The Royal Geographical Society of Queensland Ltd
by Steve Turton
A small group of RGSQ Sunshine Coast members braved the sunny but cool conditions to enjoy a forest walk and picnic at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve near Maleny. The forest walk was led by Professor Steve Turton, convenor of the RGSQ Sunshine Coast group. Steve gave a short field lecture, starting with the break-up of Gondwanaland 45 million years ago through to the present. This included a brief overview of the widespread volcanic activity that affected the area from 30-22 million years, which has shaped the modern landscape including the formation of the Glasshouse Mountains. The scenic reserve is 55 ha in size and provides an exceptional example of the complex sub-tropical rainforest that once covered the rich basalt soils of the Blackall Range, prior to European colonisation of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The forest contains a diverse array of flora and fauna, many with ancient Gondwanan origins.
RGSQ group, Mary Cairncross scenic reserve, 20 June 2021; image courtesy of Ralph Carlisle.
After enjoying the forest walk and hearing interesting observations from bird watchers in the group, members gathered for a picnic winter solstice lunch, having been joined by the Society’s president, Iraphne Childs, and Ralph Carlisle. Discussions were held about future activities for local members, including occasional guest lectures, other interesting site visits on the Sunshine Coast and a possible joint excursion with the Brisbane members.
By Iraphne Childs
Dear Members, I hope you are managing to keep well during the colder weather. Although we are now in winter and Brisbane recently experienced a cold snap, the winter solstice has passed, so we can soon look forward to days getting longer again.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice: the solstices are the two times each year when the tilt in Earth's axis lines up most with the direction of the Sun, creating the maximum difference between daylight and night-time hours. The winter solstice is the day of the year that has the least daylight hours, the darkest and shortest day of the year. In 2021 the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere occurred on Monday, June 21. Across Australia various communities mark the winter solstice with feasting and ceremony.
Hobart’s DARK MOFO festival delves into centuries-old winter solstice rituals, including a mid-winter feast and colourful parade at the Hobart waterfront. The annual Hobart nude Solstice Swim usually has more than 1000 people dropping their clothes and inhibitions to welcome back the light after the longest, coldest night in the nation. Brrrr!! In Brisbane, the Northey Street city Farm had a Winter Solstice festival on 19 June 2021 with a bonfire, solstice ceremony, lantern parade, music, dance and lots of food.
Geographical conferences: The Institute of Australian Geographers & New Zealand Geographical Society (IAG/NZCS) combined conference is in Sydney 6–9 July 2021. The conference theme, Remembering, Reimagining Geography, considers how geography evolved, its influences on the human world and the contribution the discipline can make to more just and sustainable futures.
The Geography Teachers Association conference (GTAQ) will be held at the QUT Kelvin Grove campus in Brisbane on 31 July; conference theme is Visible Geography.
At RGSQ in July we present a very important public lecture Bushfire - an Intensifying Risk for Queensland by Lee Johnson AFSM FIFireE Commissioner (Ret) QFES on 6 July. Hope you can attend either in-person or via zoom. To register, visit https://rgsq.org.au/event-4343673.
TAAC’s Christmas in July in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland on 13 July is already fully booked out. A reminder that our trips and activities are popular so keep an eye out on the website for events that you may wish to join.
The 2021 AGM will be on 19th October. I hope that we will be able to hold this important meeting at our premises this year, rather than by zoom. Although still months away, I invite members to consider nominating for the Society’s Council. This is my 4th consecutive year as President and under our Constitution the limit is a maximum of four (4) consecutive one-year terms to serve in this role. So, the position of President will be vacant at the October AGM. Please contact me at email@example.com if you would like any further information on any of these roles.
Enjoy the Brisbane winter!
