How is climate change impacting storms?

07.06.16 By

This past weekend, storms wreaked havoc along Australia’s east coast with strong winds, giant waves and coastal flooding caused by an intense low-pressure system.


So what role, if any, did climate change play in this extreme weather event?

Climate Councillor Prof. Lesley Hughes notes that climate change is making storms (like the one that hit the east coast this weekend) more damaging.

Prof. Hughes said coastal flooding events had tripled in Sydney in the 20th century, and on present levels of climate change, today’s 1-in-100 year flood will occur every day or so by 2100.

“These storm surges are now riding in on a sea level that is much higher than before climate change really started to take hold,” she said.

“These east coast lows, have of course been around for some time and often deliver intense rainfall. However today they are occurring in an atmosphere that has about 7% more water vapour than it did fifty years ago. This increases the risk of more intense rainfall.”

In a nutshell: more intense rainfall and higher sea levels have combined to make these kinds of storms more damaging.

Australia is seeing the dangerous impacts of climate change right now, which only underpins how critical it is to phase out coal and move to renewable sources of energy.


Preview image credit: Peter Rae / Fairfax Media