What caused the great SA power outage?

I write about this event with some personal involvement, because my wife and I are in it. We left Robe, on the southern coast of South Australia, to pay a brief visit to a winemaker at Cape Jaffa, who told us that he too was going to Adelaide, to collect his children early (a couple of days before the holidays) because of the big storm that was coming. We knew from the press that some weather event was in prospect for us, but at that moment the sky was blue, the air was crisp, the sun warm, and the notion of a storm that day seemed remote. By the time we left his winery, perhaps thirty minutes after arriving, the sky was covered with grey cloud, and the blue we had enjoyed was a patch in the sky far to the south. It began to rain, and the rain grew heavier and heavier.

It had stopped before we arrived in Adelaide, but to the west was a wide, black band of cloud. We checked in to our hotel, unpacked and went to the window to see that the rain was back, with what looked like an almost horizontal trajectory. Our windows, not perfectly sealed, issued a banshee wail* (there, I’ve never used that cliche before). Then all the power stopped, as did the city: no lights, no power, no traffic lights outside. No trains or trams. Nothing. I thought the power would go back on quickly, but it didn’t, and then we received a message over the emergency address system that the whole State was without power, and that the Premier had said it would not be on again for 24 hours. Dinner proved to be a cheese sandwich in the lobby bar, with a small tea light to show us where the food was. When we got back to our room (the lifts were operating) the emergency light had failed, and there was nothing for it but go to bed. All our electronic equipment needed charging.

The next day was wild and windy, but without much rain, and power back to the city, if not to some regions. Another dreadful night was in prospect, followed by lots of rain everywhere, though no more lightning strikes. What exactly had happened? A whole State without power! Those responsible were not talking about blame, though Senator Nick Xenophon thought that some heads should roll. Which heads? Why those ones? He didn’t say. What seems to have happened was a cyclonic disturbance, with more than a hundred thousand lightning strikes, strong winds and lots of rain, over a wide area of the State. In Port Augusta severe weather destroyed a major piece of the grid infrastructure, a transmission tower. When that happened a fail-safe mechanism protected the whole power system with a shutdown: when a sudden great loss of power occurs, the system turns itself off so that it does not cause the resulting power demand to cause a cascade of further shutdowns over the whole grid.

South Australia gets about a fifth of its power from Victoria and the Eastern Grid, via two inter-connectors. The rest comes from local wind, solar and gas. The coal-fired power station in Port Augusta, fed from the Leigh Creek mine much further north, was closed in May this year. When winds are strong the wind farms shut down to protect the turbines, and no solar much would have operating — at times it was dark enough for the street lights to come on (had they been able). So South Australia was depending on gas and what was coming from Victoria. Wind can’t power a recovery, and coal, the basis of everyone else’s power, wasn’t available locally. On the face of it, the wind that knocked over the important tower (and a score or more of transmission towers) was the primary cause. There were lots of these (courtesy The Advertiser).


The winds don’t seem to have been so strong and that raises questions about why SA transmission towers fell over, but Queensland ones, in much stronger winds, didn’t — and why trees by and large survived while towers didn’t. Why did so many towers fall? Why doesn’t the SA system have real back-up? Hospitals have emergency generators, and they were available to support surgery, respirators and other critical operations. But to have a whole State knocked out for several hours is surely not supportable. ‘This is 2016!’ said a woman on television, indignantly. There seem to be three likely enquiries into the cause. Heaven knows when they will report.

And at once came the predictable explanations. The Climate Council told us, via the ABC and Fairfax (which seem to take this self-appointed group seriously), that it was all because of ‘climate change’. ‘”These conditions, driven by climate change, are likely increasing the intensity of storms like the one in South Australia,” Professor Will Steffen said. “Australians are being affected right now by climate change. We have people trapped by floodwaters, property destroyed and doctors working by torchlight in Adelaide as they struggle to cope with the latest in a series of more frequent and intense extreme weather events.’ In my view these vague assertions of cause are hard to support with any evidence at all. Certainly Professor Steffen didn’t offer any.

At the same time, I would have to say that there is no evidence, either, that ‘alternative energy’ caused the outage. It is possible that as the winds increased some of the wind farms, which were working at near peak capacity, had to shut down because the winds were too strong, and there was no back up for them. We will know more in due course. What is clear is first, that there has to be a more powerful and reliable electricity generation system for South Australia and, second, that there will be an intense analysis both of what occurred and what should be done to stop it happening again. It is possible that had there been no alternative energy decision some years ago, and South Australia had opted to join the Eastern Grid (I don’t know whether these ‘ifs’ are real) then there may not have been an outage at all, since the rest of the Eastern Grid system, the biggest in the world, would have been able to recover quickly. There is plenty of back-up there. It is clear that you can’t run a State like South Australia on alternative energy without substantial back-up from fossil fuels.

And there is little doubt that South Australians will demand that they are not subjected to such a disaster again, whatever the explanation, especially given that they pay much the highest prices in our country for electricity anyway. Senator Xenophon said that South Australia was the laughing stock of the nation as a rest of these events. I don’t think that’s likely to be true, but nonetheless the outage may point to a major reconsideration of the supposed alternative energy solution to electricity generation.

I can’t resist finishing with this neat little cartoon (authorship unknown):



*Endnote: A banshee in Irish mythology is a female spirit that descends on a family when one its members is about to die, and it howls/screams/wails.

Join the discussion 111 Comments

  • Nga says:

    Don, can you please explain why you falsely claimed that the term “climate change” came into use in about 2004? I have asked this question of you on several occasions but you so far you have failed to give me a straight answer. An honest answer free from dissembling, misdirection and insults would be most appreciated. Let’s put away childish things and act like grown ups.

    • JMO says:

      The first time II heard of climate change”was around 2005″. Before then it was known as global warming – a far more accurate term.

    • whyisitso says:

      There was a gradual change from “global warming” to “climate change” during the “noughties” because the “science is settled” mob wanted to blame more events, even extreme feeezing. Today they even blame earthquakes on climate change although some blame fracking thousands of kilometres away.

