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News

Climate change to increase extreme rainfall

CSIRO : 12 October, 2006  (Company News)
The climate of 2040 is likely to bring more intense and more frequent extreme rainfall events to coastal eastern Australia, according to a CSIRO climate expert.
While climatologists have suggested for some time that climate change would lead to more intense rainfall globally, results from a computer model focussing on regional Australia suggest small areas receive much more extreme rainfall.
'Global climate models simulate rainfall over areas as wide as 200 kilometres. Extreme rainfall over small areas is much more than that found over large areas where results are averaged out,' says Dr Debbie Abbs, a climate scientist at CSIRO Atmospheric Research in Melbourne.

'This means there is a need to provide extreme rainfall scenarios at regional scales so projected climate change can be factored into major infrastructure projects that are being designed to last for decades to come.'

Dr Abbs used a high-resolution model to focus the results from CSIRO's Global climate model down to 7.5 kilometre-wide areas over southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The model results for the present day compare well to observed extreme rainfall events, adding confidence in the model results for 2040.

'The most extreme rainfall events we currently experience become more frequent in 2040, with the 1-in-40 year event of today corresponding with a 1-in-15 year event in future,' she says.

'The areas of greatest increase in intensity occur over mountainous terrain, inland from Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta and north of Brisbane.'

Each year extreme rainfall events cause significant damage, as a result of flooding, in the highly urbanised regions along Australia's eastern coastline where population is increasing. Dr Abbs says that a 26% increase in flooding leads to a 60% increase in damage costs. 'With projected increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation events, the community's exposure to extreme rainfall events is growing rapidly,' says Dr Abbs.

Dr Abbs is presenting at the Australia New Zealand Climate and Water Forum in Lorne, Victoria, this week see www.bom.gov.au/events/anzcf2004 [external link, new window]. There is free day registration for media participants.
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