Best wishes, Iraphne Childs, President
Geoscience Australia. Summer and Winter Solstice. https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/astronomical/summer-and-winter-solstice
BOM Solstices and equinoxes: the reasons for the seasons, 21 June 2018 http://media.bom.gov.au/social/blog/1762/solstices-and-equinoxes-the-reasons-for-the-seasons/
Northey Street City Farm (2021) https://www.nscf.org.au/solstice-festivals
Dark Mofo 2021 https://tasmania.events/event/13161855-a/dark-mofo-2021#gallery-1
Solar diagram: Media BOM, 2018; Dark Mofo: Dark Mofo 2021
Contributed by Peter Griggs, RGSQ member
When it comes to finding their way today, motorists can rely on GPS Navigators or GPS on smartphones. No such devices, however, existed when Queenslanders started acquiring automobiles in the 1900s.
Recently, as part of research I am undertaking on the environmental history of South-East Queensland, I looked at Yates & Jones’ roadatlas published in 1913. Yates & Jones were a Brisbane firm of surveyors anddraftsmen located in George Street. Unfortunately, the book did not have any information that would assist my research. However, I was intrigued by the book.After some additional research, I have concluded that this publication is probably the earliest road atlas for Queensland. I could find no other earlier road atlas for the state.
The front cover of the 1913 Yates & Jones’ road atlas.
The publication has 47 regional maps showing the main roads throughout different parts of Queensland. The maps identify the “good roads”,and details assess the status of river and creek crossings. Accompanying each map is one or two pages of information about the region’s main industries, the population of the main settlements, the nature of the country being traversed and tips and facilities for travellers. The publication, however, is not entirely like a modern road atlas.Unusually, the first part of the atlas reads like a handbook for settlers or new immigrants to Queensland, containing information on the State’s land legislation, timber regulations and income tax rates. In addition, there are first aid hints, mechanical hints for motorists and details on the cost of tram and cab fares in Brisbane. Clearly, part of the cost of the atlas was offset by advertisements by Brisbane firms.
The publication of the road atlas was considered worthy enough for at least one Brisbane newspaper to run an article about its release.The un-named journalist who wrote the article concluded that it was “a valuable publication” and that “the reliability of the information given cannot be doubted”. It took five years to prepare and was based upon the experience of the firm’s surveyors throughout the state. Interested members can check it out at the State Library of Queensland.
One of the regional road maps from the 1913 Yates & Jones’ Road atlas.
Sources: Yates & Jones, The roads of Queensland (Brisbane: Yates & Jones, 1913) Telegraph (Brisbane), July 25, 1913, p. 3.
By Ian Stehbens, RGSQ member
When Lilia Darii asked me for a short article on Geography and Easter, I was both surprised and stimulated. Never before has anyone asked such a question of me, neither from my network of fellow geographers nor anyone from the fellowship of Christian believers. But Lilia’s request excited me because of its uniqueness, freshness, and significance. There is much that emerges from the intersection of the disciplines of Geography and Biblical scholarship, and it is a two-way street. Here, I define Easter as the events involving the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians call Jesus Christ as an outcome of these ‘Easter Events’.
Geography (geology, culture, migration, geopolitics) informs the Easter Story
The Easter events occur at Jerusalem, where cultures are in collision: occupying Roman forces and Hebrew religious tradition. The Hebrew/Jewish tradition is based on the worship of the God who sets slaves free from oppression in Egypt and that tradition was celebrated culminating in the Passover Meal. It was eaten on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion. From across the eastern Roman Empire at that time, the Jewish Diaspora as well as former slaves from many lands and cultures were making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in gratefulness for their freedom. The resultant great gathering demand the oversight of the Roman Governor of Judea who came from Tiberias in Galilee. The puppet King Herod Antipas and the resident High Priest also came to Jerusalem. These competing authorities generated an ambivalence of authority. Jesus and his disciples were also in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. When Jesus is arrested and brought before the authorities it was the Jewish religious authorities who initiated his arrest and trial. When they reached consensus, they handed Jesus over to Roman authority, and he was tried on different grounds by Governor Pilate. Without conviction, he was taken outside the city wall to the vicinity of Golgotha and crucified.
