Public Release: 7-Nov-2016
Increasing cost of natural hazards as climate changes
University of Adelaide
A new comprehensive study of Australian natural hazards paints a picture of increasing heatwaves and extreme bushfires as this century progresses, but with much more uncertainty about the future of storms and rainfall.
Published today (Tuesday 8 November) in a special issue of the international journal Climatic Change, the study documents the historical record and projected change of seven natural hazards in Australia: flood; storms (including wind and hail); coastal extremes; drought; heatwave; bushfire; and frost.
"Temperature-related hazards, particularly heatwaves and bushfires, are increasing, and projections show a high level of agreement that we will continue to see these hazards become more extreme into the 21st century," says special issue editor Associate Professor Seth Westra, Head of the Intelligent Water Decisions group at the University of Adelaide.
"Other hazards, particularly those related to storms and rainfall, are more ambiguous. Cyclones are projected to occur less frequently but when they do occur they may well be more intense. In terms of rainfall-induced floods we have conflicting lines of evidence with some analyses pointing to an increase into the future and others pointing to a decrease.
"One thing that became very clear is how much all these hazards are interconnected. For example drought leads to drying out of the land surface, which in turn can lead to increased risk of heat waves and bushfires, while also potentially leading to a decreased risk of flooding."
The importance of interlinkages between climate extremes was also noted in the coastal extremes paper: "On the open coast, rising sea levels are increasing the flooding and erosion of storm-induced high waves and storm surges," says CSIRO's Dr Kathleen McInnes, the lead author of the coastal extremes paper. "However, in estuaries where considerable infrastructure resides, rainfall runoff adds to the complexity of extremes."
tags: extreme weather