more than doubled since the 1970s.

Ron Campbell, the mayor of Narrabri Shire, which includes Wee Waa, said his area was still waiting for government payments to offset damage from past catastrophes. He wondered when governments would stop paying for infrastructure repairs after every emergency.

“The costs are just enormous, not just here but at all the other places in similar circumstances,” he said.

60 percent of the trees in some places. Cattle farmers culled so much of their herds during the drought that beef prices have risen more than 50 percent as they rush to restock paddocks nourished (nearly to death) by heavy rain.

Bryce Guest, a helicopter pilot in Narrabri, once watched the dust bowls grow from above. Then came “just a monstrous amount of rain,” he said, and new kind of job: flights to mechanical pumps pushing water from fields to irrigation dams in a last-ditch effort to preserve crops that had been heading for a record harvest.

On one recent flight, he pointed to mountains of stored grain — worth six figures, at least — that were ruined by the rains, with heavy equipment trapped and rusting next to it. Further inland, a home surrounded by levees had become a small island accessible only by boat or copter.

“Australia is all about water — everything revolves around it,” he said. “Where you put your home, your stock. Everything.”

The flood plains in what is known as the Murray-Darling basin stretch out for hundreds of miles, not unlike the land at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The territory is so flat that towns can be cut off with roads flooded by less than an inch of additional rain.

That happened a few weeks ago in Bedgerabong, a few hundred miles south of Narrabri. On a recent afternoon, a couple of teachers were being driven out of town in a hulking fire truck — equipment for one disaster often serves another. Across a flooded road behind them, three other teachers had decided to camp out so they could provide some consistency for children who had already been kept out of school for months by pandemic lockdowns.

Paul Faulkner, 55, the principal of the school (total enrollment: 42), said that many parents craved social connection for their children. The Red Cross has sent in booklets for those struggling with stress and anxiety.

“Covid has kept everyone from their families,” he said. “This just isolates them even more.”

He admitted that there were a few things they did not discuss; Santa, for one. The town is expected to be cut off until after the holidays as the waters that rose with surging rains over a few days take weeks to drain and fade.

In Wee Waa, where the water has started to recede, supplies and people flowed in and out last week by helicopter and in a small boat piloted by volunteers.

Still, there were shortages everywhere — mostly of people. In a community of around 2,000 people, half of the teachers at the local public school couldn’t make it to work.

At the town’s only pharmacy, Tien On, the owner, struggled with a short-handed staff to keep up with requests. He was especially concerned about delayed drug deliveries by helicopter for patients with mental health medications.

Ms. Southwell, 69, was better prepared than most. She spent 25 years volunteering with emergency services and has been teaching first aid for decades. After a quick trip into Wee Waa by boat, she returned to her home with groceries and patience, checking a shed for the stray cats she feeds and discovering that only one of her chickens appeared to have drowned.

She said she wasn’t sure how much climate change could be blamed for the floods; her father had put their house on higher stilts because they knew the waters would rise on occasion.

All she knew was that more extreme weather and severe challenges to the community would be coming their way.

“The worst part of it is the waiting,” she said. “And the cleanup.”

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So You Want to End the Conversation?

With vaccination spreading across the United States, social life has begun to bend toward a semblance of normalcy: dinner parties, restaurants, spontaneous encounters with strangers, friends and colleagues on the street or in the office. It’s exciting but also slightly nerve-racking.

“I think there will be a period of heightened anxiety as we meet people face-to-face again,” Adam Mastroianni, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard, told me (over the phone). “I’ve heard this from a lot of my friends, that we’re worried: Have we forgotten how to be with other people?”

I’d called Mr. Mastroianni for some help in rediscovering this ancient calculus. In March, he and his colleagues Daniel Gilbert, Gus Cooney and Timothy Wilson published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — “Do conversations end when people want them to?” — on one of the stickier aspects of human interaction. Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the prison is politeness.

When Your Company is Named Covid, You’ve Heard All the Jokes.”

  • How and when to go about viewing the Super Flower Blood Moon of 2021. (Hint: It helps if you live in Oceania, Hawaii, eastern Asia or Antarctica.)

  • According to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, there are at least 65 creatures, including humans, that make a laugh-like sound: “There could be more that, we think, are out there. Part of the reason they probably aren’t documented is because they’re probably really quiet, or just in species that aren’t well studied for now.”

  • Some of us were wondering — and now we know — why the iPhone’s “snooze” button provides exactly nine minutes of snoozing.

  • Jill Lepore, in The New Yorker, provides a brief and compelling history of burnout: “May there one day come again more peaceful metaphors for anguish, bone-aching weariness, bitter regret, and haunting loss.”

  • What went wrong in the Suez Canal, from a fluid dynamics perspective, courtesy of the Practical Engineering channel on YouTube.

  • All about the “cartoonishly evil-looking” amblypygid, sometimes known as the whip spider or tail-less whip scorpion but which, as Eric Boodman writes in Undark, is “neither spider nor scorpion.”

  • If you prefer true spiders, there’s this BBC video segment on how some make use of electric fields to get around.

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    Iceberg Splits From Antarctica, Becoming World’s Largest

    The largest iceberg on record, B15, broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000 measuring more than 4,200 square miles (11,000 square kilometers). Despite being more than twice the size of A76, Dr. Shuman said, B15 did not destabilize the Ross Ice Shelf. B15 has since fractured into several icebergs, all but one of which have melted away.

    According to Dr. Shuman, the last significant calving event on the Ronne shelf was in May 2000.

    By studying the new iceberg, researchers hope to better understand the overall state of Antarctica’s ice shelves, said David Long, who runs the Antarctic Iceberg Tracking Database at Brigham Young University.

    “Understanding when the ice sheets calve helps us understand whether some of these other more unstable ice sheets could break up or disintegrate,” he said. “And that would be important because as these more unstable ice sheets break up they can release the flow of glaciers that are held in place by the ice shelves.”

    While ice shelves are floating on the water, the glaciers behind them are on land. So if they are released into the sea and melt, that would add to sea levels, he said.

    The National Ice Center names and tracks Antarctic icebergs that are at least 10 nautical miles long or 20 square nautical miles large. The center, which is operated by the Navy, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is currently tracking 42 named icebergs.

    The question with A76 is what will happen next.

    An iceberg about 100 miles long and 30 miles wide that had broken off from the Antarctic Peninsula in 2017 raised alarm in November when it appeared to be on a collision course with the British island territory of South Georgia. That iceberg, A68a, ended up grounding off the island’s coast. If A76 hits a similar current, it could reach the Antarctic Peninsula within months and could interfere with shipping lanes there, said Christopher Readinger, the Ice Center’s Antarctica team lead.

    As A76 makes its journey, Dr. Jackson said, climatologists will be watching closely — even if much of the public isn’t. Dr. Jackson cited A68a, the iceberg that briefly threatened South Georgia.

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