      • beththeserf says:

        Changing the fear ‘n guilt lexicon, a work in progress… 2010 another adjustment called for
        ..’the term ‘global warming’ makes the cause easy to ridicule whenever there’s a snowstorm.’

        • beththeserf says:

          From the article:

          ‘In a 2007 presentation, Holdren suggested a similar phrase change —
          “global climatic disruption.”
          The explanation he gave last week was that the impact from greenhouse
          gas emissions covers a broad “disruption” of climate patterns ranging
          from precipitation to storms to hot and cold temperatures. Those changes,
          he said, affect the availability of water, productivity of farms, spread of
          disease and other factors.

          He’s not the first scientist to publicly veer away from “global warming.”
          NASA published an analysis on its website in 2008 explaining that it avoids
          the term because temperature change “isn’t the most severe effect of
          changing climate.”

          That inconvenient ‘Pause’ would seem to have stimulated a need for some
          critical response, not to the ‘science’, Galileo fashion, but to its descriptive
          terminology, more Goebbels – wise.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Is this of any significance at all, or do you just like to see your name in print?

    • David says:

      I was taught about human induced climate change in high school back in 1979.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      I did not falsely claim anything. I have explained already that I pointed to a reference concerning a group of the orthodox, who thought ‘climate change’ was a better term for common use. There are more than 700 essays on this website, and so far I have been unable to track my own use down. Nor do I think it is especially important to do so, other than to provide the reference. When I have it I will publish it.

      I would indeed appreciate it if you ‘put away childish things and act[ed] like grown ups’.

      • Nga says:

        Don, you are still changing the subject and not answering my question. Here once again is your fictitious claim:

        I have written a large number of essays on ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW) and its later sister ‘climate change’, a term which came into use in about 2004 …

        Contrary to what you say, the term climate change in relation to AGW can be found in the media, activist literature, government bodies, academia and the scientific literature dating back to well before 2004. A simple Google or Google Scholar brings up thousands of instances.

        If you had done proper research, you would know that the term “climate change” was first used in relation to warming caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions at least as far back as the US National Academy of Science’s Charney Report from 1979 which said:

        “if carbon dioxide continues to increase, [we find] no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”

        You can still view the Charney report here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12181/carbon-dioxide-and-climate-a-scientific-assessment

        Don, a genuine skeptic takes on board facts and alters his or her mind accordingly. A denialist hunkers down, sprays insults, is evasive, misdirects and dissembles. You have claimed on many occasions in various fora that you are a genuine skeptic and open to a genuine debate about AGW but to date I have found no such willingness.

        Is there any chance at all that you will commit to a courteous discussion in which you explain why the first sentence in your introductory essay on AGW contains a fictitious claim? All the best.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Thick as a brick, still, hey, enge?

          What is it about climate change and “climate change” that so defeats your brain???

          Never mind, this might help:

          Personal epistemology has typically been conceptualized in one of two primary ways: as a cognitive developmental process or as a system of beliefs. The approach that is elaborated here is to conceive of epistemological understanding as a metacognitive process that activates epistemic theories, a multidimensional set of interrelated beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Building on the work of Flavell (1979), K. S. Kitchener (1983), and Kuhn (1999b), this article describes the rationale for conceptualizing epistemological awareness at the metacognitive level, delineates the nature of this construct, and describes how this directs methodological choices for research. This is discussed in light of a recent study of students’ online searching for a simulated science assignment, investigated through the use of think-aloud protocols. Exploring students’ thought processes during online searching allows examination of personal epistemology not as a decontextualized set of beliefs, but as an activated, situated aspect of cognition that influences the knowledge construction process.

          Otherwise you could try laxettes.

          • tripitaka says:

            Hi Spangy,

            I found the article abstract you have provided but can’t read the full text because of a paywall. It looks very interesting but it is not clear from the abstract you provide how conceptualising one’s personal epistemology in this activated, situation ally dependent way would help ‘enge’ understand the difference between “climate change”, ‘climate change’ and climate change.

            Do you think you could provide more information about the study that would more explicitly link this way of thinking with the way you are assuming that ‘enge’ thinks. More information about the recent study on which the author bases her discussion would also be useful for determining the truth value of this claim.

            Is there a special method you use to discern just by reading a few comments how people think? You should share this methodology.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Now, Trip, don’t tell me you have the same prollem as enge?

            It’s pretty simple, really.

            But if you can’t work it out, give the second option a go.

            And it looks like I discerned right, DYT?

        • JMO says:


          What are playing at, this has NOTHING to do with SA’s power black out.
          Oh I know, you are desperate to change the discussion away from the SA events due to the obvious facts; as Richo would say – “whatever it takes”. You could not shut down the debate so you obfuscate it .
          What are the fact NGA.?
          1/ SA had one of the cheapest electricity retail price in the world, now it has near most expensive,
          2/ SA’s wholesale price spiked at near $14000/megawatt with a consistent price over that time of $9000/megawatt (that is$ 9 to $!4 a kilowatt/hr- consumers complain when it 35 CENTS/ kilowatt) when the wind died whilst maintenance was being done on the inter-connector from Victoria. But at least the lights stayed on, the retailers and industry copped the OBSCENE price and the consumer will cop it when retail price is adjusted in due course.
          3/ A fierce storm struck and the SA ‘s light went out
          Even you can notice one thing common in all this, each of those events happen after SA went headlong down the renewable path. These are the facts NGA. No excuses, SA voters are sick and tired of Green excuses.
          Oh, one more fact, if SA went 1000% renewables before the storm, even if all SA residents stopped driving, left their homes to live in caves or gone walkabout in the Simpson desert, the storm would have happened anyway and been as fierce if not slightly more (see my other comment on this post).

        • Ian G says:

          And just do ‘down the road’, Perth had its coldest September since 1944 (or some say over 100 years).

