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Analysis | The great drought and the great deluge, all at the same time

Analysis | The great drought and the great deluge, all at the same time


You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

In the age of climate change, our past intrudes upon the present. Last week, receding water levels in a Serbian stretch of the Danube, Europe’s second-largest river, surfaced a flotilla of Nazi-era German warships that were still packed with ammunition and unexploded ordnance. They were exposed at a time when Europe is experiencing what appears to be the worst dry spell in half a millennium, with two-thirds of the continent under some form of drought warning.

Other ruins and wrecks are popping up as waterways shrink. A submerged 1st century A.D. Roman bridge possibly constructed under the orders of Emperor Nero emerged from the Tiber River last month; further to the north, out of the depths of Italy’s tourist-clogged Lake Como, emerged a 100,000-year-old skull of a deer and the ancient remains of lions, hyenas and rhinos.

Scorching high temperatures left the Iberian Peninsula drier than any time in the last 1,200 years. In Spain, parched riverbeds and shrinking reservoirs have exposed a Neolithic monument known as the Spanish Stonehenge, a Roman fortress, a medieval church, and a number of more recent “ghost towns” that had been abandoned and flooded following 20th century dam projects.

In France, which is experiencing its worst drought on record, wine makers are harvesting their grapes earlier than ever. At a time where anxiety is already mounting over energy costs, surging temperatures and sparse rainfall have hit hydropower capacity in parts of Europe. They have also wreaked havoc on the continent’s agricultural output.

On this front, too, Europe’s rivers are turning up bleak omens — the receding waters in parts of central Europe have revealed old “hunger stones,” markers placed along riverbeds that locals centuries prior left as guides to earlier droughts. One stone that emerged out of the Elbe read: “When this goes under, life will become more colorful again.”

How ‘heat officers’ plan to help cities survive ever-hotter summers

These maps show how excessively hot it is in Europe and the U.S.

Yet what’s being experienced now in Europe — and all over the world — isn’t simply a rerun of the past. The northern hemispheric summer has been defined by a relentless series of unwelcome climate-related superlatives. Heat waves set record temperatures across cities in the Middle East and Europe. China is in the grips of its worst drought on record, which has dried up parts of the Yangtze River and impacted swaths of the country’s industrial sector. Meanwhile, in the space of only five weeks, U.S. cities experienced five instances of 1,000-year rain events — that is, episodes of severe flooding that have just 0.1 percent probability of happening in any given year.

The scale and ferocity of what’s taking place is supercharged by climate change. “Studies have found that heat waves are increasing in intensity and duration in China, as well as delivering warmer temperatures at night, because of human-induced climate change,” my colleagues reported. “The increase has been observed in urban and rural locations. Heat waves are also starting earlier and ending later.”

In China, the droughts in some parts of the countries have been met by a deluge in others. The western province of Qinghai experienced such heavy rains that some rivers changed course; landslides and floods killed more than a dozen people earlier this month.

In some cases, there is a direct link between drought and floods — soil actually absorbs water better when damp, while heavy rains slosh off parched landscapes into waterways. That explains why researchers in Central Texas are fearful of what may happen after a drought exposed 113-million-year-old dinosaur tracks in a dried-up riverbed.

“Given the wild fluctuations in weather and precipitation, we can have these long dry periods exposing things and then catastrophic flooding,” Vincent Santucci, senior paleontologist at the National Park Service, told my colleagues. “The high-energy nature of those floods can completely destroy a fossil site.”

Five 1,000-year rain events have struck the U.S. in five weeks. Why?

In South Asia, searing heat earlier in the summer gave way to an erratic and intense monsoon season. That, in turn, has stoked major flooding and landslides across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Pakistan has been ravaged in recent weeks, with heavy rains and rising rivers leading to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and the displacement of over 10 million. Pakistan declared a state of emergency over the weekend and requested international aid, with officials describing the devastation wrought by a summer of extreme weather as the worst in over a decade.

Pakistan is experiencing a “climate catastrophe,” the nation’s climate change minister told NPR this weekend.

