Artwork by John Longstaff depicting a fire in the Gippsland region (1898). Image courtesy the State Library of Victoria.

Understanding why Australia’s extreme events are becoming more frequent and intense

The year 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record. These two factors combined to create the worst bushfire and drought conditions since the Bureau of Meteorology's daily weather observations began in 1910. After the record-shattering year that the country has just experienced, our team attended the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society annual meeting and international conference in Fremantle, WA, in February this year. ...

A severe flood swept the Hawkesbury River in June 1816. Credit State Library of NSW.

La Niña brings flooding rains to NSW in the early 1860s

A La Niña event spanning 1860–1864 brought repeated widespread flooding to settlements across NSW. This succession of natural disasters demoralised rural communities and devastated agricultural endeavors. The floods in 1863 and 1864 were the most severe with much of the New England and Hunter Valley regions inundated with floodwaters. Flooded street in Maitland, 1864. Image … Continue reading La Niña brings flooding rains to NSW in the early 1860s

The Black Thursday bushfires, February 6, 1851, as depicted by William Strutt in 1864. Credit State Library of Victoria.

1863: Bushfires ravage Gippsland

In February 1863, bushfires swept through the Gippsland region destroying farm lands and burgeoning townships. The fires were so fierce and extensive that observers dubbed it Black Monday comparing the severity of the event to the infamous Black Thursday fires 12 years earlier. 'The Backwater, near Sale, reserved for a town commonage, and which was … Continue reading 1863: Bushfires ravage Gippsland

Two hundred years of Australian climate history revealed

Public sermons to stop the rain, thermometers kept in pubs and forest giants in Tasmania have all helped to improve our understanding of south-eastern Australia’s climate history, according to a recent public talk at the State Library of Victoria. On 2 August, around 80 people attended the public talk that was the culmination of a … Continue reading Two hundred years of Australian climate history revealed

Snow storm at Peterborough on 23rd June 1908. Source: State Library of South Australia.

Extra volunteers to recover climate history

The team behind the groundbreaking citizen science project, OzDocs, recently launched a new version of the volunteer website marking a rapid expansion in the scope of the project. In 2011 volunteers from the OzDocs project discovered devastating locust plagues, sweeping floods, burning heat waves and snow falling in Sydney during colonial times. The launch of … Continue reading Extra volunteers to recover climate history

Sydney Cove from the North Shore in 1836. Credit State Library of NSW.

1836: Snow in Sydney

The burgeoning colony of Sydney was blanketed with up to an inch of snow on a bitterly cold morning in June 1836. This historic event was recently uncovered in a newspaper archive by a volunteer from the citizen science project, OzDocs. ‘About seven o’clock in the morning a drifting fall covered the streets, nearly an … Continue reading 1836: Snow in Sydney

OzDocs project receives engagement award

The team behind the citizen science project, OzDocs, was awarded a University of Melbourne Vice Chancellor’s Staff Engagement Grant at an official ceremony on 30 September 2011. The goal of the OzDocs project is to piece together Australian climate varitaions from the time of first European settlement until official weather records begin in 1900. As … Continue reading OzDocs project receives engagement award

Research Trip to the State Library of NSW

Claire Fenby in the State Library of NSW. In late July 2011 Linden Ashcroft and Claire Fenby, two PhD students from the SEARCH team, spent three weeks delving into the rich collection of historical documents at the State Library of NSW. By the end of their research trip the pair had unearthed an abundance of … Continue reading Research Trip to the State Library of NSW

‘Big Dry’ worst drought since European settlement

The severe drought that afflicted South Eastern Australia from 1997–2009 ‘Big Dry’ is likely to have been the worst since first European settlement according to a new study by climate scientists at the University of Melbourne. The researchers used data derived from tree rings and coral records to determine that there is a 97% chance … Continue reading ‘Big Dry’ worst drought since European settlement

1863: Drought Followed by Devastating Flood

Settlements along the Clarence River in NSW were inundated with record-breaking floodwaters that claimed the lives of 9 people and caused extensive damage to riverside towns and farms in February 1863. The flood followed 2 months of wet weather that had brought an end to a severe drought. The relief felt after the drought broke … Continue reading 1863: Drought Followed by Devastating Flood