The Geology of Jerusalem is Cretaceous limestone (Nezer formation) overlain by formations of chalk and chert to the immediate east of the city but, immediately to the west, the underlying Shivta and Weradim formations of limestone with some dolomite are encountered. Outside the walls of the city, a series of old quarries are found from which the stone to build the walls was extracted. Golgotha (The Place of the Skull) is a feature of this karst landscape and because of caves its external appearance gives rise to its descriptive name. Jesus was not crucified on a hill but rather in an old quarry cum rubbish dump. While Golgotha is a hill in the background, the “hill of Calvary”, referred to in Christian story and hymns, is the Hebrew traditional understanding of Jerusalem being a city built on a hill. Thus, the traditional images of a hill with three crosses upon it is quite misleading!
Jerusalem is on a plateau 600-700M asl. The karst geology gives rise to the cultural tradition of burial in caves or crypts. The new tomb in which Jesus’ body was placed has a cut limestone rock rolled in place to seal the tomb.
The Jerusalem region is tectonically active, so it is little surprise that an earthquake is recorded as having occurred the day of his crucifixion. The Gospel of Mark, written in Rome, where again the geology is limestone, makes significant comment on the limestone caves and sarcophaguses both in the Easter narrative and in Chapter 5, where the tension between Roman authority and Jewish opposition is raised and Jesus is caught in the intersection, exercising healing, and restoring authority. All this resonated with the initial readers of Mark’s Gospel who were meeting in the underground catacombs among the sarcophaguses in Rome, whilst experiencing Nero’s torture and persecution, decades later.
Geography is used by the Gospel Writers to express the drama in the story
Mark has an extraordinarily strong and clear geographical construct which is dialectical and purposeful. From Chapter 1-8, the narrative is set in Galilee where Jesus is revealed as Son of Man (100% human), calls disciples and as they exercise ministry together, Jesus’ authority and purpose are demonstrated. The Galilean section climaxes in the Transfiguration as Jesus is identified as Son of God (100% divine). At this point the disciples are told that this now means going to Jerusalem (8:31, 9:31, and 10:33) where betrayal, condemnation by national authorities then suffering, flogging, death at the hands of the occupying power will occur (and all this will be followed by resurrection).
The disciples resist this proposed journey and reveal their inadequate understanding of the role of the Messiah/Christ. He cannot suffer such a fate. They do not want to go to Jerusalem. For the rest of the Gospel of Mark (Chapter 8-16) the geography shifts towards and into Jerusalem. There Jesus experiences, at the point of his deepest tribulation, a coronation on a cross.
Luke’s Gospel is written in the Greco-Roman world, distant from Jerusalem. Way below Jerusalem, deep in the rift valley is Jericho - a place despised by the Jewish people through their history, was being cursed by Joshua in the earliest pre-Jerusalem history. But in Luke’s geo-theological construct it becomes the place of revealing the thrust of Jesus’ ministry: the blind see, the despised are invited into fellowship, the rejected and wounded are responded to with pity and active compassion, enemies are treated as friends. Joshua’s curse (Joshua 6:26) is abolished at the cost of God’s Son, whose work is to be completed by his followers.
Emmaus, down the Roman Road of oppression, identified with the camp of the occupying military forces, becomes the place where the resurrected Jesus enters and is recognized. With haste, those who recognize him return at once to Jerusalem to declare to the gathered group of disciples that Jesus was recognized by them when he broke bread. Then Jesus himself stood among this assembly greeting them with “Peace be with you”. The scourged Emmaus and the cursed Jericho both physically in the low country, one to the east, the other to the west, are thus raised up by grace, whilst the Holy City potentially faces destruction by Roman forces. Luke thus answers the question, ‘Is the power of grace, the power of Jesus Christ, greater than the power of Rome and greater than an ancient curse?’ The geographical constructs of both these gospels, as examples, are designed to intentionally carry the power of the message the writers seek to deliver.
Easter generates a geographical dispersal which becomes a missionary movement
Dr Luke outlines the dispersal of the gospel message in his second work, The Acts of the Apostles. Easter (the encounters with the risen Jesus) changed lives dramatically. Early churches formed, people were dispersed as refugees from persecution, and people moving about the Empire communicated the message and their witness from one end of the Mediterranean to the other. Luke himself is part of the movement, which he outlines as he follows St Paul and others from Jerusalem to Rome. These geographical advances were initiated by Jesus: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The movement of the Christian faith and the establishment of the church very quickly moved north through Asia Minor, Galatia and to St Petersburg. Similarly, St Thomas took the gospel to India where it has been continuously shared and celebrated ever since. One does not need much time in Tonga to recognize that the gospel has spread to and taken root in the social and economic fabric of that kingdom at the end of the earth!