        • David says:

          Spot on Nga

          Just checked the transcript of my ACT Year 12 certificate. The Geography unit I studied in 1979 was called “Climatic Change”.

          I think the technical term to describe Don’s line of argument is “clutching at straws.”

    • dlb says:

      “Let’s put away childish things and act like grown ups.”

      Yes, applies more to yourself, harping and nit-picking over definitions, like some attention seeking brat. Sorry, in the adult world people are justified in having views you may not like.

  • JMO says:

    So the climate change Cassandras predictably said this storm was all part of climate change, the renewables cheer squad are saying we should have accelerated our transition away from fossil fuels. Once again they are wrong.

    This storm was the worse storm for the last 50 years, so what was the cause of that storm (when CO2 levels were lower), was that due to the then popular view of the coming ice age, perhaps. Truly, even if the whole of Australia was 100% renewable today , do you think for 1 second this storm would not have happened? Of course it would have.

    In fact under the 100% renewables scenarios there would have been more CO2 in the atmosphere because the CO2 construction debt for building thousands more wind turbines would not have been repaid. Each wind turbine requires some 400 tonnes of concrete before erecting an over 100 metre high steel tower – that is a lot of CO2 debt to pay back! And we have not even considered the mining of rare Earth metals and manufacturing of the generator and blades. It takes many years to pay the CO2 debt and is debatable if it is ever repaid over the effective life of the wind turbine,.

    So if the storm was due to rising CO2 levels, it would have been even fiercer.

    But, please, never let facts get in the way of the transition to a 100% renewables.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    The damage may have been perfectly normal, but if there is any evidence that renewables were in any way involved, you can be 100% sure the public won’t be told.

  • spangled drongo says:

    Thanks for your personal report, Don. Very interesting.

    Those lattice steel transmission towers must surely be built to lower standards than most to collapse like that. Even poles don’t blow over in that wind strength.

    Maybe they only modelled their design:


    But it is obvious that SA has gone off half-cocked on their goody-goody renewable crusade and as a result they have shown the world exactly what not to do.

  • margaret says:

    I hope it added excitement to your touring. I love a road trip.

    • margaret says:

      To Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound?

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Not this time. My wife was born and raised in Adelaide, so we return each year, and do exploring trips. By now we have done all the tracks except the Simpson Desert to Alice Springs from Birdsville, and just about everywhere else. This time was mostly Mt Gambier, Robe and Adelaide.

  • Neville says:

    Don you certainly were in the best location to give your first hand account of a very big natural storm. Certainly the winds were nothing like the strength of winds that sometimes strike the east coast of OZ. The SA towers must have been made to much lower standards than the east coast towers, of that we can be sure.
    Perhaps if they had spent more time making sure they had installed stronger towers and less time worrying about idiocy like S&W energy there wouldn’t have been a state wide blackout?
    But remember the worst flooding from storms and ONGOING rainfall for SA and the whole MD Basin system was in 1870, when co2 levels were under 300 ppm.
    The flooding then lasted for a long time and the levels were higher than the 1956 floods. ( co2 levels about 312ppm) Mildura has a marker showing the much higher 1870 floods compared to 1956.
    Most of the heavy rainfall over SE OZ this winter is the result of a very strong negative IOD that I referred to months ago and years ago at other blogs. During the recent big drought the IOD had remained positive for years. That big drought ended in a very strong la nina around 2011.
    In 1914 a young girl and her friends walked across the Murray at Wentworth during a terrible drought but by 1917 the whole town were desperately trying to save Wentworth from severe flooding. That 1917 la nina was about as strong as the 2011 drought breaker. Oh and the little girl lived into her hundredth year and would tell her story of terrible droughts and floods if anyone asked about her experiences.
    Here’s a short reference to the SA floods of 1870 that lasted well through 1871.

    Here’s the 2009 study announcing the discovery of the IOD from Uni of NSW. Note the graph at the end showing positive and negative IODs from 1890s to 2009.


    • dlb says:

      “Perhaps if they had spent more time making sure they had installed stronger towers and less time worrying about idiocy like S&W energy”

      What nonsense, do you have an engineering report about the design standard of the transmission towers?
      All it would take is a few tornadoes in the storm front and the power lines would be down.

  • Louis Hissink says:

    Weather is a physical fact.

    Climate is an abstraction.

    Apparently Premier Weatherall said that we cannot control the weather.

    As climate change is an abstraction, we are fully capable of controlling it in our imaginal world of abstractions.

    So what’s the connection between weather which we cannot control and climate which we can?

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Louis, as I understand it, the WMO defined climate as the average of ‘weather’ over a 30-year period. In such a case all references to climate should be referred to as weather. As they say, if you want to control the debate, you first have to control the language. Hence the utility of PC.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes, Louis, it’s wonderful how the gatekeepers can adjust, modify, homogenise, krige and otherwise manipulate data in all sorts of ways to get desired climate results but weather has a specific place and time and they are smart enough to realise if they fiddle that they can land in gaol.

      The way future climate is so certain but the past can change at any time is something that previously only George Orwell could’ve conceived.

      If only these gatekeepers could be convinced of a more rational approach we could save trillions.

    • Alan Gould says:

      “The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
      But if you break the bloody glass, you won’t hold up the weather.”

      Louis MacNeice.

  • Tezza says:

    Thanks for a very good first person account, Don.

    While I admire your habitual fair-mindedness, I think the forthcoming examination will show you are being too kind on the role of renewables in this disaster. The key point is that most of the ‘synchronous rotating machinery’ (the turbines and generators of traditional base load power stations) whose momentum and feedback of load information from the grid maintains the voltage and frequency of a stable power system is no longer in S.A.. The State has only some gas generation to contribute to that stability, and most of the synchronous rotating machinery is in Victoria. That stability was removed from the system with the pylon failures, and the generating mix in S.A. then quickly shut down as the disturbances from the storm reverberated around the system.

