Climate change: Australia is struggling with droughts, floods and a mouse plague



For some years now, extreme events have been increasing “Down Under” – according to experts because of global warming. The damage in the affected regions is enormous.

Aerial photos show the extent of the flooding in Australia.


  • Extreme events such as floods and droughts are increasing in Australia.

  • “Down Under” is currently struggling with floods, a plague of mice and spiders.

  • Experts assume that global warming will lead to an accumulation of extremes.

Rob Costigan had bought an old farm three years ago. The Australian wanted to build something that one day he would be able to bequeath to his children. A year later the drought began. Water had to be brought in by truck, which was a laborious process. It got worse: at the end of 2019, bush fires were approaching his property. Back then, he had to fight hot spots every day. To save his house, he sprinkled the roof.

The floods came last week. Fortunately, Costigan had already brought his family to safety at his brother’s house. The masses of water poured over the property with such force that not much was left of the farm. An adjoining house where Costigan’s father-in-law had lived was also destroyed.

“Washed away everything in the blink of an eye”

The water has now drained away. Now the family is in the process of searching the area for the remains of their own household. Toys, clothes – everything was scattered far and wide. The gas bottle from the grill was stuck in a tree. Costigan says he’s stunned. “It feels like the whole world is against us. You work and work. And in the blink of an eye everything will be washed away. “

The 40-year-old’s property is in the small settlement of Hollisdale, around 400 kilometers north of Sydney. Some farmers in the region are currently being hit by another calamity – a devastating mouse plague. After all, he has been spared this so far, says Costigan. He hoped that the floods would at least help wash away the countless rodents.

Global warming leads to accumulation

Australia has always been known for its harsh climate – the droughts and bush fires in particular are to a certain extent part of the national psyche. However, experts assume that global warming will lead to an accumulation of extremes. At least 33 people were killed in the fires that raged up until the beginning of last year. More than 3000 houses were destroyed.

“These events are what can be expected,” says Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate researcher from the University of New South Wales. But because of climate change, they are now particularly violent.

As the scientist explains, a warmer atmosphere can paradoxically make both droughts and floods worse. The extra heat removes more moisture from the soil, but warmer air can also absorb more moisture, says Perkins-Kirkpatrick. When it rains, it is very hard.

Heaviest rains in 50 years

Some places in the Australian state of New South Wales recorded the heaviest rainfall in 50 or even 100 years last week. At least two men were killed because – in two different cases – they could not get out of their cars in the midst of the floods. More than 20,000 people had to leave their homes.

Dale Ward has started the cleanup in Windsor, about 50 kilometers northwest of Sydney. In her condominium, where her daughter and family live, the water rushed through about 30 centimeters, she says. Many personal items were also destroyed. “It’s like someone dumped three tons of dirt in your house – and then a bucket of water on top of that.” You assume that it will take at least a month before the apartment is habitable again, says Ward. Plumbers and electricians would have to come to fix everything.


Big mouse plague

Elsewhere, the greatest concern of humans is still the mouse plague. Persistent rain extinguished the fires in eastern Australia last year, ending a drought that lasted more than two years. Many farmers could then look forward to a bumper harvest. But that was also the basis for a rapid increase in rodents.

Before Christmas he noticed that the number of mice had increased, says Pompy Singh, who runs a supermarket in Gulargambone. Usually they would set two traps a day. Little by little, however, they would have needed more and more and finally they got much bigger traps. In the end, 20 traps were in use continuously and suddenly they caught 100 to 200 mice a day.

The animals ate everything, says Singh – lettuce, potato chips, dog food and even tobacco. Because of this, all goods in his supermarket were stored in refrigerators or locked containers. But the mice have not become less. On the contrary: on some days they would have caught up to 600. In some cases, the refrigerators even failed because the animals nibbled on the cables. According to Singh, the number of mice has only decreased slightly since the flood began.

Spiders seek shelter in apartment buildings

But that’s not all: Some experts are now advising that the residents of some Australian regions should regularly check shoes and clothing for poisonous spiders, because these could take shelter in droves due to the floods.

Meanwhile, Costigan is determined to rebuild his farm. His small herd of cattle survived because he brought them to higher ground in time, he says. Fortunately, his house was insured. In addition, neighbors and relatives have pledged financial support.

Such difficulties are just part of life in Australia, says Costigan – and this could perhaps explain why the British once viewed the continent primarily as a place to house convicts. “They thought it was hell on earth,” says the 40-year-old. “What they didn’t realize was that it was also a beautiful part of the world.”


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Climate change Australia struggling droughts floods mouse plague


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