Easter’s central message has been received in many cultures around the globe. Its celebration and application have been contextualised in each culture resulting in spatially variant forms.
Easter impacts the believer resulting in changed values and behaviours
Personally, Easter has impacted my life. As a geographer my vocation has required me to create and lead therapeutic communities in Australia. Systems thinking and spatial analysis enabled me to develop the art of mapping conflicts and wars in the South Pacific, South East Asia, and East Africa so that communities and nations could make peace, reconcile, and build sustainable just peace. My faith compelled me to contribute to the development of geographical curricula in social geography (Settlement Patterns and Processes), inquiry (Australian Geographical Inquiries) and environmental education. My Easter-formed values and my geographical formation inform each other, as I advocate for environmental management of special landscapes. I am just one disciple among millions who continue to demonstrate the relationships between geography and Easter. Peace be with you.
Map courtesy of Ian Stehbens.
By Prof Patrick Nunn
Patrick Nunn is Professor of Geography at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Patrick is a member of RGSQ and of the Society’s Scientific Studies Committee.
For decades, communities in the Pacific Islands have been building seawalls along eroding coasts to try to halt erosion. This tendency has been supported by aid donors like Australia who often regard it as self-evident that these kinds of hard-engineered solutions should ‘work’ on islands just as they apparently do at home. New research by Professor Patrick Nunn and two colleagues from France suggests this is wrong – and that building seawalls along small-island coasts is neither an effective nor a sustainable solution.
Many seawalls in iconic places (like capital cities) on small islands are donor-funded and donor-maintained. The maintenance gives the illusion of effectiveness and so these seawalls are emulated by rural communities across the Pacific and on islands elsewhere. In rural locations, seawall construction is often funding-dependent. There are many examples where seawalls are built only along the most severely eroded parts of the coastline but the sea at high tide simply comes around its ends and floods the land just like it did before (Photo 1); the seawall is useless. Many rural seawalls collapse after a year or two and, lacking funds for rebuilding, often remain in a state of disrepair (Photo 2). The Pacific Islands are said to be “littered with the remains of collapsed seawalls”, a similar situation to that on Caribbean and Indian Ocean islands. Seawalls are short-term adaptation options for a long-term stressor. One wonders whether it would be more sustainable right now if small-island nations were encouraged to focus on the relocation of vulnerable populations to less vulnerable locations … rather than building expensive and labour-demanding solutions like seawalls that do not last.
At Navunievu Village, Bua, Fiji, shoreline erosion began to be a problem in the 1970s, so the first seawall was built. After this collapsed, erosion continued, so a second seawall was built in the 1990s, which also collapsed. Today the rising seas are eating away at (and regularly inundating) the coastal plain.
Navunievu residents have responded by making a rule that every new dwelling house built in the village should be built upslope, something that will see the community move upwards over the next few decades – a fine example of autonomous adaptation.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Nunn.
Nunn, P.D., Klöck, C. and Duvat, V. 2021. Seawalls as maladaptations along island coasts. Ocean and Coastal Management, 205: 105554
Resuming gatherings at the RGSQ premises:
Queensland continues to be in a fortunate situation with no community COVID-19 transmission. So, I’m happy to report that we will resume our monthly lectures and meetings in-person at the RGSQ Srping Hill following Qld Government guidelines. It will be necessary to register for events on the RGSQ website as we need to maintain attendance limits according to the current guidelines. We hope to present the lectures both in-person and via zoom for the benefit of our members outside Brisbane. Please note: the April lecture, by ABC’s Kate Doyle Difficulties the communicating weather, will be on Tuesday 13th as Easter week is 2-9 April.