    Jo Nova’s site, and some of the technical contributors to it, has a very good explanation of the problem: http://joannenova.com.au/2016/09/the-south-australian-black-out-a-state-running-without-enough-thermal-reserve-to-cope-with-contingencies/

    Incidentally, the technical information on how a grid can shut down or destroy generating capacity and cause billions of losses and destruction to power users is a useful reminder of why a distribution grid should never be sold to Chinese state-influenced interests.

  • […] cables distorted into twisted licorice shapes was explained by high velocity winds, while blogger Don Aitkin reported horizontally driven rain, among other […]

  • spangled drongo says:

    The Climate Botherers [ANU Prof Neville Abram] feed us “relevant” [note the quote, enge] data on South Australia as usual:


  • Neville says:

    Spangled, the Calvo et al study found that the SSTemp off southern OZ has been dropping for at least 6,500 years. And over that time the rainfall has been decreasing. But recently we have been very lucky because southern OZ rainfall has increased since 1900. See BOM link showing trend since 1900.


    The trend for South OZ shows more rainfall as well.


    Here is the Calvo abstract and the link. In fact the study shows that temp has dropped by 2 C across southern OZ over the last 6,500 years.


    “[1] Comparison of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica shows an asynchronous two-step warming at these high latitudes during the Last Termination. However, the question whether this asynchrony extends to lower latitudes is unclear mainly due to the scarcity of paleorecords from the Southern Hemisphere. New data from a marine core collected off South Australia (?36°S) allows a detailed reconstruction of sea-surface temperatures over the Last Termination. This confirms the existence of an Antarctic-type deglacial pattern and shows no indication of cooling associated with the Northern Hemisphere YD event. The SST record also provides a new comparison with the more extensive paleoclimatic data available from continental Australia. This shows a strong climatic link between onshore and offshore records for Australia and to Southern Hemisphere paleorecords. We also show a progressive SST drop over the last ?6.5 kyr not seen before for the Australian region.”

  • Neville says:

    I seem to be stuck in moderation again.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Three URLs, Neville — the system doesn’t like more than one.

      • Nga says:

        Don Aitken, the artful denialist who pretends to be a skeptic, still evades the questions I have put top him. Come on, Don, are you really scared of a 5 ft 3 in Asian lady with a couple of questions? I can see right through you, Don. I can see right through your cheap Tony Mokbel wig and plastic Christopher Skase sunglasses. Answer my questions, Don. Tell the truth and repair your dignity.

        • spangled drongo says:

          She’s tried all the cards to date but let’s all hope that enge’s race card is the last card in the pack.

          • dlb says:

            I think us climate sceptics should register with the government as a minority group. We might then get some peace from the loony left.

  • PeterD says:

    I’m adding a few points to this discussion of the SA power outage.

    First, causes need to be carefully studied before a report – judgements/recommendations are made. As an example, L??? W???????? tweeted ?@LordofWentworth that “Renewables and Labor to blame for Swans’ defeat says tearful PM while peeling an onion”.

    Trying to politicise the event too quickly is a dangerous practice although Nick Xenophon – always out of the boxes early – stated that an independent inquiry is necessary. He is in favour of renewables but clearly there needs to be, in his view and in the minds of many others, an assured base load supply when wind and solar are not producing. The view is that the Labor states have gone down the solar/wind track too hard, too early.

    Generally, there is an acceptance that this outage was clearly a weather event as opposed to a climate change event. If though – even in a hypothetical sense – these events started to occur in many Australian states, with increasing frequency, one could imagine public alarm increasing to the point where Muslim immigration would be inconsequential. The irrational fear and stampede factor!

    Another point that seems relevant is the extent now of corporate ownership of electricity generation in Australia etc Companies are in it for profit so when there are power shortages simple supply and demand forces become operative. Prices skyrocket and power bills surge. It is an excellent point to maximise sales, especially for foreign firms. Last time around, Origin was not as avaricious as some of the other suppliers.

    When the next meeting of Commonwealth/State Energy Ministers/Premiers meet there will be issues of moment on the agenda: is it just a matter of competition between suppliers or is there a more collaborative/community perspective dynamic that is necessary?

  • margaret says:

    Woof Woof!

  • Neville says:

    Let’s list a few random facts about co2 emissions, because we’ve just had more of our idiot pollies telling us that OZ must reduce emissions to stop more severe weather/climate in the future. They’ve already blamed the Coalition govt for cyclones and bushfires in the past.
    Of course Flannery and BOM scientist David Jones told us that we must expect more droughts and we would never get enough rain to fill our dams. Unbelievable but true.
    So once again here are some facts about co2 emissions and co2 levels.
    1. OZ emits just 1.3% of the world’s co2 emissions.
    2. The Concordia Uni study found that OZ was responsible for 0.006 c of the temp increase since 1800. Unbelievable but true.
    3. Most of the world’s co2 emissions increase until 2040 will come from the non OECD countries like India, China etc.
    4. Obama’s own 2016 EIA report tells us that co2 emissions will increase by 34% by 2040.
    5. The CSIRO tells us that the NH is the main source of human co2 emissions and the SH ( like OZ) are the main co2 sinks. So when do we get our reparations for absorbing more than our share of those co2 emissions?
    6. Satellite imagery over the last 30 years shows that the planet’s coastal land is actually increasing. Yet co2 emissions have increased heaps over that period.
    7. We’ve had much worse droughts and floods in the past when co2 levels were about 280 ppm.
    8. Co2 levels in the 1920s were about 300 ppm, yet Goklany’s studies show that the death rate from extreme weather events have dropped by 97% over the last 90+ years.
    9. CSIRO studies have shown that the planet is actually greening because of increased co2 emissions.
    10. Here is Matt Ridley’s Greening Planet talk about the benefits of extra co2 emissions over the last 40 years. This is full of facts and the latest research/studies. Well worth 18 minutes of your time.

