Having been in the Top End for thirty years, I'm fairly well used to
cyclones. However a cat. 5, Thelma, that turned up a few years ago really
worried me. Then within the space of a few years more turned up, the latest
being Monica. The damage wrought by this huge cyclone to plant communities
and therefore birds across a huge swathe of western to central Arnhem Land
is massive and the area may not recover.
Monica didn't just cover the whole of the Top End but stretched east across
Cape York and north almost to New Guinea. If it had taken the same track as
Tracy (Thelma almost did) there would have been tens of thousands of human
casualties in Darwin/Palmerston. One reason is that these cyclones can
build so rapidly that there wouldn't be time to evacuate everyone. And
because this area has been put in a category of lower risk, few houses are
built as well as those on the Western Australia coast.
Little apparently has been done to assist the Aboriginal people of
Maningrida and other settlements that suffered damage.
But the impact on our wildlife may be worse.
A few weeks ago Dr. Garry Cooke, the principal research scientist at CSIRO
<http://www.csiro.au> ) addressed the Top End Native Plant Society on the
effects of Monica, and I thought Birding Aus readers may be interested in
the article I ran in TENPS newsletter.
"Dr. Cooke came to the Top End 19 years ago to look at the effects of fire.
Many papers have been written on this topic, but looking at the results of
Cyclone Monica, made him think they¹d missed something.
Cyclones are fed by warm water from the ocean and dry air from land. As the
sea off the Top End is relatively shallow, there is no deep, cool strata to
reduce the water temperature. Consequently Darwin is one of the most
vulnerable cities worldwide, to be hit by a large cyclone.
The Top End generally experiences relatively small cyclones by world
standards Tracy was one of the smallest on record. Yet Monica was one of
the most intense cyclones to make landfall in the southern
The recurrence interval for a category five cyclone such as Monica is
currently thought to be 1 in 785,000 years. However, several of similar size
have hit or just missed the Top End in recent years. It's likely that
recurrence intervals have been overestimated. And Top End cyclones have
changed direction whereas in the 1800¹s cyclones travelled west to east,
now they move east to west.
Effect on vegetation
Many cyclones hitting the Top End cause substantial damage to trees. At
Junction Bay where the eye of Monica made land, 75-80% of woodland trees,
mostly Eucalyptus miniata and E. tetrodonta, were snapped off or toppled.
Trees lost all their leaves and were also debarked. Many were ³rattled²
around in the ground and died later, possibly from damage to their roots.
At Maningrida, 17-18¹% of trees were damaged by Cyclone Monica, against 43%
for Cyclone Tracy. 130 kms away in Jabiru, 43% of trees were down. Thousands
of hectares of other trees, for instance paperbarks, were also killed in the
delta of the Goomadeer River.
Garry wondered whether such events were shaping our vegetation patterns?
For instance, those adult trees not killed by the cyclone may be vulnerable
to fire, particularly those in open forest/woodland. However, monsoon
forest recovers and thrives."
There is a good chance that those woodlands, both eucalypt and paperbark,
will be over-run with flammable weeds. Imagine the numbers of birds that
one cyclone would have wiped out, then add the number deprived in future of
I've been familiar with the arguments in this so-called documentary a long
time. They don't hold up. Everyone should be reducing their carbon
Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
1/7 Songlark Street
BAKEWELL NT 0832
Ph. 61 08 89 328306
Entrant in Women Entrepreneurs: 18 Inspiring Stories of Small Business
A publication by the Australian Government¹s Office for Women and Small
On 13/7/07 8:26 AM, "John Tongue" <> wrote:
> Sadly typical of all media that they will enthusiastically air
> something that is deliberately controversial or provocative, just to
> boost ratings! "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story".
> John Tongue
> Ulverstone, Tas.
> On 13/07/2007, at 8:23 AM, L&L Knight wrote:
>> Actually, it think it is oxymoronic for the ABC to bestow the
>> appellation "documentary" to a stitch-up job. An example of the
>> program's misleading presentation is provided at http://
>> details/2007/07/13/1183833724424.html .
>> The program claimed that changes in solar activity were the reason
>> why the climate was changing. However, the "evidence" it provided
>> was a graph comparing temperatures to sunspot activity, which
>> happened to end at 1980. Given that sunspot activity has declined
>> since 1980 while many of the hottest years on record have occurred
>> since that date, it is obvious that it is not the cause of the
>> climate change we are experiencing, a point that the program
>> conveniently ignores.
>> That the ABC enthusiastically promoted the program says something
>> about what is going on at the ABC.
>> Regards, Laurie.
>>> On Thursday, July 12, 2007, at 08:02 PM, Russell Woodford wrote:
>>>> This is being shown on ABC TV at 8.30pm tonight (both 1 and 2 at
>>>> the same time, oddly). Replayed Saturday night on ABC 2
>>>> There is a panel discussion after the movie, with discussion
>>>> moving to the ABC website thereafter.
>>>> Should be rather interesting viewing.
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