Activities and trips on offer:
Both the TAAC and Map Group committees have announced their programs for 2021 so check out opportunities for participating in events on the website. Some have already filled up, so I think this indicates that members are keen to get out, enjoy and reconnect with Society friends again!
Victoria Park upgrade – new public greenspace in our Spring Hill neighbourhood:
A recent report found that Brisbane was the greenest of Australia’s capital with 54% green cover in 2020, while Melbourne was found to be the least green with just 23% total tree cover and Sydney had only 34% (ABC News). Following public consultation in 2019-2020 the Brisbane City Council (BCC) announced in December 2020 that the Victoria Park Vision was now finalised. Many Aboriginal people once knew Victoria Park as Barrambin, “the windy place”. Later it became York’s Hollow before being renamed in honour of Queen Victoria. The conversion of the 18-hole golf course into a new 64-hectare public park is scheduled to begin in mid-2021. Here are some of the features of this land re-development on our doorstep:
I hope RGSQ Members will have opportunities to explore this new park in the RGSQ vicinity.
With best wishes
Dr. Iraphne Childs, President
Victoria Park Vision. BCC. https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020-12/20201206%20-%20Victoria%20Park%20Vision.pdf
Victoria Park vision revealed to the public. Brisbane Development Dec. 6, 2020 https://brisbanedevelopment.com/victoria-park-vision-relvealed-to-the-public/
Dear Members, it now looks promising that Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines will be rolled out in March and April. Queensland continues to be in a fortunate situation with no community transmission. While ever mindful of the continued, albeit low, risk, RGSQ is hoping to resume some trips and activities in 2021. Thanks to the TAAC committee and the Map Group coordinators for planning and organising the year’s events. Check out their programs on the website.
International Women’s Day 8 March 2021
International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated around the world on the 8th of March. In Australia we can recognise the work of many outstanding women scientists and geographers.
Australia’s Chief Scientist: Dr. Cathy Foley, physicist, is the 2nd woman to be appointed to the role of Australia’s Chief Scientist. She took up this position in January 2021. Dr Foley has been involved with climate change, stem cells, health and biosecurity, mineral resources, manufacturing, astronomy, and energy. As well as providing independent advice to Government on science, technology and innovation, Dr. Foley has been keen to engage and share scientific information with the Australian public. She has been regularly posting science news on her website and on her Facebook page. For example, in early February she alerted us to the launch of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) which has ushered in a new era for radio astronomy. Headquartered in the UK, the SKAO is the world’s largest intergovernmental radio telescope, including 131,072 two-metre-tall antennas located in Western Australia. Researchers hope the SKAO may help find out how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, understand dark matter, and find out more about the universe’s vast magnetic fields.
Australia’s Women Geographers: Most members will probably know the name of famous Australian geographer Griffith Taylor, but did you know that his sister, Dorothy R. Taylor, was also a Geographer? She was one of the first women employed in the Department of Geography at the University of Sydney, where she had completed a Bachelor of Science. In 1925 she established the Geographical Laboratory at the University of Sydney with her brother, Griffith. The Geographical Society of NSW’s Australian Geographer Award for Best Paper is named after Dorothy, recognising her role in establishing and co-editing Australia’s first and longest-running academic geography journal. The award acknowledges the contributions made by Australian women geographers. Today women make a huge contribution to the teaching of Geography in primary and secondary schools and in universities. Many women geographers lead research teams and hold executive positions in local, state, and national professional institutions such as the Geography Teachers’ Associations, Institute of Australian Geographers, and the Academy of Science’s National Committee for Geographical Sciences.
Contributions to RGSQ: The Society’s membership is approx. 50% female with women members participating in and contributing in so many valuable ways to activities on committees and as volunteers. Over its 135-year history, the Society has had three women presidents: Mrs. Henry Robertson, MBE, JP, FRGSA (1944-49); Mrs. Doreen worth (2001-2003) and yours truly, Dr. Iraphne Childs, FRGSQ (2003-2005; 2017-present). The current RGSQ Council of 11 members has five women councillors. To celebrate IWD we asked three young women members to share their thoughts on being Geographers in Australia today - see what they said later in this Bulletin.