“Extreme climate events have become a regular phenomenon in South Asia,” wrote Hamid Mir for The Washington Post’s opinion pages last month. “We are facing weather-related problems in almost all parts of Pakistan. Flooding has become almost routine in some areas; others are plagued by drought. Glaciers are melting fast, resulting in reduced water flow in rivers. Farming is suffering as a result, and the decline in agricultural productivity is creating food insecurity. All this is accelerating migration from rural areas to cities.”

South Asia is at the sharp end of a planetary crisis. “Unrelenting heat waves have led scientists to wonder whether areas in the region may soon become uninhabitable or too dangerous for human life. “Across India and around the world, summer has become a season of peril, when society’s poorest and most vulnerable members must live and work in conditions that push the limits of human endurance,” my colleagues detailed in a grim but important piece that charted life for Indian day laborers with no choice but to work outside.

No part of the world is shielded from the reality of climate change. “The signature of a warming world is now perceptible every day in the conditions we regularly face,” wrote my colleague Matthew Cappucci, when exploring the scientific causes of increased rainfall in the United States.

“For many people, the concept of a changing climate might seem distant and removed — a two-millimeter rise in sea levels a year or a subtle uptick in global temperatures may appear inconsequential,” he added. “But human influence is affecting the dynamics of weather systems, the periodicity of the jet stream and the moisture-holding capacity of the atmosphere.”

The experience of these weather extremes is not forcing major climate policy reforms. The global panic over energy has led to the short-term pursuit of more fossil-fuel extraction. China had to scramble for more coal after the summer heat and drought delivered a blow to its hydropower capacity.

“After this crisis, the coal lobby will be saying, ‘This is why you need to have more coal mines and more coal-fired power plants,’” Philip Andrews-Speed, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute, told my colleagues. “As in Europe, the key is keeping the lights on and keeping the heating and the air conditioning going. That is the short-term priority.”

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Event: Making enquiries on providing great personal home care for the seniors in the community by Senior Homecare by Angels

Event: Making enquiries on providing great personal home care for the seniors in the community by Senior Homecare by Angels

Senior Homecare by Angels is Canada’s choice in home care. With Senior Homecare by Angels you will find peace of mind knowing you or your loved one is cared for with the right care and the right caregiver. We provide affordable and professional care, servicing seniors and adults.

The following services can be provided for a few hours a day up to 24/7 care.
Bathing & Dressing Assistance, Assistance with walking, Medication reminder, Errands & shopping, Light housekeeping, Meal preparation, Friendly companionship, Flexible hourly care, Respite care for families and 24-Hour care is also available.

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is recovering from bleaching events but still ‘very vulnerable’: Survey

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is recovering from bleaching events but still 'very vulnerable': Survey

According to a survey, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has recovered from storms and bleaching events to record levels. As per officials, though this is great news, the new coral is extremely vulnerable and can quickly tarnish by climate change and other environmental threats. The northern and central parts of the reef have the highest amount of coral cover. This stands true since coral monitoring began, roughly 36 years ago. However, the southern part of the coral cover reef has decreased. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) scans the reef to check its health, each year. They do so by using divers slowly towed by a boat, as well as aerial surveys. 

The fourth mass bleaching was confirmed in March and since then, AIMS had grave concerns, especially ahead of this year’s study. The chief executive of AIMS, Paul Hardisty said, “In our 36 years of monitoring the condition of the Great Barrier Reef we have not seen bleaching events so close together”.

Watch | WION Climate Tracker | Turtle numbers dwindling because of rising temperatures

 As per the latest results, the reef cover can recover if suitable conditions persist, but acute and severe disturbances are becoming more frequent and longer at the Great Barrier Reef. 

Also read | Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffers sixth mass bleaching event

A major threat to the Great Barrier Reef is posed by the damaging waves of tropical cyclones and coral-eating crown-of-thorns- starfish. In fact, much of this new coral growth that belongs to a species called Acropora is exposed to this threat. 

Due to its enormous scientific and intrinsic importance, the Great Barrier Reef has been listed on the World Heritage list for 40 years, as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. According to UNESCO, the UN’s scientific and cultural body, “not enough” is being done to protect the reef.

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If the authorities that manage the Great Barrier Reef, i.e. the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are to be believed, the outlook for the icon is “very poor” due to climate change.

