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Megadroughts In Australia

January 13, 2020

By Paul Homewood



With Australian drought a hot topic at the moment, it is worth revisiting this paper from 2014:



As studies have also found in California, severe droughts are nothing new for Australia. Evidence suggests that megadroughts have occurred in the last millennium, dwarfing any seen in the recent past.

There is a lot of technical stuff, but the concluding paragraphs tell the story:



The idea that climate never used to change until recently is something that was put to bed by HH Lamb half a century ago. Nevertheless so-called climate scientists still try to convince us otherwise.


And it is not just drought, but temperatures as well. The Little Ice Age was very real in Australasia as well as the rest of the world.

WUWT pulled together many strands of evidence of the MWP and LIA in Australia here.

However, the clearest evidence comes from New Zealand, where the Franz Joseph glacier expanded massively during the LIA.


Franz Joseph glacier


Historian Brian Fagan wrote in his book, The Little Ice Age:

a mere pocket of ice on a frozen snowfield nine centuries ago”…. “Then Little Ice Age cooling began and the glacier thrust downslope into the valley below smashing into the great rain forests that flourished there, felling giant trees like matchsticks. By the early 18th Century, Franz Joseph’s face was within 3 km of the Pacific Ocean” .

“ The high tide of glacial advance at Franz Joseph came between the late 17th Century and early 19th Century, just as it did in the European Alps”.

It became so cold in New Zealand in those years that cold adapted penguins and sea lions moved north to the mainland:

A University of Otago-led study has discovered that the “Little Ice Age” is linked to dramatic shifts in Southern Hemisphere wildlife.

The international research team used ancient DNA and carbon dating to assess archaeological remains from New Zealand and sub-Antarctic coastal sites, while also exploring prehistoric climate signatures from across the Southern Hemisphere.

Study leader Professor Jon Waters, of Otago’s Department of Zoology, says researchers found a “very clear pattern”.

“Cold-adapted sub-Antarctic penguins and sea lions suddenly moved north to mainland New Zealand, right at the start of the Little Ice Age, around 1500 AD.

“One distinctive feature of our spectacular wildlife is how many species have arrived here only over recent centuries.

“This new research points to the role of climate change in redistributing species as conditions shift across the planet,” Professor Waters says.

Australian National University researcher Dr Ceridwen Fraser says there was a clear correlation between the downward spike in temperatures 500 years ago and the arrival of sub-Antarctic species.

“Interestingly, the Little Ice Age seems to have hit the Southern Hemisphere some 50 to 100 years later than the Northern Hemisphere.”

The human-driven extinction of mainland wildlife populations, and the subsequent sudden drop in temperature, is also thought to have decreased the human population of southern New Zealand, which in turn made the region more hospitable for new arrivals from the chilly south.

According to ancient DNA researcher Dr Nic Rawlence, of Otago’s Department of Zoology, the colder conditions “released human hunting pressure, creating opportunities for new species to arrive”.


The increase in temperatures since the 19thC in the region needs to viewed from that wider perspective.

  1. Harry Passfield permalink
    January 13, 2020 10:07 pm

    Apologies for being massively off topic but Maxine Peat is at it again in the Smart Meter ads. But this time, the ASA might need to be more involved (my last report to them was rejected).
    But now, they have her saying that wasted energy is the target and that a better, more efficient generation system (than FF) is the answer: cue over-flights of wind farms (25% efficiency) and solar farms (11% efficiency). Such lies!!
    Sorry for the OT.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      January 13, 2020 10:44 pm

      Further: Complaint submitted to ASA@
      “Maxine Peat narrates a script for Smart Meters (the government) to imply that current energy generation (meaning electricity) is wasteful and that we would all be better off using smart meters AND EFFICIENT RENEWABLE ENERGY – followed by fly-overs of wind farms and solar farms. For the record, it is well known that wind farms are, at best, 25-30% efficient and solar farms are 11-13% efficient. Therefore, the basis of the advert is a lie and is, inevitably, misleading.”

    • Steve permalink
      January 14, 2020 11:21 am

      They chose an actress who sounds thick in order to appeal to thick consumers who haven’t read that all the £4.5 bns worth of dumb meters don’t work and are putting bills up. Clever marketing and expensive.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        January 14, 2020 12:36 pm

        My brain was saying Maxine PEAKE as my fingers typed Maxine PEAT. Duh.

        However, the ASA have responded with the typical shop-keeper’s response: ‘no one else has complained’. This is what they said:

        Based on the information that you have provided, we’ve considered your complaint carefully and all the issues raised. We will keep a record of it on our system and take your views into account if we receive more complaints about this or similar issues.

        While we won’t be taking any other specific action on your complaint at this time, I want to thank you for contacting us. Complaints like yours are extremely important to us as they help us to build a picture on the issues that we should tackle.

  2. OldCynic permalink
    January 13, 2020 11:27 pm

    That is interesting for me (as a Sydney resident). Warragamba dam (which supplies Sydney) is down to 44% full (see There is a desalination plant which provides 250Mlitre per day (15% of usage) which is being upgraded to double its capacity. Surprisingly, there is no sewage treatment plant to produce potable water (Don’t know Aussies would get a long living in London – what is the stat? Every glass you drink has been drunk by seven people before you !)

    I have downloaded a PDF copy of the article and I’ll send it to Matt Keane (aka Mad Keen) the NSW Minister for the Environment, and suggest that maybe NSW should spend more money on Hazard Reduction Burns and on desalination/sewage treatment, than on new football stadia – we are currently building a new one for $850million and another one due to start soon.

  3. January 14, 2020 12:36 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  4. Don B permalink
    January 14, 2020 1:57 am

    More Brian Fagan, from “The Little Ice Age”:

    “It was here, at the foot of Franz Josef [glacier], that I realized the Little Ice Age at its apogee was a truly global phenomenon, not just something of concern to Alpine villagers on the other side of the world.

    “[…..] Glaciers in the Alps advanced significantly around 1600 to 1610, again from 1690 to 1700, in the 1770s, and around 1820 and 1850. Ice sheets in Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States moved forward simultaneously. Glaciers expanded at the same times during the nineteenth century in the Caucasus, the Himalayas, and China. The Qualccaya ice core in Peru’s southern Andes provides evidence of frequent intense cold from A.D. 1500 to 1720, with prolonged droughts and cold cycles from 1720 to 1860.”

  5. January 14, 2020 2:16 am

    Brilliant post. Thanks.

  6. George R. Ogden permalink
    January 14, 2020 7:19 am

    A pretty good summary of the causes – man-made fires c. 85% &v=Q7iS6SJWVLE&feature=emb_logo

    Slàinte Mhath!


  7. January 14, 2020 9:53 am

    So the fires are the result of natural weather patterns, the met office says so.

    BBC News
    Prof Richard Betts from the Met Office Hadley Centre said we are “seeing a sign of what would be normal conditions under a future warming world of 3C”.

    While natural weather patterns have driven recent fires, researchers said it’s “common sense” that human-induced heating is playing a role.

    So on one hand he says its natural then ‘common sense’ and where does the 3 deg come from?

  8. dennisambler permalink
    January 14, 2020 12:21 pm

    Researchers Find Evidence Of 16th Century Epic Drought Over North America
    Date: February 8, 2000
    “Paleo-climatic evidence shows that a “mega-drought” in the 16th century wreaked havoc for decades in the lives of the early Spanish and English settlers and American Indians throughout Mexico and North America.

    The tree ring records tell of the worst drought in 1,000 years, with an extended period of dryness lasting 40 years in places. In this case early records from Spanish and English settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia corroborate the paleo-climatic findings.”

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