One-in-100-year flood in Australia while drought threatens Texas cattle ranches

Australia Flood

Australia’s east coast is being hit by record rainfall, with flood warnings issued and a natural disaster declared for parts of New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state with 8 million people.

The flooding comes in stark contrast with the devastating bushfires that struck Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, when nearly 7% of NSW land was scorched.

Meteorologists said the downpour is set to continue for several days.

Emergency crews have responded to about 6,000 calls for help since the start of the rains on Thursday, including nearly 700 direct pleas for rescue from floods.

The NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told a briefing Sunday western Sydney faced a flooding event not seen for half a century, while parts of the Mid North Coast were facing a “one-in-100-year event.”

Thousands are under evacuation orders in NSW. “Potentially another 4,000 people may be asked to evacuate in and around parts of western Sydney,” Berejiklian added.

The NSW emergency services minister David Elliott told a briefing Sunday 16 natural disaster declarations had been issued in NSW, and there could yet be more.

The extreme weather is disrupting the country’s plans to deliver the first doses to almost 6 million people over the next few weeks.

Finance minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News Sunday the floods would impact the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) Agata Imielska told reporters the NSW Mid North Coast and Hunter regions had already seen rainfall records broken on Saturday by up to nearly eight inches. The Hunter is one of Australia’s major wine regions

“It is a very significant, record-breaking event with the rainfall that we have seen,” Imielska said.

While no deaths had been reported from the flooding, Elliott said, “We are moving closer and closer to the inevitable fatality.”

Much of Australia is being hit by heavy rains or under severe weather warnings. The state of Queensland was also at risk from flash flooding, with 4.5 inches of rain falling in some parts Sunday.

The usually dry central Australia was another region facing flash-flooding threats from heavy rains.

Evacuation orders have been issued at multiple locations on the Mid North Coast in the northeast of the state.

Parts of Western Sydney are being recorded more than 300 millimeters (11.8 inches) of rain since Friday morning, breaking records.

The NSW on Sunday issued more evacuation orders following the worst flooding in decades. So far, 13 evacuation centers have been opened across the NSW. More evacuations are expected as the bad weather is forecast to last into the middle of the week. Flooding risk and evacuation warnings were in place for about 13 areas in NSW including the Hunter, one of Australia’s major wine regions.

Overflowing dams

The Warragamba dam, west of Sydney, Sydney’s main water supply, started overflowing on Sunday.

Several other dams spilled over causing river levels to surge.

Local authorities are urging people not to drive through flooded areas as they could get easily swept away by the strong currents.

Hundreds of houses damaged, schools closed

Television and social media footage showed fast-moving water unmooring houses, engulfing roads, breaking trees and damaging road infrastructure. Emergency services estimate the total number of damaged houses to be “in the hundreds.”

Several major roads were closed across the state while many schools called off classes for Monday.

Drought, the U.S. West’s Next Big Climate Disaster

A Bloomberg report tells condition of a drought-hit cattle rancher:

Normally at this time of year, Katy Kemp’s 80 head of cattle would be grazing on her family’s ranch in Staples, Texas. Instead, the herd is living off dwindling hay stores as drought dries up grassland and chokes off crops. Parts of Texas are so starved for water that ranchers are trucking feed 1,000 miles from Montana, driving up prices there and leaving hay producers completely sold out.

For Kemp, extreme weather has dealt a double blow, with February’s record snowstorm killing off newly born calves even as aridity threatens to curtail feed supplies into next year. “Normal winter forage options like oats are months behind,” she said. That puts her and others at a disadvantage against ranchers in more temperate parts of the country.

Drought covers more than 44% of the contiguous U.S.

The report said:

It is a crisis that extends far beyond Texas. Much of the U.S. West is facing the driest spring in seven years, setting up a climate disaster that could strangle agriculture, fuel deadly wildfires and even hurt power production. Across 11 western states, drought has captured about 75% of the land, and covers more than 44% of the contiguous U.S., the U.S. Drought Monitor said.

While drought is not new to the West, where millions of people live, grow crops and raise livestock in desert conditions that require massive amounts of water, global warming is exacerbating the problem – shrinking snowpack in the Rocky Mountains and extending the fire season on the West Coast. That means ranching and farming may become costlier and less sustainable, with some operations forced to move to wetter regions. Western cities will face tighter water-use restrictions, rekindling political battles over increasingly scarce resources. And the threat of catastrophic fires will increase, with big areas of West Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma at risk. It could be especially brutal in California, which is set to endure another potentially hellish year of blazes that force evacuations, destroy homes and end lives.

