Newspaper reporting of the September 2016 South Australian mid-latitude cyclone

This report is the first of a series examining the way that climate change is reported on in relation to extreme weather events. It examines the mid-latitude cyclone that damaged infrastructure in South Australia on September 29 2016, causing a statewide power blackout when it brought down 22 transmission towers.

The study searched for all Australian newspaper articles that mentioned either a storm or a cyclone in relation to South Australia that had been published in the ten days either side of the event. This returned 591 articles. Most of the relevant articles were published after the storm, with warnings of the cyclone beforehand.

Key findings included:

  • 51% of articles were about the power outage and 38% were about renewables, but 12% of all articles connected these two.
  • 20% of articles focused on the event being politicised by politicians.
  • 9% of articles raised climate change as a force in the event and the blackouts.
  • 10% of articles blamed the blackouts on renewables.
  • Of all of the articles linking power outages to renewables 46% were published in News Corp and 14% were published in Fairfax.
  • Narratives that typically substituted any possibility of a link to climate change, included the “unstoppable power of nature” (18%), failure of planning (5.25%), and triumph of humanity (5.6%).