Skip

Sea saw
August 15, 2013 2:03 PM   Subscribe

So much rain fell on Australia during 2010-11 that global sea levels dropped, rather than normally rising. Australia has large basins from which rainwater doesn't drain (well). Australia is giving it back as evaporation and sea levels are on the rise again thanks. The record breaking rainfall was attributed to global warming.
posted by stbalbach (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously Brisbane Flood
posted by stbalbach at 2:05 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


One question the article does not address is whether that has any implications for long term projections of sea level rise due to global warming. If global warming were to consistently increase the precipitation in Australia, wouldn't that mean a significant decrease in the rate of sea level increase?
posted by yoink at 3:02 PM on August 15, 2013


I don't think so, because Australia eventually gives the water back by evaporation. The absolute amount of water in the seas is still increasing, since it's being released by ice. To decrease the amount of increase, you have to lock water away somewhere, where it won't come back at all.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:41 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think so, because Australia eventually gives the water back by evaporation.

But if the increased rainfall persisted, wouldn't that simply remove a certain total amount of water from the oceans? If Australia develops a bunch of landlocked lakes (a la the Aral or the Salton seas) that get replenished as they evaporate, isn't that water as effectively removed from contributing to the sea level rise as if it were frozen in an icecap somewhere? (Obviously this would depend on the increased rainfall in Australia being relatively permanent and not simply a matter of a basically arid system with occasional torrential rains).
posted by yoink at 4:03 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink, the amount of water in the world "locked up" in freshwater lakes is small compared to the amount of ice - ice accounts for 70% of the freshwater on earth. You'd need a hell of a lot of Australia under water to balance that out.
posted by Jimbob at 4:11 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The inverse (el niño) will likely act as a multiplier after back to back La Niña - causing a sudden overall doubling of sea rise projections?
posted by a non e mouse at 4:27 PM on August 15, 2013


So all we have to do is refrigerate Australia and then poof! No more water being sent back into the system and we won't be flooded by melted ice caps. Added bonus: chilly koalas hug more.
posted by ooga_booga at 4:27 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink, the amount of water in the world "locked up" in freshwater lakes is small compared to the amount of ice - ice accounts for 70% of the freshwater on earth. You'd need a hell of a lot of Australia under water to balance that out.

I'm not suggesting it would "balance it out" I'm wondering if it would alter the overall calculations. After all, one rainy year in Australia was sufficient to dramatically reverse the observed rising trend for a year.
posted by yoink at 4:45 PM on August 15, 2013


I guess it would reduce the amount of sea level increase if Australia constantly had huge amounts of rainfall. But if the basins filled and the rain kept coming, anything extra would just flow back into the sea. And in this hypothetical, Australia would look something like Atlantis, not habitable by anything except moss and those invading cane toads.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:08 PM on August 15, 2013


I vote for the soggy Australia full of moss and Atlantians. Also for the refrigeratored Australia. Summers are pretty unpleasant here, and I miss moss.
posted by lollusc at 5:14 PM on August 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


(There was this one morning in 2011 where we got more rain in a single morning than the usual average rainfall for the entire year. The sad thing was, this did not actually feel like a lot of rain.)
posted by lollusc at 5:15 PM on August 15, 2013


Summers are pretty unpleasant here - really? Despite my disdain for fellow Australians (particularly during this hideous election campaign), I'd say we have magnificent Summers. Maybe you're a farmer? If so, I can imagine them being unpleasant (at either end of the Southern Oscillation)
posted by a non e mouse at 5:25 PM on August 15, 2013


But if the basins filled and the rain kept coming, anything extra would just flow back into the sea.

Per the article:
About 40 percent of precipitation in most continents flows into the ocean, but in dish-shaped Australia, that figure is just 6 percent.
Australia would clearly hold a huge volume of water before you reached overflow point.
posted by yoink at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Australia acts as a continent-sized....filter?
posted by telstar at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2013


But if the increased rainfall persisted,

The increased rainfall is part of the cyclical El Nino phenomenon. At some point the rainy weather will end when the cycle goes to drought.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:38 PM on August 15, 2013


I never realized Australia was so depressed.
posted by Flashman at 5:42 PM on August 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Australian soils and the Great Artesian Basin could hold a hellava lot of water before it started overflowing the entire country. Rain falling east of the Great Divide mostly flows back to the sea pretty quickly. Rain fall on the west of the Divide flows inland (generaly speaking). It is as much about where in Australia the rain is falling, as it is about how much.
posted by Kerasia at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2013


But Jebus told me global warming is a hoax!
posted by reenum at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2013


The increased rainfall is part of the cyclical El Nino phenomenon.

But the contention of the FPP (whether true or not, I don't know) is that it isn't simply cyclical El Nino/La Nina stuff, but "attributed to Global Warming." So, again, IF that is correct and IF Global Warming does, in fact, lead to much higher rainfall in Australia, what would the effect of that be on sea levels?
posted by yoink at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2013


El Nino/La Nina are natural phenomenon magnified by global warming. You may be on to something if Australia became wetter overall due to change in intensity and/or frequency of events. Weird times ahead.
posted by stbalbach at 6:29 PM on August 15, 2013


Damn Fremen and their water hoarding disorders.
posted by XMLicious at 7:31 PM on August 15, 2013


Oh, this is just great... it'll be Mad Max one year, and Waterworld the next. Do I stockpile petrol or soil?
posted by pompomtom at 7:33 PM on August 15, 2013


Bullets.
posted by notyou at 8:18 PM on August 15, 2013


The local invaders finally in the last couple of decades started being a little sorry and vaguely conciliatory to the original people. But haha, too late! We're going to flood out your whole fucking continent, hope you guys know how to swim.

I just have to laugh my ass off sometimes.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:56 PM on August 15, 2013


lollusc: Summers are pretty unpleasant here, and I miss moss.
Move to Tasmania! Their summers are nicer and there's lots of moss. Well, in the forests anyway.

a non e mouse: I'd say we have magnificent Summers.
Some of us are happiest under 30 degrees. Or even under 35. The worst thing about spring is knowing that summer is not far off. *sigh*
posted by Athanassiel at 10:42 PM on August 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a New Zealander whose former life involved "summers" where it rained every night (and most days) and where temperatures above 25 constituted a "heat wave" that the newspapers reported on in breathless tones. Despite nearly 10 years in this country, I'm really not adapted to 35+ degrees yet.
posted by lollusc at 1:40 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never realized Australia was so depressed.

No, don't worry: it's just me. And I'm on medication for it.
posted by lollusc at 1:41 AM on August 16, 2013


Why would Australia be dish shaped? Because it was covered with ice?
posted by jamjam at 7:32 AM on August 16, 2013


When He was making the world, the Lord - who didn't wear celestial robes back then, because who would even see? - tripped and fell on his ass. And that mighty ass-print in the firmament became Australia.
posted by XMLicious at 8:00 AM on August 16, 2013


« Older Frances Brooke literally destroyed the English...   |   Gone Home Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post