Just a week after the arrival of the first fleet in 1788, a number of trees caught fire during very heavy storms of thunder and lightning. Marine Captain Watkin Tench described the weather as “changeable beyond any other I have ever heard of”.
Old timers spoke of the drought of the 1890s and that the Murray River stopped flowing in 1904.
In the 1939 fires, the Rev. Alec Jamieson at Corryong later wrote that the temperature before the fires was 118F (48C) and a couple months later the district received eleven inches of rain.
Between 1968 and 1971, I was the bureau of meteorology official weather recorder for Corryong and as an historian, I have taken a keen interest in history and the weather ever since.
One thing I have noticed was that the weather was getting a little bit hotter, colder, wetter and drier, with good and bad snow seasons (at one stage we were told the snow fields would close in a few years and it may not rain again!)
The weather seems to have been following the above pattern now for some time.
The level of carbon dioxide has been slowly rising in more recent times, no doubt in part due to industrialisation and the doubling of the world population. Cutting back on coal use will help but it is not the full answer.
Australia’s east coast from Cape York down to Tasmania is covered by National Parks and Crown Lands and trillions of gum trees. Every summer, with lightning strikes, we are going to get fires which will spread to nearby farming land and towns.
So when people say the links between today’s bushfires and carbon dioxide levels are becoming clearer and the weather is changing rapidly, there is no recognition that Australia has a vast reservoir of burnable material in our state controlled forests and now the government is saying these forests will be locked up even more, which will increase the fuel load.
We are also allowing people to build in very forested areas, which is always a risk.
Weather patterns are a random event and do repeat after very long periods - 20, 50 or 100 year cycles. More studies are needed.
It is rather disappointing and disturbing that journalists take such a shallow and popular view of what they think is the answer to climate change. What is hardly mentioned is that at the core of our problem is the nature and history of this harsh continent.