  • Neville says:

    Another new video by Matt Ridley using the latest research to try and predict how much better the world will be in the year 2100.
    BTW he actually uses some of the UN and IPCC material to back up his arguments. And he says that renewable energy like S&W will make things worse. If we could only get school kids to watch this factual info instead of the garbage served up by the likes of Gore and Flannery.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    There is an interesting discussion in the Comments at WUWT following a piece by Tom Quirk (who is always worth reading) on the possible effects of wind farms going on and off the grid just before the outage. After reading them all, I still think we don’t really know, and won’t until the reports emerge.

    But see:

  • Chris Warren says:

    “The winds don’t seem to have been so strong and that raises questions about why SA transmission towers fell over,…”


    • Don Aitkin says:

      I’m not sure where the quote comes from, but indeed, apart from the Premier, who talked of cyclonic winds ( I heard him), the wind speeds seem to have been around 100 kph max. That’s not especially strong. And there weren’t many trees down, which made people wonder about how strong the winds really were. The Advertiser had a double page spread of a fine avenue of old trees intact behind a fallen pylon.

      I think that, like so much else in the climate domain, we really don’t know.

      • dlb says:

        I would still consider tornadoes a possibility in bringing down the power lines. All it takes is one tower to go down and many others would follow like dominoes, pulled down by the tension in the cables, nowhere near the wind blast.

        I had a look at the SA Doppler radar at the height of the storm and was surprised at the intensity of the rainfall in individual storm cells. Such radar echoes are sometimes seen in S.E. Queensland and the BoM usually refers to these as “super cells” capable of destructive wind gusts called microbursts and possible tornadoes.

        • Peter WARWICK says:

          I did see an invention called the “break fitting” which was a device fitted to high tension power cables, and which was set to “release” at a certain pulling tension. It was designed so that when a power cable was under stress from either very high turbulent winds or being pulled due to a falling adjacent tower, the cable would separate, thus preventing further consequential tower collapses.

          Another good invention was the “power ball”. A one meter diameter ball made of a UV stabilised plastic, with a 15mm wall thickness and an open tube through the centre of the ball. The balls were threaded on to power cables and gravitated to the low arc of the catenary, and prevented cables touching during high winds. They were coloured canary yellow so helicopter pilots could see what they were flying into.

      • Nga says:

        I suppose there have only been about two hundred articles pointing out how old those transmission towers are, how many of them actually have bits missing and how none of them meet today’s building standards. You would know a lot more if you skipped junk sites like WUWT and sourced more intelligent and reliable material.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          “none of them meet today’s building standards”

          Interesting that you seem to think this is OK, provided they are distributing ‘green’ electricity.

          • Nga says:

            I never said that,- snip -. Do try to tell the truth once in a while, even if its only for the novelty value.

  • Neville says:

    Another informative post from WUWT. Larry Hamlin says some of the wind energy con was discussed in previous reports about the SA grid. Of course nobody mentions that the greatest fra-d is the fact that the mitigation of their so called CAGW isn’t possible using S&W energy.
    Lomborg has supplied the calculations using the same software from the US EPA.
    He found total compliance with Paris COP 21 would only reduce temp by 0.05c to 0.17c by 2100 and would cost about 100 trillion $. IOW he agrees with Dr Hansen that COP 21 is just BS and fra-d and like believing in fairy tales.
    Of course the non OECD countries are building many new coal fired plants because they are cheap and very reliable compared to the S&W alternative. Here’s Hamlin’s link.


  • Lenny says:


    I saw some interesting articles over at WUWT and JoNova.

    I think the SA will always have issues when it gets to windy. The wind turbines turn off when it gets to windy, typically a storm – lots of clouds and low amount of solar.

    Basically, wind turbines will produce basically there name plate rating leading up to going offline. Peak wind = peak capacity. At this point all other forms of power generation will be at a low, because wind comes first.

    Then it gets to windy, and the wind drops off. In this case it looks like (@WUWT) that the entire fleet of turbine came offline in a 30min window or so.

    Losing that amount of power generation quickly will always generate problems for the rest of the grid to handle. Now the local gas & coal (VIC) need to ramp up to cover the drop. Gas is OK at this, depending on plant design, coal not so much.

    A lose of power of this size, will cause a voltage sag, that normally results in a frequency response in the grid. The frequency response generates a safety response for VIC and down comes the inter connector.

    Then the poles fell over. The poles had an impact, but IMO not the full impact was on the poles alone.

    This was entirely obvious to any risk assessment of the design of the grid with such a large penetration of wind power.

  • Lenny says:

    I would also add, this could be the death Nell for SA.

    SA had two major smelters
    One is in liquidation – no one will buy this asset now.

    The other one is pending a review of the impact of the metal in the middle of being smelted went solid without the power. If it is not easily recoverable, they could be up for 10’s of millions to get the plant back to life. If it is the later, they will close.

    Sad day for SA, this really could be the start of the end for heavy industry in SA. They do not have much else, green tech , fin tech, software , high tech start ups all seem to be based in Sydney or Melbourne.

    SA may reduce its energy consumption even further by 1) losing more industry 2) losing people as they leave to find work elsewhere. SA could head the way of TAS.

  • PeterE says:

    Ah, my dear old Port Augusta, so fond of ye am I and yet I hardly knew ye. Yet I remember the optimism of the early 1950s when the power station opened with coal aplenty at Leigh Creek. Thomas Playford was in power, a man of steel and vision. It is leaders like him that we so badly lack today. Come back Tony Abbott – all is forgiven!

  • Brian Austen says:

    There was a saying that went something like: In politics never waste a good crisis. I am no engineer but after reading some of the commentary on this event it seems to me that the the problem was the interconnectors. This was also the problem with the Tasmanian crisis when the cable went.

    This should lead us to questioning why we need such technology. Tasmania does not need to import power from Victoria – and certainly not power generated from brown coal. Why do we do it and what is the basis for the clamour for a second cable?

    Similarly in South Australia. Why does South Australia need to import coal generated power when it had its own self sufficient system.