Australia’s Chief Scientist https://www.facebook.com/ScienceChiefAu
Square Kilometre Array https://www.skatelescope.org/news/skao-is-born/
Australian Geographer Awards, 2019.The Geographical Society of NSW. https://www.geogsoc.org.au/site/index.cfm?display=674196
By Irpahne Childs
Three young women members have shared their thoughts on being Geographers in Australia in 2021. Thanks to Nicole, Annie, and Kathryn for sharing their stories and views. Here is what they said……
Dr. Nicole Garofano - grew up in Sydney, then spent 12 months travelling in central and south America, the Caribbean, Barbados, the US/Canada, and the UK. She has worked in the travel industry and as a volunteer for a local NGO on environmental education in Barbados. Nicole has an MA in Development Practice, a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Management and in February 2021 graduated with her PhD from UQ.
Dr. Annie Lau- grew up in Hong Kong where she completed high school education, her undergraduate and M. Phil degrees. She completed her PhD in Singapore. Annie is currently Lecturer in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, UQ, specializing in geomorphology, coastal science, coastal change, storms, and tsunamis in the Pacific and Australia. Annie is an RGSQ Councilor and Treasurer.
Ms. Kathryn Scott - grew up in Toowoomba, and now lives on the Sunshine Coast. She has a Bachelor of Learning Management (Primary) from CQ University and a Master of Environment from Griffith University. She is Senior Project officer, Natural Assets Policy and Planning in the Qld Dept. of Agriculture and Fisheries. Kathryn is a member of the RGSQ Scientific Studies Committee.
Why did you first become interested in being a geographer?
Nicole: I have always been interested in geography. Listening to my Dad’s stories of his travels around the world on Cable and Wireless telecommunication cable maintenance ships. From an early age my Dad took us through many exotic locations. In those days, you had to stop in Singapore, then Bahrain, and then London. All of that planted seeds of wanting to know more about the world, countries, and people. I recall having to choose between geography and history at high school, and for me it was simple – geography all the way!
Annie: I have always loved maps and spent hours reading road maps with my younger brother. Geography was my favorite subject in school. I enjoyed learning about mountains, rivers, population change and urban development. I was particularly amazed by the fact that I could apply the concepts learned in class to better understand the natural disasters reported in the news. I feel blessed that I am still working in the field of natural hazards, and that I can share my passion with students as I teach the “Environmental hazards” course at UQ now.
Kathryn: At a young age I was particularly interested in physical geography - geomorphology, climatology, and biogeography. At school, geography was always one of my favourite subjects. I chose Geography as one of my senior subjects and thoroughly enjoyed the field trips and learning about different earth systems, human relationships to places and how each can influence the other to varying extents.
What do you see as your main contributions to Geography?
Nicole: For my Ph.D. I studied how the geography of small island developing states presented challenges and opportunities in waste management. I strive to raise awareness of the roles of geography and culture in remote island states that affect resource and waste management of plastics. Geographically remote, these islands receive plastic packaged products from many brands and manufacturers. Yet, their remoteness is forgotten when the post-consumption packaging from these products needs to be managed.
Annie: My research focuses on using landforms, rocks, and sediments to understand how and why coastlines change through time. Some changes are gradual (e.g. accumulation of sand to form dunes), while some happen within minutes (e.g. erosion caused by natural hazard events). The results of my work can help stakeholders and policymakers to make better decisions in risk and land management for protecting coastal environments, habitats, and people.
Kathryn: As a former primary school teacher I seized opportunities to share my interest in geography with students, instilling a sense of curiosity and care for the natural world. Now my contributions are more on a personal level - travel experiences, particularly the voyage to Antarctica in 2018, part of the Homeward Bound project, opened my eyes to the incredible interconnectedness of Earth's places, and how far-reaching human impacts are. I am more conscious of how my daily choices have cumulative effects over time and so I strive to live more sustainably.
The 2021 theme for IWD is Choose to Challenge – What challenges do you see facing women geographers in Australia in 2021?