Though this news comes as a ray of hope for conserving biodiversity, the challenges that lie ahead are significant.

(With inputs from agencies)


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Downtown Night Market in Great Falls will feature new active events

Downtown Night Market in Great Falls will feature new active events

GREAT FALLS — The Downtown Night Market is coming back to Central Avenue on Friday, July 15, 2022 – but with a special addition that is being tested by Get Fit Great Falls.

The event will run from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. along the 300 and 400 blocks of Central Avenue, and feature craft vendors, art demonstrations, food vendors, live music by Clint Reimann, and more.

For this month’s edition of the night market, Davidson Plaza – the space on Central Avenue with the Charlie Russell statue – is being converted into a space where people can come and enjoy and participate.

It is being done by Get Fit Great Galls and the Building Active Communities Initiative. They are partnering with the market to bring what they call an “active space” to the community.

Davidson Plaza in downtown Great Falls

(MTN) Davidson Plaza in downtown Great Falls

Kim Skornogoski is head of the initiative and says it’s a one-time event to test out and see how it is received.

She said it will include things such as a ping pong table, giant checkers, and even miniature ponies.

They want people to be able to have a connected space and another opportunity to be active and healthy.

“Starting around noon, we’ll have this space set up to be an active space for people to come use,” Skornogoski said. “If you look at it now or any other day, it’s a beautiful space, but not many people use it except if they’re walking somewhere else. It’s not one that people really come to. So the idea is to transform this space into something that that people will use and ideally use in an active way. We hope this idea can plant a seed.”

For more information about the event, click here or contact Pierce at


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Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve celebrates 20 years with free event – Chilliwack Progress

Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve celebrates 20 years with free event - Chilliwack Progress

The folks at Chilliwack’s Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve are getting ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the wetlands.

Back in 2002, folks flocked to the grand opening of the reserve and the Rotary Interpretive Centre, and on June 23, organizers are hoping to draw another big crowd to mark the past two decades.

“We’ve achieved an awful lot in the last 20 years. It’s well-loved and well-used,” said executive director Camille Coray.

She said the events planned for that day are coming together nicely.

The free event runs from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 23 where there will be guided walks, a bannock truck, tables and displays by several local conservation organizations, and a formal program.

There will be two guided walks during each of the following time slots: 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The formal program, which goes from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include a welcome and introductions from the Indigenous community, the City of Chilliwack, Environmental and Climate Change Canada, and the Rotary Club of Chilliwack, followed by keynote speaker, Dr. Carin Bondar, speaking on the importance of wetlands.

“It’s an opportunity for people who were involved at the beginning to continue to be involved,” Coray said.

Then-mayor Clint Hames (left) and Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack stand atop the viewing tower during the grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Then-mayor Clint Hames (left) and Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack stand atop the viewing tower during the grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

It was May 15, 2002 when the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and the Rotary Interpretive Centre officially opened.

“Welcome to the public opening of this wonderful reserve,” said then-mayor Clint Hames, as a heron flew high overhead. “I think this will become one of the most-visited places in the Lower Mainland.”

Since May 2002, a total of 353,300 people have come through the doors of the interpretive centre.

Larry Stinson with the Rotary Club of Chilliwack was also at the grand opening 20 years ago and is expected to be at the anniversary celebration on June 23.

“It gives me great pleasure to complete Rotary’s gift to this nature reserve by presenting the Rotary Viewing Tower, which will allow viewing without causing any disturbance,” Stinson said in 2002.

Back then, about 90 to 100 heron nests were nestled high in the trees. Today, staff and volunteers have counted about 60 nest, but there’s likely more, Coray said.

Each active nest has two adult herons and about three to five eggs. There’s about a 60 per cent mortality rate for the chicks, which means about one to two chicks per nest will survive.

“The babies are very loud even though you can’t see them,” Coray said. “You can just hear them chittering non-stop. They’re definitely being territorial.”

Back in 2002, herons were blue-listed meaning it’s a species of “special concern.” Coray said that hasn’t changed over the past 20 years as the birds are still blue-listed.

