Climate change 'not cause' of dust
AIR pollution levels across the state were 1500 times their normal levels, the highest on record, but scientists are sceptical yesterday's freak storm was caused by climate change.
Air particle concentration levels reached 15,400 micrograms per cubic metre of air, compared to a normal day of 20 micrograms.
Director of the Centre for Regional Climate Studies at SCU, Graham Jones, said it was impossible to tell if the storm was caused by an excess of greenhouse gases.
“Climate change is here and what we know is that extreme events will increase in frequency,” he said.
“But that does not mean every extreme event is caused by climate change. I don't think we should be asking that question.
“We just need to adapt to changing climate - that means adapting to dust storms if they increase in frequency.”
But lecturer in Metrology at Newcastle University Martin Babakhan said the dust storm was caused by 'climate variability' not climate change.
Dr Babakhan said he believed in climate change, but Australia had always been prone to dust storms.
Ninety per cent of the continent experiences them.
He said an unusually strong wind created yesterday's storm.
“It was a jet stream. It's usually only seen 25-30,000 feet where aircraft fly, but it's down low,” he said.
“We've got 70 knots at 4000 feet. You don't see that; 60 knots is a jet stream. It caused havoc on the weather pattern.”
Mr Babakhan said the jet stream caused friction on the land. “It stripped dust from inland Australia.”
He said the wind was the result of changed atmospheric conditions.
Ocean temperatures indicated an El Nino had developed.
“The El Nino has cut the Trade Winds off from Australia, meaning there is no moisture blowing over the continent,” Mr Babakhan said.
He said a cold front in Victoria and South Australian had then moved north 'dragging a dry continental air mass across the inland'.
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View photos of the dust storm over Brisbane on brisbanetimes.com.au