Wednesday, 9 November 2011


“Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article on it” - Mark Twain

Today we experienced one of those abrupt weather changes that is very characteristic of Melbourne. The day was quite changeable to begin with and there were some showers in the morning, however, by lunchtime the weather had settled into a hot and steamy, almost subtropical day. I was at a workshop all day today and as I finished in the early afternoon I went for a walk around the campus of the hosting University, which was quite pleasant, humidity notwithstanding. By the time I got home in the evening, large cloud masses had started to move in from the West and at about 7:30 pm the thunderstorm broke.

What we experienced in the inner suburb where we live was only one of a series of wild storms that swept across Victoria, damaging homes, toppling trees and causing flash flooding in many parts of the metropolitan area. These storms passed through the state and in several hours there were big downpours near Port Fairy, Wodonga and Ballarat. Central Melbourne was largely spared, though flash flooding and damage to homes was reported in Eastern and South-eastern suburbs. The intensity of the downpour over Werribee led to the storm being classified as “dangerous”.

The State Emergency Service received more than 1000 calls for help and they were preparing for more calls for assistance as the rain continues overnight, although not be as severe. In North-eastern Victoria the storm apparently formed a “mini cyclone” when it passed through. There were 150 reports of fallen trees, including in Castlemaine, Woodend and Maryborough. The Frankston area was hardest hit with 215 calls for help made in the area and 30mm of rain falling in Frankston in 30 minutes. The bureau also had reports of a waterspout off Black Rock.

East Bentleigh had 23mm of rain in just six minutes, with large hail, and Oakleigh South received 14mm in 10 minutes. Golf ball-sized hail hit south of Ballarat in the afternoon, and 100km/h plus winds hit Port Fairy and Cape Otway. The roof of a house near Wodonga was torn off and another 12 were damaged. No doubt the total damage bill across our state will add up to many millions of dollars by the time the effects of the storm are all tallied up.

One is tempted to invoke climate change as an explanation of extreme weather phenomena like this and the environmentalist forum will no doubt make much of this latest occurrence to highlight the opportune and appropriate passing of legislation relating to the Carbon Tax. In fact the champion of our Carbon Tax legislation, PM Julia Gillard, has been quoted as saying that “…from today Australia would address the problems of climate change including ‘extreme weather'’ such as big floods and storms.”.

However, extreme weather events in Australia and more specifically in Melbourne, are not something new. If one takes the trouble to examine meteorological records and historical data, one will see that there have been quite severe manifestations of extreme weather since records began in the 19th century. Our planet has a very active atmosphere and a cyclical weather pattern that will often cause spectacular weather with disastrous consequences in many parts of the earth over the centuries. More extreme, worldwide shifts in planet weather occurring over a period of millennia give us periodic ice ages that alternate with warmer eras.

How much humans and their activities influence world-wide weather is a moot point and there are many scientific papers that can be quoted that will either support or refute climate change as a result of human activity. Whatever the case may be, it makes sense to respect our environment and ensure that we do not pollute our earth, do not use our natural resources unwisely and live a life that is compatible with sustainability and good utilisation of our expendable natural raw materials and increasingly diminishing forests and wilderness.

Here is a good time-lapse video of the storm in Melbourne made by a friend I follow on Twitter:


  1. Looks like the super cells the US gets in the midwest. They spawn not merely tornadoes but severe windshire and other straight line winds that can cause major damage.

    And of course the golf sized hail you cited.

    These storms have gotten worse in recent years and also have a larger time of occurrence. It is amazing that so many people do not get the climate change that is going on. I think the big mistake was calling it global warming. We need a good spin doctor on this.

    National Geographic did a great special called 6 Degrees.

    Did you take the opening photograph? It is awesome

  2. Wow! That video (and the photo!) is absolutely amazing.
    It's hard to tell what part of climate change is due to human activities and what part is due to the wobbles of our planet.
    I think your advice at the end of the post is both sensible and can have very positive results.

  3. Great pic, as always Nick.