A photograph showing one of the milder effects of fatal flooding in eastern Australia spread online in March 2022, but despite (reasonable) skepticism, it is legitimate.
The photograph was first posted by the power company Energex on February 28 2022 as part of a thread on their efforts to restore power to residents in the northeastern state of Queensland.
“Receding water is only the 1st step for restoration: it will take many days for hard-to-access locations & in areas where the network has been badly damaged,” the post read, adding that a quad bike was found stuck to a power line in the city of Glympie, the site of the storms that led to the record-setting flooding:
2/3 Receding water is only the 1st step for restoration: it will take many days for hard-to-access locations & in areas where the network has been badly damaged. #qldfloods 📸Quad bike in powerlines, Gympie; piller, Clayfield; Milton substation. pic.twitter.com/8mmUKXF2Mk
— Energex (@Energex) March 1, 2022
Energex also noted that 35,000 people in the area were still without power at that time.
“Starting to reach more of the worst-affected areas but facing sustained flooding & road damage,” the company said.
The photograph spread further when 7News posted it on its own Facebook page.
The flooding has caused ten reported deaths as of March 2 2022. Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland state, was hit with 26.6 inches of rain between February 25 and February 27, 2022, a new three-day reccord.
“We never expected this rain,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters. “This rain bomb is just really, you know, it’s unrelenting.”
Nearly a thousand schools were closed because of the flooding. The Australian Broadcast Company (ABC) reported on March 2 2022 that about 500,000 people were “subject to either flood warnings or evacuation orders” per orders from Dominic Perrottet, the premier for New South Wales state.
“Those instructions are not there for the sake of it, they are there to keep you and your family safe,” he said.
The flooding broke out amid a recurring weather event commonly known as La Niña. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has explained:
During La Niña events, trade winds are even stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia. Off the west coast of the Americas, upwelling increases, bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.
These cold waters in the Pacific push the jet stream northward. This tends to lead to drought in the southern U.S. and heavy rains and flooding in the Pacific Northwest and Canada. During a La Niña year, winter temperatures are warmer than normal in the South and cooler than normal in the North. La Niña can also lead to a more severe hurricane season.
However, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has also attributed the mass rainfall to man-made factors behind La Niña, directly naming climate change as a cause in a statement:
“Australia’s temperature and rainfall variability are also influenced by global warming caused by human activities,” the agency said. “Australia’s climate has warmed by around 1.47 degrees Celsius for the 1910–2020 period. Rainfall across northern Australia during its wet season (October–April) has increased since the late 1990s. In recent decades there has been a trend towards a greater proportion of rainfall from high intensity short duration rainfall events, especially across northern Australia.”
The country has been hit with its own form of climate change disinformation from sources both in and out of the government; in January 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was criticized after his administration released a video downplaying its effects on bushfires that killed more than twenty people; news outlets owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch did the same in their own coverage.
The country is also home to discredited professor Ian Rutherfod Plimer, who has claimed that there was no evidence that man-made carbon emissions fueled climate change.
Power lines are strong enough to hold several tons of extra weight by design to withstand weather changes — even a relatively small amount of ice or snow accumulation can add 500 pounds (around 230 kilograms) to a single span of power lines. On average, all-terrain vehicles typically weigh about the same amount.