Nicole: the challenge is accessing people in 2021. State border closures and concerns about interacting in the public realm limit the ability to gather perspectives, in some cases even within the same neighborhood. On the other hand, COVID-19 has created some unique studies examining the relationships between people and their surroundings. For me personally, not being able to reach foreign shores limits the scope of my chosen work in small island developing states.
Annie: In 2021 a major challenge is to adapt to pandemic-related travel restrictions. Geographers need to conduct fieldwork but most travel is not possible nowadays. We have to change how we work, adjust project plans, and find creative solutions to problems. As an individual, I continue to challenge gender stereotypes and fight for gender equality.
Kathryn: Many Australians are acutely aware of the challenges we face at global and national scales in 2021 but we have the option to see the opportunities they present. While women geographers in Australia (as for women in STEMM more broadly), have much to celebrate in the progress already made, there remains the challenge of striving for equity - in leadership, in pay and in fair recognition and representation in decision-making. It is crucial now more than ever that diversity and inclusiveness is embraced as a key strength and a true part of Australia's identity in co-creating the future we choose.
What has been your greatest joy in your work as a geographer?
Nicole: The most simplistic joy I have known is to teach a geography for tourism course at TAFE more than a decade ago. It was such a pleasure to get back to basics and encourage others to get familiar with their world and what it contains. Since then, other joys have been introducing those in the developed world, the global north, to the wonders of remote island locations and their traditions, their beauty, and their challenges.
Annie:Spending time and talking with people in coastal communities, especially in more isolated, remote places, motivates me to research coastal hazards as I can help people to understand the past and be better prepared for future hazards like cyclones and tsunamis. At the same time, I always feel very contented and excited to learn about nature as local people share their knowledge with me generously.
Kathryn: I am fortunate to have seen a large iceberg in Antarctica. Meeting and working with an amazing range of people who span the different disciplines of geography has been a joy.
How would you persuade a high school student passionate about geography to take up a degree in Geography?
Nicole: Give them a set of maps of the world, showing topography, population, biodiversity - anything that represents the vast differences in the countries and regions of the planet. Then show them pictures of unique places, perhaps the Blue Planet, and see if this inspires them. This combined with a few stories from my geographical adventures might spur in them what spurred in me all those years ago.
Annie: Go for it and you will not regret it! To be able to study and work in a field that you are passionate about is the best thing in the world. Geography is a very broad field, you can choose to specialise in areas that you are most interested in, learn different skills that can be applied in your daily life and in workplaces, and start a career that you will enjoy.
Kathryn: If you are already passionate about geography then completing a degree is the icing on the cake - it will not only open doors to a range of possible career options, but further study will enable you to continue learning about the things that interest you while expanding your networks and finding ways to do work you enjoy and make a meaningful difference in the world.
by Iraphne Childs
In late September 2020, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) declared that conditions were right for a La Niña event, signalling a wet spring and summer for northern and eastern Australia, including for Southeast Queensland. So, we waited in joyful anticipation for the rain …. but November and December ended up being relatively dry in many locations across the north, east and southeast. What was going on?
The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) was most likely the reason for the delay. This is a global-scale feature of the tropical atmosphere affecting the intensity and duration of rainfall. It is associated with weekly to monthly periods of both enhanced and suppressed rainfall especially over tropical Australia during summer. The MJO is characterised as an eastward moving 'pulse' of cloud and rainfall near the equator that typically recurs every 30 to 60 days. Its effects are most evident over the Indian Ocean and western equatorial Pacific, influencing the timing, development, and strength of the Indian and Australian monsoons. Although the MJO brings rainfall in its active phase, it suppresses rain before and after its arrival, when large-scale downward motion in the atmosphere prevents lift, keeping things hot and dry. In late 2020 the MJO appears to have blocked the lift and suppressed rainfall we would usually expect with La Niña conditions for northern and eastern Australia.
On 12 January 2021, BOM reported that the MJO had strengthened over the Indian Ocean and climate models indicated eastward movement. The northern Australian monsoon trough is now well established and active. BOM predicts that the MJO is likely to contribute to an increase in tropical rainfall and an above-average tropical cyclone risk around northern Australia in late January. BOM's outlook for this summer suggests there is a high likelihood of above-average rainfall for much of the country. So now, after a long wait the rain is finally falling, thanks to the MJO.
