Monday, January 16, 2012

History missing from sinking island piece

A number of low lying islands in Torres Strait are prone to inundation during king tides and storms. No surprise, that's what happens when your front door is only a few feet above the high tide mark. In the late 1940s the islands of Saibai and Boigu near the PNG coast were evacuated following tidal erosion caused by summer storms. The islanders were resettled on Cape York.

For some reason ABC chose not to include this critical historical information in a report broadcast by The World Today titled "Fears Islanders may soon be forced out of their homes". In their alarming report the ABC claimed:
"The rise in sea levels and an increase in extreme weather events in the region make the islands at this time of the year particularly vulnerable."
While we agree the islands are vulnerable to inundation, the historical information makes it clear that the vulnerability is not new, and does not arise as a consequence of any change in local or global climate, as ABC would have us believe.

These claims (of rising sea levels and increases in extreme weather events) are not substantiated. In regard to rising sea levels, there are few tide gauges in the area that could be used to support the contention that local sea level is rising. Looking at the tide chart below for Turtle Island (near Thursday Island) from the  Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL). It appears that local sea level in this part of Torres Strait has been fluctuating since records began. But there is not much data to go on.

As ABC do not quote any authority for their claim that extreme weather events are increasing in the region we assume they just made that one up. Wouldn't be the first time!

We have requested ABC substantiate the claims made in their report, and to include mention of the historically significant inundation events in the online version.

PS. A related piece from last year titled Torres Strait pleads for climate change action, leads with the following sentence: Torres Strait Islanders have warned Prime Minister Julia Gillard they could become Australia's first climate change refugees if she continues to ignore the effects of rising sea levels in the area. 
Amazing how much can be debunked with a little historical context and a little data!


  1. Gidday Marc - note this ABC online story;
    Mawson's landing marked in Antarctic ceremony
    Note how they avoid saying that the good ship Aurora Australis is stuck in sea ice 20km from the land base.
    It must be embarassing for the Global Warming proponents that Mawson sailed up to the coast in 1912 - and after 100 years of "Global Warming" - the Aurora Australis supply ship with ice-breaking capacity - can not do this.

  2. Thanks Warwick. Seems ABC's reporters missed history 101.


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