    The answer I come back to, and seems to be where the Feds are taking us, is to create a national grid or “market”. In my view this is the real cause of both events. Its not the job of the Federal Government (or at least it wasn’t) If South Australia wants to rely on wind and solar, that’s their business, surely. And if they want to close down their own coal fired generation and use Victoria’s, that’s their business too.

    But instead of focusing on the inadequacies of the infrastructure and operating policies of South Australia and Tasmania, we get sidetracked into pointless political debates.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Brian, did you read Neville’s link above which led to this prediction two years ago, that it was bound to happen:

      Let’s be clear: the South Australian electricity supply is the cleanest it has ever been and it is the most vulnerable, volatile and fragile than any time in recent history with no signs of relief in the short-term. As much as many people, including me, want the former (clean power), we are shooting ourselves and our wishes in the head if we keep contributing to the latter. There are few worse advertisements for clean energy than the current market in South Australia. Short-sighted over-development of variable generation without compensatory planning and policy has driven consequences that were entirely foreseeable.

      “Where SA has zero synchronous generation online, and is separated from the rest of the NEM, AEMO is unable to maintain frequency in the islanded SA power system. This would result in state-wide power outage”. (Australian Energy Market Operator Ltd & Electranet 2014, p. 12)

      • Brian Austen says:

        Thanks, I had not read this. Having now done so, I don’t think my position needs changing much.

        Except that as well as obvious overreach to wind and solar, there is also a national overreach. Had there been no national grid there would be no Bass Strait cable outage. In South Australia’s case more attention might have been given to the quoted report and the inadequate infrastructure.

        But judging by the Turnbull response, the direction will continue. But will the infrastructural issues be addressed.

        This another example of following after fads and short term responses rather than science and common sense policies.

        • Brian Austen says:

          I forgot to add a question about the adequacy of a proposed battery storage system . If that is a goer to what extent will power from Victoria be required.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Are you serious, Brian? In the absence of endless hydro there is no better “battery storage system” than a reliable grid with base load.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      As I understand it, there are only a few years left of coal at Leigh Creek, and no easily accessible coal elsewhere in the State. Locally generated power is a problem.

    • David says:

      You raise some good points,

      To which I would add, it seems to me that the people complaining most are those denialists who remain totally reliant on fossil fuels for their power. The Green households with their solar panels, and power storage, were fine. The really clever people, who had taken some appropriate steps to prepare for AGW would have been wondering what all the fuss was about from the comfort of their solar powered, energy efficient homes.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Davey, do you really have the slightest idea of what it takes to go 100% off-grid without any F/F backup and 100% renewable?

        You obviously don’t or you wouldn’t claim those premises to be energy efficient.

        That energy costs at least 10 times what the average person pays for grid power.

        How is that efficient?

        And can you point to one premises, anywhere, that is 100% off grid that doesn’t have F/F backup?

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Two further comments on our day leaving SA. First, the behaviour of motorists during the outage seems too have been exemplary. No police and no traffic lights could have meant disaster, but it seems that at intersections people quickly got the idea of even turns, so that each line kept moving. No road rage. Was this only because of the unexpected crisis?

    Second, north of Burra today, with a stiff wind blowing, dozens of giant wind turbines were still. Was this because there was no need for power, or because the wind was too strong?

  • Neville says:

    Jo Nova provides more evidence that Dr Hansen was correct. Josh Frydenburg was also on the money when he stated that India and China etc will blow out co2 emissions for decades to come. India by 200% and China by 100%. So much for OZ lefties promising to reduce our co2 emissions by 50%. That’s a 100% rock solid guarantee of zero change to the weather/climate/temp at all.
    Of course should Labor win the next election they will happily do a Rudd/Gillard/Rudd and export as much coal, gas and iron ore that it is possible to ship overseas.
    These dopey hypocrites couldn’t care less about fossil fuel use or co2 emissions. So what is their motivation and why do they want to harm our economy for a guaranteed zero return?

    • spangled drongo says:

      Thanks for the links to logic, Nev.

      The total denialist delusion of the Green Dream is oh so obvious, ain’t it?

      There are none so blind as those that will not see.

      And if they cannot see, as well, it always helps to convince the mindless and keep them [awa our pathetic media] perennially stupid.

      • Ross says:

        Can you ‘see’ the power lines flat on their backs, in the photo, drongo?
        I’m sure the wind turbines were just out of shot.

        • spangled drongo says:

          And guess what, rossie?

          Those pylons are still flat on their backs.

          But the power is back on.

          What do you suppose that tells you?

  • Ross says:

    That the blackout wasn’t caused by renewables?

    • spangled drongo says:

      If you can’t see from that, that the pylons collapse were not the problem then there is no hope for you Green Dreamers.

      Dumb decisions and dumber conclusions.

      Oh, dear.

      Brave new world.

      • Ross says:

        More high winds in NSW and ACT. More blackouts. What’s the conspiracy there?
        My advice to you, Turnbull and any other shill for the coal industry. Stop tilting at turbines.

  • Neville says:

    Some of the left in Germany are starting to wake up to the mitigation fra-d and con tricks. So called renewables like S&W are an environmental disaster and won’t change the weather/climate in any measurable way.
    But how much longer before the lefties bite the bullet and demand the use of new nuclear technology to provide future cheap, reliable power. At least Dr Hansen is genuine in regard to his concerns about fairy tale S&W energy. OF course new nukes won’t change the weather/ climate either, but at least reliable base load power is the verifiable result.


  • Neville says:

    Jennifer Marohasy has a post update on the storm that hit SA. Bill Kininmonth sent her this comment.

    Former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre, Bill Kininmonth, recently emailed me:

    “The warm water has increased the supply of moisture feeding into the airflow over Australia. The moisture increases by nearly 7 percent with each degree C temperature rise. The cold water to the south and west of Australia tightens the temperature gradient and increases the potential for storm development (technically it is called increasing baroclinic instability). It is normal to have a period of tightening temperature gradient during spring time – the nearby ocean and land of southern Australia are cold after winter but the approach of summer is warming ocean and water of north Australia. Because of this annual tightening of the gradient, spring is the wettest period with often strong storms over southeast Australia. This year has been particularly wet and stormy because of the pattern of sea surface temperature anomalies. It is not climate change”.