Unlike the eastern U.S., where it can rain every few days year-round, the West gets its water at set times of the year. But from April to June, very little rain is expected to fall from the Pacific Northwest into west Texas, according to the Climate Prediction Center. That bodes ill for the nearly 40 million people who depend on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigating crops. Flows into that river and reservoirs such as Lakes Mead and Powell are already at below-normal levels, said Paul Miller, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Utah.

That is going to force some hard decisions on water managers, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “There will be water cutbacks.”

Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona California

The report said:

Drought begets drought, as they say. When land is dry, the sun’s energy is focused on heating the air instead of evaporating water. That raises temperatures, which leads to more dryness, which allows drought to spread even further. In the contiguous U.S., 2020 was the fifth hottest year in the 126-year record. For five states – Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and California – it was also among the driest ever.

In California, water scarcity drives up fire danger, hurts crops and threatens electricity supplies. Most of its precipitation comes between November and March, with winter storms hopefully bringing enough moisture to maintain its reservoirs. Decisions on where that water goes are made ahead of an April 1 deadline, when the state assesses its water storage. But it is in its second disappointing water season, with snow across the state at about the half the amount of a typical year, said California State Climatologist Mike Anderson.

Those conditions helped fuel one of California’s worst fire seasons last year, when blazes consumed a recored 4.1 million acres, and are setting up another potentially dire season.

“This year the fire season is starting early and ending later,” said Lynnette Round, a spokeswoman for Cal Fire. “The length of the fire season has extended 75 days across the Sierra.”

La Nina, a cool patch of water across the equatorial Pacific Ocean that helped push the winter storm track away from California, is partly to blame for this year’s dryness. But a bigger factor is climate change, which is fueling a ridge of high pressure off the coast, effectively keeping storms away “and leaving the southwestern states mostly warm, dry, and prone to wildfires,’’ said Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

The drought is already affecting crops in California, with winter wheat and other grains growing slower than usual, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Ventura, the lack of rain means the top U.S. avocado grower may harvest smaller fruit, said Steve Barnard, chief executive officer at Mission Produce Inc.

“Water availability is a serious concern,” said David Magana, senior analyst for Rabobank International in Fresno. “In dry years like this, the cost of surface water will go up, dampening planting decisions in the future,” he said.

As summer approaches, prices in California’s spot water market could more than double from around $500 per acre-foot now to more than $1,000, according to Clay Landry, managing director at Idaho-based consulting firm WestWater Research. Water futures tied to the market have already climbed 12.5% since they began trading in December.

Power production

The Bloomberg report said:

Power production could also suffer. In normal years, big hydroelectric dams, most of them in the Sierra Nevada foothills, supply about 15% of California’s electricity. But the dams depend on the Sierra snowpack, which slowly releases water throughout the state’s summer months. In 2014, in the middle of a devastating five-year drought, the dams supplied just 5.4% of the state’s electricity. Low hydropower performance was a factor in last year’s energy crisis that saw the first rolling blackouts in 20 years.

The pain could spread eastward into the Corn Belt if spring rains don’t sweep the Great Plains, where very little snow fell this past winter. As much of one-third of winter wheat in the region could be damaged by water scarcity, a cruel ending to a season marked by devastating cold. “In some places it is going to be tough to tell the damage from drought and freeze out there,’’ Rippey said.

Back in Texas, livestock is but one potential casualty of the drought. The state is the country’s biggest cotton producer, accounting for more than half of U.S. plantings. `We are still in need of rain before we begin planting in early to mid-May,” said Steve Verett, executive director of Plains Cotton Growers Inc., the biggest producer group in Texas. Growers there are facing a second year of crop losses.

Taiwan’s worst drought in 67 years

Taiwan is facing its worst drought in 67 years, with the island reservoirs at dangerously low levels.

The government has responded by cutting the water supply two days a week in some areas, and forcing factories to reduce consumption.

The last time that happened was in 2002.

Agriculture accounts for more than 70% of water consumption in Taiwan, to grow rice and fruit like mango and pineapple.

Officials are warning power could also be rationed, with reserve supplies at their lowest level for 10 years.

Sea Goddess, Air Force C-130s to Fight Drought

Other media reports said:

Taiwan is drilling wells, seeding clouds and beseeching a gold-faced sea goddess to help the sub-tropical island ride out its most serious drought in about half a century, after rain-soaking typhoons failed to make landfall last year.