A heron brings a twig back to its nest at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack on March 18, 2015. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

A heron brings a twig back to its nest at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chilliwack on March 18, 2015. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The interpretive centre will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 23 and all proceeds from the gift shop that day will be put toward the creation of a 24-by-36-foot education pavilion/covered picnic area that will hopefully be built at the reserve in the next couple of years.

Once built, the pavilion will be surround with lots of interpretive signage that will cover the history and ecology of the area, including information on Indigenous communities.

The 20th anniversary of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre is Thursday, June 23 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 5200 Sumas Prairie Rd. For more, go to Folks are asked to sign up for the free guided nature walks, though there will be some drop-ins allowed on the day of. Registration is at

– with files by Jennifer Feinberg

The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The grand opening of the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Rotary Interpretive Centre on Wednesday, May 15, 2002. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)


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‘Great turnout’ for Point Edward club’s event

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A local service club’s event was supposed to go ahead rain or shine.

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When Point Edward Ex-Servicemen’s Association officials looked at the forecast, however, they decided to move the party indoors just to be safe.

“Good thing we did,” said Gary Capp, the association’s vice-president.

A significant storm ripped through Southwestern Ontario on May 21, uprooting trees and downing hydro wires throughout the region. Despite the destructive weather, the club’s three-hour celebration, which featured a local country band and a fundraising meal, went ahead at 2 p.m. as planned, just inside their Michigan Avenue headquarters instead of outside.

Capp estimated that 50 to 75 people came out through the first 90 minutes of the event.

“This is a great turnout for us,” he said. “Some people just come in, buy the sandwiches and go, and other people are staying and sitting down, listening to the music.”

Kountry Krusin band members, and brother-in-laws Thane Hughes and Jim Stevens performed for the appreciative crowd.

“Just starting out, having some fun with it,” Stevens said with a smile.

It was a free event, as the club covered the cost of the band, but members sold roast beef sandwiches for $5 each to help raise funds for their regular donations to St. Joseph’s Hospice and local minor sports and youth organizations in Sarnia and Point Edward.

“When we have the money, we’re giving donations all over Sarnia and Lambton,” Capp said.

He also pointed out the club is open to all members of the community, so the public is welcome to attend any of their events.

“It’s not a private club by any nature, and all of our events are open to anybody,” he said.

The association, alongside Point Edward officials, marked the centennial of the dedication of the village’s cenotaph with a service on April 19 in Veterans’ Memorial Park on St. Clair Street.

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Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ Mirrors of Mystery Would Have Made Great Seasonal Events or Minor DLC


Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands has proven to be a big success, and for good reason. Gearbox’s new franchise delivered an entertaining story mode full of colorful locations, hilarious dialogue, and addictive gameplay. Fans loved the Dungeons and Dragons-inspired character creator and Overworld, with spells also being a big hit with the Borderlands community.

Despite all the goodwill Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands had at launch, though, the game’s season pass has been heavily criticized by even the biggest fans of the main game. Many have pointed out that the Mirrors of Mystery are overpriced at $10, with each one only offering a replayable thirty-minute mission. However, while many may have preferred Borderlands’ major expansions over these pricey additions, the Mirrors themselves are not bad – they just take on the wrong format.


RELATED: How Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands Should Influence Borderlands 4

Mirrors of Mystery Could Have Made Perfect Seasonal Events

With nothing announced by Gearbox thus far, it seems unlikely that Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands will get seasonal events like Borderlands 3. In that game, players were able to enjoy special, limited time missions for the Halloween-themed Bloody Harvest and Revenge of the Cartels. Revenge of the Cartels in particular provided about the same level of content as a Mirror of Mystery, with players able to explore different wings of the visually appealing Villa Ultraviolet before battling a final boss.

The puzzle room of Villa Ultraviolet can be easily compared to the side objectives players get for the Mirrors of Mystery, like destroying all the elemental barrels in every room. Despite the similarities, players need to spend $10 for each Mirror of Mystery or buy the $30 Season Pass – a far cry from the free admission to Revenge of the Cartels. This is a shame, as if one Mirror of Mystery dropped for free every month, Gearbox would likely be getting extreme praise for top-notch support. Despite the Glutton’s Gamble DLC being a perfect fit for a Thanksgiving event, it is instead paid content, leading fans to view it in a negative light.

