Climate change is fuelling more intense and damaging storms in Australia with powerful consequences for Australia’s critical infrastructure, a new Climate Council report has found.
The report, released weeks after a violent storm knocked out South Australia’s electricity network, finds Australia is highly vulnerable to increasingly intense storms, including storm surges associated with tropical cyclones and east coast lows.
The annual frequency of potential severe thunderstorm days is likely to rise by 30% for Sydney, 22% for Melbourne and 14% for Brisbane by the end of the century.
The report finds:
- The annual frequency of potential severe thunderstorm days is likely to rise by 14% for Brisbane, 22% for Melbourne, and 30% for Sydney by the end of the century.
- Climate change exacerbates coastal flooding from storm surges as storms ride on higher sea levels. The risk of coastal flooding from storms has increased significantly as sea levels have risen about 20 cm and are projected to increase 0.3-1.0 m by the end of the century.
- A sea-level rise of only 0.5 m by 2100 would mean that a 1-in-100 year flood – a very rare event today – would occur every few months by the end of the century.
- Extreme rainfall events, east coast lows and tropical cyclones are all projected to become more intense, and the frequency of extreme thunderstorm weather is projected to increase over Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in the latter part of the century.
- Australia’s infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century and is unprepared for more intense rainfall events, coastal storms and rising sea levels.
The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen, a world-renowned climate scientist, said all extreme weather events were happening in an atmosphere that was packing more energy and carrying more moisture than it did in the 1950s.
“Climate change is already exacerbating storms and storm damage. Our infrastructure is built for last century, not for a changing climate and a number of our major cities and towns are vulnerable. ” Professor Steffen said.
“We need to ensure communities are prepared for increasing risks, as well as tackling climate change by transitioning away from coal, oil and gas, the drivers of climate change”
“Australia must do its fair share of meeting the global emissions reduction challenge by cutting its emissions rapidly and deeply to help stabilise the world’s climate and reduce the risk of more extreme storm events.”
Climate Councillor Andrew Stock, a 40-year energy veteran, said an increase in storms had severe consequences for Australia’s critical infrastructure, particularly electricity infrastructure.
“The South Australian storm knocked over two dozen transmission towers, which is virtually unprecedented,” he said.
“The resilience of all our major infrastructure and essential services needs to be designed for the increasing intensity and severity of extreme weather which we are experiencing as a result of climate change.
“More renewable energy from a diverse range of sources, increased interconnection and fast response energy storage will ensure a grid that is not only more resilient to extreme weather but also meets our climate change commitments.”
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