  • Don Aitkin says:

    It seems that the cause was a bit of both, at least according to the initial report from the Australian Energy Market Operator:

    ‘The preliminary report explains how severe weather moved through South Australia on the afternoon of Wednesday 28 September 2016, with high winds, thunderstorms, lightning strikes, hail, and heavy rainfall. The weather resulted in multiple transmission system faults including, in the space of 12 seconds, the loss of three major 275 kV transmission lines north of Adelaide.
    Generation initially rode through the faults, but at 16:18hrs, following multiple faults in a short period, 315 MW of wind generation disconnected, affecting the region north of Adelaide. The uncontrolled reduction in generation increased the flow on the main Victorian interconnector (Heywood) to make up the deficit and resulted in the interconnector overloading.
    To avoid damage to the interconnector, the automatic-protection mechanism activated, tripping the interconnector and resulting in the remaining customer load and electricity generation in SA being lost. This automatic-protection operated in less than half a second at 16:18hrs and the event resulted in the SA regional electricity market being suspended.’

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    Deny, deny, deny…
    From the ABC site
    Former Clean Energy Council head Matthew Warren says the impact of wind power must be a consideration as the post-mortem of the South Australian blackout continues
    South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the report confirmed early advice that the outage was caused by a weather event, “not a renewable energy event”.
    The cover-up was predictable from the start.

    • Nga says:

      The cover-up was predictable from the start.

      Schizophrenia with paranoid delusions? Get your GP to refer you to a new psychiatrist.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “The Preliminary Report makes it clear that while the weather was responsible for multiple transmission system faults, the blackout did not occur until after the sudden loss of 315 megawatts of wind output at six separate sites over a six second period,” said Director of Research Brett Hogan. “The South Australian Government and the renewables industry can no longer credibly argue that the reasons for the fault relied solely on the weather. Images of downed pylons do not tell the whole story.”

  • Neville says:

    Andrew Bolt’s editorial on his TV show last night provides a fair summary of the SA blackout . Even their ABC gave Weatherall a hard time this morning on AM and he didn’t sound very convincing. Here’s a link to the Bolt summary, graphs and timing included.


  • Neville says:

    Here is Jo Nova’s detailed summary of the AEMO report. Also good to see the Australian’s Graeme Lloyd taking up the fight against the extremist’s spin.


  • Don Aitkin says:

    The website has not been hacked, as some of you may well have thought, but it was taken off line, with a lot of others, by an intermediate provider because a hacker had got into another website hosted by the provider. All websites were out until the problem was fixed, which apparently it has been. I’m sorry that this occurred. It is the first such interruption since the website started in July 2012.

  • Neville says:

    From the BOM , about S A September rainfall, weather and much colder conditions. This was the 5th wettest Sept on record, with the wettest Sept in 1913. And the coldest for about 20 years.

    Here is the link. http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/month/sa/summary.shtml

    Monday, 3 October 2016 – Monthly Climate Summary for South Australia – Product code IDCKGC13R0
    South Australia in September 2016: Heavy rainfall and cooler than average temperatures

    The passage of several vigorous frontal systems, low pressure troughs and intense low pressure systems, in particular on the 14th-15th and 28th-29th brought heavy, and in many locations, record-breaking September rainfall. These conditions resulted in below average temperatures, with particularly cooler than usual days for much of the month. Daytime temperatures were more than 3 °C cooler than average across the northern parts of the State. The intense low pressure system on the 28th-29th produced exceptionally low surface air pressure across southern and central districts. Wind gusts up to 115 km/h were recorded on the Eyre Peninsula, with land gales persisting in excess of 80 km/h at several locations as the system crossed the southern coast.
    Heavy rainfall results in very wet September

    Highest September daily rainfall on record reported between the 9th and 15th or between the 29th and 30th
    In the 24 hours to 9am on the 15th, 101.4 mm of rainfall was recorded at Uraidla, in the Mount Lofty Ranges, marking the sixth-highest September daily rainfall total on record for South Australia, behind the State record of 149.4 mm at Wirrabara Forest observed on 19 September 1913.
    With much of the State reporting more than double the monthly average, many sites had their wettest September on record
    For the State as whole, it was the fifth wettest September on record

    Colder than average days across much of the State

    Daytime temperatures were more than 3 °C below average across the northeast of the State, and up to 2 °C cooler than average about the agricultural areas
    In the Northeast Pastoral district; sites in the region reported their coolest September days in more in about 20 years
    The passage of a vigorous cold front resulted in several locations having their coldest September day on record on the 12th or 13th

    Colder than average nights through Central districts

    Minimum temperatures were 1 to 2 °C cooler than average across most central districts, this saw several sites report their coolest September nights in about 20 years
    Night time temperatures were closer to average across the far northeast and lower southeast districts

    Strong winds and deep low pressure

    A deep and intense low pressure system saw wind gusts in excess of 100 km/h across the Eyre and Yorke Peninsulas on the 29th, with Neptune Island recording a west-southwesterly gust of 120 km/h
    The low pressure system produced exceptionally low air pressure readings, below 980 hPa, across southern areas

    • David says:

      Thanks for that potted history of the weather for the State of Australia for the month of September 2016. Any chance you might grace us with a, you know, point to any of this.

      • Nga says:

        David, Neville has been touring Australia with his hospital grade rectal thermometer just to make sure that the BOM isn’t fiddling the books. Neville will give us an “update” shortly. Stay glued to this program.

        • spangled drongo says:

          You’re a bit “behind” the times, enge, especially for an anal retentive like you.

          Hospital grade thermometers are used in many different places these days.

          Of course, where you choose to put them, yourself, is entirely up to you.

          • margaret says:

            Trump is really having an effect even on the other side of the world.