Mirrors of Mystery Would Have Been Fun Mini-DLCs Like Headhunter Packs

Still, since Gearbox is adding a new boss and fresh areas with each Mirror of Mystery, it is understandable that the developer would want to make some profit off the content. After all, the unique rooms and enemies would have taken time and resources to create. The main issue comes with the price of the DLC and the fact that the Mirrors are treated as the main post-launch content for the game.

Borderlands 2’s headhunter packs would have been a perfect example to follow, as if the Mirrors of Mystery were priced at $3 (or even $5) the community likely would not complain. Each one of the Mirrors could be introduced between a proper expansion, too, making sure that fans always have something new to do in Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. The decision to replace major DLCs like Assault on Dragon Keep with the expensive Mirrors of Mystery is ultimately where the controversy comes from, as if the Season Pass included one or two proper expansions as well as some cheaper Mirrors, fans would likely be thrilled.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands’ Mirrors of Mystery are fun, and the decision to add the content to the Chaos Chamber once it is completed was a great move that ensures the endgame mode remains fresh over time. Had they been priced more fairly or made into seasonal events, the discussion around them would likely be far more positive. Unfortunately, this was not the case, with the community remaining disappointed in this approach to DLC and wanting to see traditional expansions added instead.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

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Dead coral found at Great Barrier Reef as widespread bleaching event unfolds

Dead corals are being recorded in aerial surveys across the Great Barrier Reef in what the marine park’s chief scientist says is a widespread and serious bleaching event on the world heritage icon.

Aerial surveys have covered half of the 2,300km reef, with the worst bleaching observed in the park’s central region off Townsville, where corals on some reefs are dead and dying.

The unfolding bleaching comes ahead of a 10-day UN monitoring mission to the reef due to start on Monday.

Leading reef scientist Prof Terry Hughes said this week a sixth mass bleaching event was now unfolding on the reef, adding to events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

Dr David Wachenfeld, chief scientist at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, told Guardian Australia: “There is certainly a risk we are seeing a mass bleaching event, but we aren’t in a position to confirm that yet.

“We want to finish the aerial surveys to really understand this before we make a call on the extent and severity of this bleaching.”

Lobbying last year by the Morrison government saw the 21-country world heritage committee go against UN advice to put the reef on a list of sites in danger. The committee will consider the reef again at a meeting in June, armed with a report from the UN visit.

Aerial surveys from helicopters that started last Saturday have revealed mild to moderate bleaching driven by rising ocean temperatures on reefs in the remote far north, with the most badly hit reefs across a 250km stretch to the north and south of Townsville.

Most reefs in that central region, between Hinchinbrook Island and Bowen, were severely bleached and there were still reefs not yet surveyed there.

Bleaching is considered minor if less than 10% of corals on an individual reef are bleached. Levels up to 30% are categorised as moderate, up to 60% is major and beyond that, bleaching is considered severe.

“We certainly have widespread bleaching. It’s variable,” Wachenfeld said.

“The fact that at the very least, from Hinchinbrook to Bowen, most reefs are severely bleached – this is a very serious event. There is no question about that. Some of the observations in that region have been of coral mortality.

“That is where the heat stress has been worst. We haven’t yet surveyed all that area, but I would expect that situation of most reefs being severely bleached would go north and south of Bowen.”

Aerial surveys started while the heat stress was still building across large parts of the reef. Wachenfeld said rather than wait until the heat had peaked, the flights had started because “we are starting to see coral die.”

When a coral bleaches, the transparent flesh and white skeleton are easy to see from the air. But if it dies, the flesh begins to rot and is quickly taken over by algae which is darker in colour.

“You then can’t see from the air that a living coral was there a week ago,” said Wachenfeld.

Flights are expected to continue until the end of next week. Planes will be used to survey outer reefs in the south.

Surveys have not yet been conducted over the major tourism areas around Cairns and Port Douglas, but heat stress has been lower in those areas.

In the remote north, Wachenfeld said some reefs had not recovered from a severe 2016 bleaching event. Reports of “no bleaching” from this week’s flights were down to there being little live coral left.

