Written By: Natalie Baer
New research lead by the Bureau of Meteorology -Australia’s official weather forecast provider has found that flooding aggravated by climate change would have a “catastrophic impact” on coastal communities in eastern Australia.
The study, which analyzed an historical database of major floods and their associated weather systems occurring in a 1500km strip in coastal southeastern Australia during 1860 to 2012, has identified the two types of weather systems that triggered all of the period’s 253 major floods: East Coast Lows (ECLs) and Tropical Interactions.
Results found that East Coast Lows were responsible for triggering 57% of major flooding, while Tropical Interactions such as tropical cyclones precipitated 43%, which together, accounted for 600 deaths.
The findings from the study, presented at the Greenhouse 2013 conference in Adelaide, warn that if these floods were to repeat themselves in the near future climate change would increase water evaporation and rainfall –both recipes for increased cyclones, which would pose great danger to coastal communities.
Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Scott Power, co-author of the report said, “If you look at the major cyclone of 1954, it caused deaths on the Gold Coast, but only 18,000 people lived there at the time. Now it’s more like 750,000.”
He added, “Weather prediction is much better now than it was then, but there’s the potential for absolutely catastrophic impacts if that were to occur again today.”
Earlier this month, scientists also warned that Australia’s native koala population could be threatened with extinction by climate change, as extreme weather and temperature conditions are rapidly lowering their numbers.
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