          • spangled drongo says:

            As in the way you women are becoming increasingly horrified at what men say in response to what women say?

            Isn’t that the Hill ‘n’ Bill card?

  • […] Since Bev comes from South Australia, these trips usually include a visit to Adelaide, and as readers will know, we managed to time our trip this year to incorporate the worst weather in southern Australia for a […]

  • Neville says:

    Here’s some more evidence for the silly people who ignore simple logic and reason and grade one maths. The BOM can’t even give an accurate forecast for the month ahead. So how can we trust them to forecast the entire planet’s climate/temp for 100 years and beyond?

    And they’re not real flash when it comes to other predictions involving their other CAGW icons. Like droughts and floods, extreme weather events, so called dangerous SLR, polar bears, Antarctic temps, Greenland temps etc.

    BTW their nonsense about the death of king coal is taking a beating as well. Even Dr Hansen agrees that Paris COP 21 is just BS and fra-d and yet these fundamentalists still hold onto their beliefs. But it’s always difficult to seperate true cultists from their core religious beliefs. Simple logic and reason should be enough I suppose, but don’t bet on it.


  • Neville says:

    Here’s a very good post by Dr Roy Spencer looking at crop yields and rainfall since 1900. Here’s the link.


    Global Warming be Damned: Record Corn, Soybeans, Wheat
    October 14th, 2016

    For many years we have been warned that climate change is creating a “climate crisis”, with heat and drought reducing agricultural yields to the point that humanity will suffer. Every time there’s a drought, we are told that this is just one more example of human-caused climate change.

    But droughts have always occurred. The question is: Are they getting worse? And, has modest warming had any effects on grain yields?

    We have yet to experience anything like the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, or the mega-droughts the western U.S. tree ring record suggests occurred in centuries past.

    And even if they do occur, how do we know they were not caused by the same natural factors that cause those previous droughts? While “global warming” must cause more precipitation overall (because there is more evaporation), whether this means increased drought conditions anywhere is pretty difficult to predict because it would require predicting an average change in weather patterns, which climate models so far have essentially no skill at.

    So, here we are with yet another year (2016) experiencing either record or near-record yields in corn, soybeans, and wheat. Even La Nina, which was widely feared would cause reduced crop yields this year, did not materialize.

    How can this be?

    How has Climate Changed in the U.S. Corn Belt?

    Let’s start with precipitation for the main growing months of June-July-August over the 12-state Corn Belt (IL, IN, IA, KS, NE, ND, SD, MO, WI, MN, MI, OH). All data come from official NOAA sources. Since 1900, if anything, there has been a slight long-term increase in growing season precipitation:


    In fact, the last three years (2014-16) has seen the highest 3-yr average precip amount in the entire record.

    If we examine temperature, there has been some warming in recent decades, but nothing like that predicted for the same region from the CMIP5 climate models:


    That plot alone should tell you that something is wrong with the climate models. It’s not even obvious a statistically significant warming has occurred, let alone attribute it to a cause, given all of the adjustments (or lack of proper adjustments) that have been made to the surface thermometer data over the years. Note the models also cannot explain the Dust Bowl warmth of the 1930s, because the models do not mimic the natural changes in Pacific Ocean circulation which are believed to be the cause.

    So, has Climate Change Not Influenced Grain Yields?

    Let’s assume the temperature and precipitation observations accurately reveal what has really happened. Has climate change since 1960 impacted corn yields in the U.S.?

    As part of some consulting I do for a company that monitors grain markets and growing conditions around the world, last year I quantified how year-to-year variations in U.S. corn yields depend on year-to-year changes in precipitation and temperature, over the period 1960 through 2014. I then applied that relationship to the long-term trends in precipitation and temperature.

    What I found was that there might be a small long-term decrease in yields due to climate change, but it is far exceeded by technological advancements that increase yields.

    In fact, based upon studies of the dependence of corn yield on CO2 fertilization, the negative climate impact is even outweighed by the CO2 fertilization effect alone. (More CO2 is well known to fertilize, as well as increase drought tolerance and make plants more efficient in their water use).

    The people I know in the grain trading business do not even factor in climate change…primarily because they do not yet see evidence of it.

    It might well be there…but it is so overwhelmed by other positive factors, especially improved varieties, that it cannot be observed in corn yield data. In fact, if varieties can be made more heat tolerant, it might be that there will be no climate change impact on yields.

    So, once again, claims of severe agricultural impacts from climate change continue to reside in the realm of science fiction….in the future, if at all.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Thanks, Neville. These obvious facts have to be spelt out to the true believers but even then they will deny the truth.

      “We don’t need no steenkin’ evidence.”

      Cli-sci simply is science fiction.

  • Neville says:

    This is a comprehensive summary of the CAGW fraud that we’ve been suffering from for the past 30 years. Matt Ridley has truly outdone himself this time. Fancy wasting a trillion $ ( around the globe) on wind and solar for SFA return on the investment.


    But remember satellites have indeed shown a greening planet, but they’ve also shown that global coastal land has increased over the last 30 years. Rather stuffs up their so called dangerous SLR nonsense. The ABC’s Science show expert Robyn William’s forecast of 100 metres SLR by 2100 is a hoot. But is this really the best these ABC morons can do with over a billion $ of taxpayer funding every year? When will they wake up?


  • Neville says:

    Surprise, surprise AEMO has found that the wind generators were the major problem that caused the SA blackout. Of course coal and gas power worked fine throughout. So the super expensive, unreliable, renewable rubbish is a disaster.
    Of course renewables won’t make a scrap of difference to the weather/climate or temp in twenty years or one thousand years. Just ask Flannery, Hansen and the scientists behind the RS and NAS report. Also look at the PR ice core studies that back this up.

    Here is the Bolt link to the latest AEMO inquiry update for the SA blackout.


  • Neville says:

    Neville October 21, 2016 at 6:15 am #

    Here is this month’s video of the Matt Ridley talk at the Royal Society. This brings most of the science about AGW up to date.

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