Dr Britta Schaffelke, director of Great Barrier Reef research at the Australian Institute of Marine Science – a partner in the survey effort – told Guardian Australia it was too early to know how the current event compared to previous ones.

“At the moment, what we see is widespread and in some parts it is severe and that is worrying. There is no doubt about it,” she said.

While some bleached corals can recover, those badly hit can take weeks or months to die from bleaching, so the full impact of the current event will take a long time to fully understand.

“It’s a major stress event for corals even if they don’t die from it. There is no historical record of such stress events happening so frequently,” Schaffelke said.

Richard Leck, head of oceans at WWF Australia, said bleaching was directly attributable to global heating caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Reducing Australia’s domestic and exported emissions fast, this decade, is the main solution within our control,” he said.

The environment group released analysis on Friday showing that for Australia to be part of efforts to keep global heating to 1.5C, the country should release no more than 4bn tonnes of CO2 between now and mid-century.

But the analysis, carried out by scientists, said the Morrison government’s current strategy to reach net zero would release 9.6bn tonnes.

“We’re going to blow our emissions budget by more than double,” said Leck.

Dr Zebedee Nicholls, one of the scientists that carried out the analysis, said: “The science is clear: the outlook for coral reefs around the world is bad at 1.5C, and their fate is all but sealed at 2C.”

Greenpeace Australia climate impacts campaigner Martin Zavan said: “This latest bleaching event has once again exposed the Morrison government’s failure to protect the Great Barrier Reef, throwing billions at band-aid measures while failing to address climate change, the biggest driver of catastrophic coral damage.”

Kelly O’Shanassy, chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said: “If the federal government is serious about its claim of wanting to protect the Great Barrier Reef it must rapidly phase out coal, oil and gas and stop encouraging the growth of fossil fuel industries.”

Dr Lissa Schindler, reef campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the unfolding bleaching was “disastrous news” for the marine and communities that relied on the reef.

“What is most concerning is that this widespread bleaching is happening during a La Niña weather event, which is normally characterised by rain and cloud cover on the east coast of Australia often helping to cool waters. It shows the consistent pressure our reef is now under from global heating.”

Guardian Australia has approached the environment minister, Sussan Ley, for comment about the bleaching.

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Great Barrier Reef hit by sixth mass bleaching event, leading coral scientist says

One of the world’s leading coral scientists claims a sixth mass bleaching event is unfolding across the Great Barrier Reef, with official monitoring flights now under way all along the Queensland coastline.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has confirmed monitoring flights are being conducted “along the length and breadth” of the 2,300km world heritage reef.

But the authority is not due to make a formal update on conditions over the reef, or the initial findings from those flights, until Friday.

The development comes less than a week before the start of a 10-day United Nations monitoring mission to the reef ahead of a crucial meeting of the world heritage committee in June.

Prof Terry Hughes, a leading expert on coal bleaching at James Cook University, said he had received a “flood of reports from the field” of bleached corals in the last two weeks.

Rising ocean temperatures driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases have caused five mass bleaching events along the reef in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

Hughes told the Guardian he believes a sixth mass bleaching event is now unfolding, and that it was not mild or local.

The amount of heat stress over the reef tends to peak in early to mid-March each year but scientists began to worry as early as December after water temperatures rose to record levels for that month.

Hughes said: “We all breathed a sigh of relief because corals that were pale in December regained their colour in January and February. But in the last three weeks there have been reports of moderate to strong bleaching all along the reef.”

Observations from the Bureau of Meteorology show water temperatures at between 1C and 2C above average across wide areas of the reef.

A study, led by Hughes, has found more than 98% of all the individual reefs have bleached at least once.

During the last three mass bleaching events, Hughes has led aerial surveys across the length of the marine park to record the condition of corals from a low-flying aircraft.

Hughes said that task had now been passed on to GBRMPA.

He said water temperatures and the accumulated heat stress alone was not enough to say for sure if corals had bleached.

“We won’t have a full picture until the flights are done,” he said. “We have to see those maps [of bleaching] so it is premature to say how this ranks next to the other five bleaching events.”

