Is Climate Change Responsible For Australian Bad Weather?

There is a strong consensus within both the Australian and international scientific community that an increase in the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activity has resulted in substantial global warming over the last century. This has led to an undeniable impact on weather in Australia. Extreme weather events such as electrical storms and tropical cyclones are becoming more frequent and more intense.

It’s estimated that global average surface temperatures have risen by an average of 0.7°C in the last 100 years. According to the State of the Climate 2012 report issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, the increase is even more dramatic in Australia, where the average temperature has increased by around 0.9°C since 1910.

Affects of Climate Change in Australia

The affects of climate change on rainfall in Australia vary according to regions, with the northern territory and north Queensland areas experiencing increased rainfall (especially in the spring and summer monsoon season). In contrast, the general trend in the southern states has been a decrease in rainfall.

Two particularly bad recent storms were Severe Tropical Cyclones Larry and Yasi. Larry hit Far North Queensland on 20th March 2006, as a Category 4 on the Australian tropical cyclone scale.

This meant that wind gusts reached 240 km per hour. Regarded as the most powerful storm to hit Queensland in a century, Larry caused damages estimated at A$1.5 billion and was, at the time, the costliest cyclone ever in Australian history.

Innisfall was where Larry made landfall and was severely damaged. Even the town of Babinda, 30 kilometres to the north, was almost destroyed with almost 80% of the buildings damaged. Including other towns in the area, around 10,000 houses were damaged in the storm.

Luckily there were no casualties, though flooding and damage to infrastructure made relief work difficult and train services were suspended for multiple days.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi outstripped Larry to become one of the most powerful cyclones to hit Queensland in recorded history. Making landfall on 3rd February 2011 as a Category 5, the destruction was on an unprecedented scale.

Estimated total for damages reached A$3.5 billion, overtaking Larry as the costliest in Australian history.

Indirectly causing one casualty, as a 23 year old man died of suffocation by generator exhaust fumes (this made it the second deadliest storm in that cyclone season.)

The storm surge reached 7m high, and went as far as 300m inland, causing widespread destruction along the coast. Flooding, caused by the storm surge and intense rainfall, caused damage to infrastructure and left thousands of people stranded for days until emergency services could rescue them.

These two examples show the effects that cyclones and other extreme weather events can have on Australia. Despite increased funds set aside for storm preparation, damages still run to multiple billions of Australian dollars.

With climate change causing these storms to become more intense, it’s important to understand how this will affect you.

Knowing how to prepare against a storm, and having appropriate insurance on your property, can protect you against the increasingly bad Australian weather.

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