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Extreme weather or climate change? -

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Extreme weather or climate change?

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 February , 2009 12:50:00

Reporter: James Kelly

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Is the recent extreme weather just that or the result of climate change?

Britons are seeing the biggest snowfalls in almost 20 years and Sydneysiders are preparing for the
heat wave which gripped Melbourne and Adelaide last week.

Queenslanders are being evacuated from their homes as floodwaters from an ex-tropical cyclone
inundate properties.

James Kelly reports.

JAMES KELLY: It's enough to make a weather forecaster cry. The unpredictability of what could
happen next.

In Britain heavy snow falls have almost paralysed the country, closing roads and airports, as well
as schools and businesses.

COMMUTER: I had to walk in, my car couldn't get up the hill. The taxi that I ordered crashed into a
bus and so no taxi. Went to the bus stop told no buses running because I was told they were stuck
going up the hill, so I've walked all the way in.

JAMES KELLY: More than six million commuters didn't make it to work.

COMMUTER 2: Absolutely diabolical there's no going on the road there's nothing. We're like a third
world country

JAMES KELLY: Back home, North Queensland residents are facing their own hardship as ex-tropical
cyclone Ellie continues to dump hundreds of millimetres of rain on already saturated towns and
rural areas.

More than 400 homes at Ingham, north of Townsville, are surrounded by floodwaters. About 20 have
been inundated with up to two metres of water.

Hinchinbrook Mayor Pino Giandominico says it's the third highest flood on record and there have
been some evacuations of elderly residents.

PINO GIANDOMINICO: We have asked people to move out before the event but as always you always get
people who want to stay.

JAMES KELLY: The small town of Giru south of Townsville, is also cut off by floodwaters with the
Haughton and Burdekin rivers still rising. And further north in the Gulf, Karumba is cut off.

The Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, says the army should be on stand-by.

BOB KATTER: The barge is ten-days round trip. The fruit and vegetables are bad by the time they get
from Cairns down to Karumba. But, one case there was a two month old child had to be bought back in
a tinnie through crocodile-infested major floodwaters some 70 kilometres from Normanton to Karumba.

JAMES KELLY: The local acting Mayor Joyce Zahner says rising floodwaters have forced the evacuation
of more properties there as well.

JOYCE ZAHNER: We've had some evacuations from Normanton, we've relocated both persons and property
to higher accommodation in Normaton. We've had five isolated stations evacuated, there are numerous
other stations around the area that have water inundation through their houses and we are keeping a
very close eye on all of this.

JAMES KELLY: Kylie Camp from Floraville Station, south-east of Burketown, says river levels at the
station have risen above the previous record set after cyclone Larry in 2006.

KYLIE CAMP: We did get some resupplies last week but there now would be nowhere for anything to
land. Here it's not just the Leichhardt, the Alexandria joins the Leichhardt just down from our
house and that's also been quite a good flood and it's the combination of those two rivers which
are creating this record flooding event here.

JAMES KELLY: Further south in New South Wales, new fires have broken out at Tumut and Toomora as
residents in Sydney's western suburbs brace themselves for 42 degree temperatures.

Hot north-westerly winds are to blame, just like those which brought the heatwave to Melbourne and
Adelaide last week.

Jake Phillips from the Weather Bureau.

JAKE PHILLIPS: As we head towards the weekend the western parts of Sydney will be getting up around
the 40 degree mark, possibly even a couple of degrees above so maybe about 41 or 42 degrees might
be the maximum we see there.

JAMES KELLY: Hot around the rest of the state?

JAKE PHILLIPS: Yes that's right, along much of the coast things will be a little bit cooler as the
sea breeze has some effect but as soon as you head west those temperatures are looking as though
they'll be really quite warm indeed.

JAMES KELLY: Crazy weather at the moment, isn't it?

JAKE PHILLIPS: It does seem to vary quite a lot from one part of the country to the other doesn't
it. Those floods up in Queensland and dry weather and fires down in New South Walers, is quite a

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The Weather Bureau's Jake Phillips ending that report from James Kelly.