GBRMPA has been collating information on bleaching from flights, in-water surveillance and reports for weeks.

A week ago the authority said there had been “low to moderate bleaching” reported in many areas.

In a statement on Thursday, the authority said it was “conducting aerial surveys along the length and breadth of the reef, to get a clearer picture of any bleaching in the Marine Park this summer. The status of reef health is updated each Friday.” Flights began last weekend.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science has previously said a recovery in coral cover over the reef since the last bleaching event in 2020 has been driven by fast-growing acropora corals that were also susceptible to bleaching.

Hughes said northern parts of the reef were “halfway to recovery” but a lot of “vulnerable corals” were now bleaching.

Corals can recover from mild bleaching, but if heat stress is too severe the coral can die.

While there is no formal definition of a mass bleaching event, Hughes said: “Most people would describe bleaching that includes severe levels of bleaching at a scale of hundreds of kilometres would qualify as a mass bleaching.”

Last week, environment groups said it was vital that a UN mission to the reef – requested by Australia and starting on Monday – should be able to see bleaching.

No details have been released either by Unesco or the Australian government about where the mission will go or who it will meet.

A report from the mission is expected by early May ahead of a scheduled world heritage committee meeting in June.

Last year, UN science advisors recommended the committee place the reef on a list of world heritage sites “in danger” because of the impacts of bleaching and a lack of progress in improving pollution levels.

But fierce lobbying by the Australian government saw the 21-country committee ignore the recommendation. During the meeting, Australia also sided with countries to go against several UN recommendations relating to other sites around the world.

Australia reportedly struck at least one quid pro quo – a deal with Spain to back a world heritage inscription for a site in Madrid, despite UN advisors opposing it, in exchange for Spain’s support to block an “in danger” listing for the reef.

Last month the Morison government pledged a further $1bn for local reef conservation efforts over the next nine years.

But many reef scientists have said efforts like finding more heat-tolerant coral species, improving water quality and removing coral-eating starfish will be overrun by global heating unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut rapidly.

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Tokyo stages emotional farewell event for Japanese gymnastics great Uchimura

Multiple world and Olympic champion gymnast Kohei Uchimura has bid farewell to his career in an emotional exhibition event in Tokyo ©Getty Images

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For nearly 15 years now, has been at the forefront of reporting fearlessly on what happens in the Olympic Movement. As the first website not to be placed behind a paywall, we have made news about the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and other major events more accessible than ever to everybody. has established a global reputation for the excellence of its reporting and breadth of its coverage. For many of our readers from more than 200 countries and territories around the world the website is a vital part of their daily lives. The ping of our free daily email alert, sent every morning at 6.30am UK time 365 days a year, landing in their inbox, is as a familiar part of their day as their first cup of coffee.

Even during the worst times of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintained its high standard of reporting on all the news from around the globe on a daily basis. We were the first publication in the world to signal the threat that the Olympic Movement faced from the coronavirus and have provided unparalleled coverage of the pandemic since. 

As the world begins to emerge from the COVID crisis, would like to invite you to help us on our journey by funding our independent journalism. Your vital support would mean we can continue to report so comprehensively on the Olympic Movement and the events that shape it. It would mean we can keep our website open for everyone. Last year, nearly 25 million people read, making us by far the biggest source of independent news on what is happening in world sport. 

Every contribution, however big or small, will help maintain and improve our worldwide coverage in the year ahead. Our small and dedicated team were extremely busy last year covering the re-arranged Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, an unprecedented logistical challenge that stretched our tight resources to the limit. 

2022 is not going to be any less busy, or less challenging. We have the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, where we are sending a team of four reporters, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the Summer World University and Asian Games in China, the World Games in Alabama and multiple World Championships. Plus, of course, there is the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. 

Unlike many others, is available for everyone to read, regardless of what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe that sport belongs to everybody, and everybody should be able to read information regardless of their financial situation. While others try to benefit financially from information, we are committed to sharing it with as many people as possible. The greater the number of people that can keep up to date with global events, and understand their impact, the more sport will be forced to be transparent.

Support for as little as £10 – it only takes a minute. If you can, please consider supporting us with a regular amount each month. Thank you.

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