Monday, February 14, 2011

Large storms more likely in future, experts say

By environment reporter Sarah Clarke and staff

ABC News Online, Mon Feb 14, 2011 
While Queenslanders deal with a summer of natural disasters, climate scientists are warning that Australia faces a future of more frequent extreme weather events.
The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry is scrutinising the preparation and response to the 2011 floods, but planners are already looking ahead to minimise the loss of the past.
According to new modelling, Australia can expect 25 per cent more rain than was seen in the Queensland floods by the end of this century, as well as larger, more frequent storms.
"The modelling that's been done by CLIM Systems in New Zealand has shown that in 2100 there could be a 25 per cent increase in rainfall," sustainability consultant Stella Whittaker said.
"Now what that means is that the large storms which we currently describe as one-in-100-year storms, they are going to be more likely and it really means that people can see this type of event happening more than once in their lifetime."
And in the wake of events like last month's floods, Ms Whittaker says governments and companies have put climate change at the forefront of their decision-making, despite the warnings it is not yet widespread or routine.
"There are lots of companies who are planning for 2100 across all of the sectors. The property sector has probably been the first ones to actually do detailed assessments of bushfire risks, sea level rise and extreme events. That work is really only just beginning," she said.
"[There] might be a change to levels of where infrastructure is built or bridges. It might be a different sort of material that is used, it might be looking at a different route entirely so that is beginning to be factored in."
With that in mind, the advice for Queensland from scientists is to build in the resilience that is needed to withstand a future of extremes.
"If you build houses or if you build infrastructure such that it is not vulnerable to the observed variability in climate over the last 50 or 100 years, I think you will build in a lot of the resilience you need for the future that climate scientists are projecting," said Andy Pitman, a climate scientist from the University of New South Wales.
"Not all of it, but you will have built enough resilience to give us a reasonable chance of dealing with the economic impacts of climate change in many of the regions of Australia."

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