Source: BOM 2020
BOM (2020) The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/mjo/
BOM (2021) Weekly Tropical Climate Note, 12 January http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/tropical-note/
Doyle, K. (ABC Weather 11 December 2020) Madden-Julian Oscillation: The bearer of tropical rain https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-11/madden-julian-oscillation-mjo-the-bearer-of-tropical-rain/12961346
This summer we may be spared a repeat of last summer’s horrendous bushfires, but according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) it looks like there is a high probability of more cyclones and flooding due to a La Niña episode.
The Walker circulation in a La Niña year; (BOM 2020)
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle is the major influence on annual climate variability for most of Australia. El Niño in Spanish means The Little Boy and La Niña means The Little Girl. El Niño was first recognised by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1800s with the appearance of unusually warm water in the eastern Pacific Ocean around December. Fishing in this region is best during La Niña years when cold upwelling ocean water brings rich nutrients off the coast. ENSO has been studied and monitored extensively by climate scientists throughout the 20th century and continues to be closely monitored today in research centres in Australia and around the world.
As the BOM explains, the transition between La Niña, El Niño and neutral conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña) is governed by interactions between the atmosphere and ocean circulation. La Niña occurs when equatorial trade winds become stronger, changing ocean surface currents and drawing cooler deep water to the surface. This results in a cooling of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean where air descending over the cooler waters results in that region being less favourable for cloud and rain. Conversely, in the western Pacific Ocean and to the north of Australia stronger trade winds help to increase warm surface waters resulting in more favourable conditions for rising air, cloud development and rainfall. A La Niña year typically brings increased rainfall across much of Australia, cooler daytime and warmer overnight temperatures, more tropical cyclones and earlier monsoon onset. The air rising in the west and descending in the east enhances the Walker atmospheric circulation which can result in changes to the climate experienced across the globe.
Cyclones can affect Queensland in the summer months during all phases of the ENSO cycle - for example cyclones Oswald in 2013 (a neutral ENSO year), Marcia in 2015 (an El Nino year) and Debbie in 2017 (a weak La Niña year).
The 2010–2011 La Niña was one of the strongest on record (BOM 2020). In February 2011 much of Queensland experienced the effects of cyclone Yasi, one of the biggest storms in Queensland's history. This storm passed between Cairns and Townsville, eventually crossing the coast at Mission Beach. I volunteered with Red Cross and was deployed over several weeks in February and March 2011 to evacuation and recovery centres in Mission Beach, Tully, and Ingham.
In both natural and human environments biodiversity, economic, social and infrastructure recovery following the devastating damage from cyclones and flood can take years. Communities, however, display amazing resilience.
Here is are some example that I witnessed in 2011.
Main street, Ingham, March 2011
Ingham banana farmers, having received timely warnings from BOM prior to Yasi’s onslaught, pre-empted total damage to their crops by braking off tall banana plants down to the base so that the winds would not rip them out of the ground, allowing the short young suckers to grow again after the storm. In and around Mission Beach and Tully, cassowaries displaced from the damaged rainforest were wandering along roads searching for food in bare sugarcane fields. Local wildlife organisations and townsfolk saved many birds from starvation by placing fruit and food packages at vantage points around town for the cassowaries. If predictions of the La Niña weather this summer prove to be correct, no doubt there will be more stories to be told of local preparation, adaptation, and resilience. Photography courtesy of Iraphne Childs.
ABC News (2020) BOM declares a La Niña, signalling wet spring and summer likely for northern, eastern Australia https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-29
Bureau of Meteorology (2016) What is La Niña and how does it impact Australia?
Bureau of Meteorology (2020) La Niña WATCH: what it means for 2020 17 July 2020
NOAA (2020) What are El Niño and La Niña? https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/ninonina.html
BOM (2020) Record high Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) values http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/history/ln-2010-12/SOI-records.shtml
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