Queensland suffers under flood waters

Tuesday 04th Jan 2011 by theWeather Club

Over the past decade, Australia's most pressing environmental problem has been a chronic lack of rain, and as the familiar threat of bush fires sparks into life once more in the tinder-dry regions of Victoria and South Australia, it is a problem that persists. But in the northeastern state of Queensland, the past week has shown that an excess of rain can be equally destructive.

Last year's intense La Nina cycle saw Queensland experience its wettest spring on record – the spring rainfall average for Queensland was 242.5mm of rain, compared to just 46.1mm over the same period in 2009. The summer has continued in much the same vein, with the state capital, Brisbane, experiencing its wettest December since records began. In just a single month, some parts of the state were hit by more than 800mm of rain and most of the state's coastal region – including almost all of the most heavily populated towns and cities – was drenched by more than 400mm.

The result of all this much prayed-for rain has been a miserable start to 2011 for a great many people. Over the past week, six major river systems in Queensland have burst their banks, inundating an area larger than France and Germany combined. More than 200,000 residents have been affected, with 22 towns and cities either substantially under water or left isolated by the floods. The state's wheat crop has been severely damaged and its valuable open-pit coal mines have been forced to close. To add to the misery, state officials have been warning of the dangers of crocodiles and poisonous snakes being washed into people's homes. All in all, it is enough to make a drought seem considerably more appealing.