Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) warned Queensland premier (Anna Bligh) of the wet summer to come. The Jan 2011 floods were avoidable?

Here’s my take on the recent flooding on the Eastern Sea Board  of Australia – I looked at Queensland state, but the Victorian flooding story does have many parallels to it.  This is especially in terms of bureaucratic restriction on water management preventing the use of common sense.

The Queensland story:

  • The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) told the politicians (Anna Bligh’s party) that we are on for a hot, dry summer, at the beginning of spring (Sept’ 10) or probably way before that.  However, by December, we were in record- breaking rainfalls and BOM’s previous, quarterly, weather forecast was almost completely shown to be wrong. Why were they so wrong? Well, that’s perhaps because they were trusting too much in their all-seeing, Global Warming biased, “climate models”. They were ignoring the well-documented, climate fundamentals (the current super La Nina, a cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation [ie pacific surface waters], and the very low sunspot number).  These fundamentals pointed to a cooler, wetter year and they unsurprisingly (as much as weather can ever be described as this) came to fruition.


BOM said                                                                                     Reality

  • BOM were proven significantly wrong by Dec’10.  However, they had the integrity to cut their losses and admit their error.  On17th December, they reversed their summer forecast; no longer was it hot and dry, but cooler and wetter than normal.  This reversal is currently a little known fact.  I have seen it published nowhere in the media.


“The chances of receiving above median rainfall during the January to March period are between 60 and 70% across the eastern half of NSW, southeastern Queensland and western WA.”


  • Anna Bligh, and all politicians, can play safe by claiming they made decisions on the best advice available to them; sensible politics. They just need to go along with their expert advisers.  In this case, BOM said, “prepare for a wet summer in Southeastern Queensland [i.e. Brisbane]”.  It is possible that the message between advisers (BOM) and exec. (Anna Bligh) never got through.  So, perhaps the benefit of the doubt should prevail? However, that would be a pretty disappointing failure in governance as water management is of the utmost importance.  Assuming, the message did get through, wouldn’t she have been prudent, in the face of continuing very heavy rain, to lower the dam levels to the long-run, normal level of 75%?  This is a safe way to hedge your bets and that’s what politicians are expert at (see here for recent acknowledgment by Bligh herself that this is the safe level for flood headroom).
  • Anna Bligh, however, decided to maintain Wivenhoe Dam, and the others that service the catchment, at 100% capacity, since Feb’10.  Shouldn’t this “drought level” have been lowered to the 75% considering the updated, summer forecast advice from BOM?


The water board’s own data shows the long-term 75% water level, the elevated 100%, “drought level” and the final spill over flood level of 195% of Jan 11th 2011.


The irony is that Anna Bligh’s popularity went through the roof because of the resultant, flood management campaign.  A flood danger that she was given fair warning about from her top advisers a month beforehand.  During the flood itself, she was in a seemingly, permanent disaster recovery, press conference on T.V.   Wouldn’t it be a real twist of fate if was re-elected solely from popularity that resulted from a disaster that she helped instigate?

    P.S. For information on the short-term, mismanagement of the Brisbane dams check Wivenhoe: 48 hours too late.

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