climate extremes, including long-lasting droughts that could put a huge strain on water storage and delivery systems.

Researchers say a 1,000-year ice core record from Antarctica shows the recent “Millennium Drought” actually wasn’t all that unusual in the context of Australia’s long-term climate history. Continue reading

Australian scientists trace decline of pink snapper fishery

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Study presents new evidence of unsustainable fishing.

Catch rates down by 90 percent in 100 years

Staff Report

FRISCO — Australian ocean scientists say they’ve quantified a decline in Queensland’s pink snapper fishery that resulted in a drop almost 90 percent in catch rates since the 19th century.

To trace the decline, researchers with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland and the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry scoured thousands of newspaper articles dating back to1870 to reveal the historic catch rates for the iconic Queensland fishery. Continue reading

Scientists say half measures won’t help Great Barrier Reef

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Australian scientists say a government plan for the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t do enough to mitigate threats.

Global warming, coal port dredging seen as key threats

Staff Report

FRISCO — Leading Australian scientists said this week that the government’s business-as-usual plan for the Great Barrier Reef won’t prevent its decline.

While acknowledging a few positive steps in the plan, the Australian Academy of Scientists said the proposal “fails to effectively address any of the key pressures on the reef including climate change, poor water quality, coastal development and fishing.”

And, as is often the case with planning efforts in the U.S., the Australian government’s vision for the reef also doesn’t acknowledge the cumulative impacts that intensify pressure on one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems.

Continue reading

Air pollution: There is no ‘safe’ level

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New York smog and ozone.

Outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million deaths each year

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by an Australian researcher underscores the fact that, when it comes to air pollution, there are no safe levels.

The research by Adrian Barnett, of the Queensland University of Technology, shows that the Australian government’s standards for key outdoor air pollutants are misleading, as many authorities wrongly assume them to be ‘safe’ thresholds for health.

But Barnett’s modeling shows that, if levels of those pollutants were all to rise to just below the government-set limit, it would result in 6,000 additional deaths and more then 20,000 hospital visits. Continue reading

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