The drought is worst across a band of western Taiwan, including the major metropolises of Hsinchu, home to many of Taiwan’s renowned tech firms, Taichung in the centre of the island, and Tainan and Kaohsiung to the south.

Water levels in four major reservoirs have fallen to around or below one-tenth of capacity. Some chipmakers are buying water by the truckload for their foundries, though supplies so far are generally continuing uninterrupted for households.

The Water Resources Agency’s northern region have been piping in water from other reservoirs to the main one for Hsinchu, but it was still not enough and they were now drilling wells.

Officials are taking steps that are more drastic.

In Taichung earlier this month the Water Resources Agency took the unusual step of sending its top official for central Taiwan to a three-hour religious ceremony to pray for rain, the first time the event has been held in 58 years.

Some 3,000 people, mostly farmers and Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen, prayed to the sea goddess Mazu, her gold face signifying her divinity and a popular deity believed to bring good fortune and end drought.

Yen Ching-piao, chairperson of the Jenn Lann Temple where the prayers were offered, told media it did not matter who came, only that they were sincere in their request for rain.

“Prayers give hope, and prayers bring blessings,” he said.

Taiwan’s air force has also used C-130 transport aircraft to seed the clouds, while water resources officials back up the effort from the ground by firing chemicals into the air.

Drought hits Taiwan chip supply as Biden asks for more

Another media report said:

Plans to ramp up production of chips in Taiwan have been hampered by droughts, affecting factories’ water supplies.

Lockdowns around the world have led to an unusually high demand for technology such as laptops and games consoles.

Meanwhile, demand for cars has stayed low, with factories shut.

But now demand is picking up, carmakers are finding it harder to source chips, a key component as new vehicles can come packed with more than 100 microprocessors.

Executive order

Earlier this month, GM’s chief executive said the shortage could take $2bn off its profits.

Ford and others said it had affected production of cars and lorries.

U.S. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order calling for a 100-day review to increase domestic production of chips in the long term.

In a letter sent last weekend, his economics adviser Brian Deese thanked the Taiwanese government for its help addressing the crisis.

Using Lorries

Taiwan, one of the world’s biggest producers of chips, had promised to help the U.S., Germany and Japan by speeding up manufacture.

Now it faces restrictions on the amount of water that can be used.

Several Taiwanese chip companies, including the TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and United Microelectronics, have said they will have to start using lorries to supply water.

The TSMC said it needed 156,000 tonnes of water per day, even though it reuses more than 85% of it.

TSMC signs deal for over 100 water tankers

A media report said:

The TSMC has just signed a deal for more than 100 water tankers as the situation is expected to worsen in Taiwan, which is suffers from a drought.

According to a WccfTech report, the world’s largest contract chipmaker has ordered over 100 water tankers for a deal worth 200 million Yuan (roughly 30 million U.S. Dollars). The move from the company arrives to deal with the water shortage in the nation’s Hsinchu province. This situation is expected to further worsen over the coming months, which will also likely lead to rising costs of these water tanks. The report also as Taiwanese fabs’ attempt to fight the ongoing drought in Taiwan.

For those unaware, the island nation did not experience any typhoons last year, which is causing a water shortage that is depleting the current water reservoirs in all of its region. Back in February, TSMC had ordered each tanker at a cost of 1,000 U.S. Dollars, although, the exact figure of the company’s orders was unknown. In other words, the order for 100 water tankers might just be the start for the company, which would also inevitably lead to higher costs on the company.

According to a 2019 report, TSMC’s daily consumption of water during the year was around 156,000 tons per day. But, this figure has likely risen by a notable degree. Notably, Taiwan had recently assured that the nation will be able to keep its chip makers running till May, with its current supply of water. So stay tuned for more, as we will be providing updates when additional information regarding the matter.



Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

There Is Only One Spaceship Earth

When I was in the U.S. military, I learned a saying (often wrongly attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato) that only the dead have seen the end of war. Its persistence through…

WMO Bright Red Alert

The World Meteorological Organization (Geneva, Switzerland) State of Climate 2023 Report by Celste Saulo, secretary general, was issued on March 19th, 2024. “As secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization,…

Unfathomable Evil

At CERA-Week the Aramco CEO Amin Nasser gave definitive proof that the energy transition was failing: Nasser said alternative energy sources have been unable to displace hydrocarbons at scale, despite the world…

Carbon Capture, too Little too Late?

Will carbon capture technology bail society out of the latest version of greenhouse gas emissions, CO2 suddenly doubling its rate of increase when compared to the past decade, in breathtaking…

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News