Research brief: Natural hazards in Australia

In a special issue of Climatic Change, The effect of historical and future climate changes on natural hazards in Australia, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science researchers helped compile review papers on sea level and coastal extremes; heatwaves; and storm, wind and hail. You can find a brief summary on each of these review papers below.

 

Sea level and coastal extremes

The Australian coastal zone encompasses tropical, sub- and extra-tropical climates and accommodates about 80% of Australia’s population. Sea level extremes and their physical impacts in the coastal zone arise from a complex set of atmospheric, oceanic and terrestrial processes that interact on a range of spatial and temporal scales and will be modified by a changing climate, including sea level rise.

This review details significant progress over recent years in understanding the causes of past and projections of future changes in sea level and coastal extremes, yet a number of research questions, knowledge gaps and challenges remain. These include efforts to improve knowledge on past sea level extremes, integrate a wider range of processes in projections of future changes to sea level extremes, and focus efforts on understanding long-term coastline response from the combination of contributing factors. 
Paper: Natural hazards in Australia: Sea level and coastal extremes.

 

Storm, wind and hail

Current and potential future storm-related wind and hail hazard in Australia is reviewed. The confidence in the current incidence of wind hazard depends upon the type of storm producing the hazard. Currently, hail hazard is poorly quantified in most regions of Australia.

Future projections of wind hazard indicate decreases in wind hazard in northern Australia, increases along the east coast and decreases in the south - although such projections are considerably uncertain and are more uncertain for small-scale storms than for larger storms. A number of research gaps are identified and recommendations made.
Paper: Natural hazards in Australia: Storm, wind and hail.

 

Heatwaves

As part of a special issue on natural hazards, this paper reviews the current state of scientific knowledge of Australian heatwaves. Over recent years, progress has been made in understanding both the causes of and changes to heatwaves. Relationships between atmospheric heatwaves and large-scale and synoptic variability have been identified, with increasing trends in heatwave intensity, frequency and duration projected to continue throughout the 21st century.

However, more research is required to further our understanding of the dynamical interactions of atmospheric heatwaves, particularly with the land surface.

Research into marine heatwaves is still in its infancy, with little known about driving mechanisms, and observed and future changes.

In order to address these knowledge gaps, recommendations include: focusing on a comprehensive assessment of atmospheric heatwave dynamics; understanding links with droughts; working towards a unified measurement framework; and investigating observed and future trends in marine heatwaves. Such work requires comprehensive and long-term collaboration activities. However, benefits will extend to the international community, thus addressing global grand challenges surrounding these extreme events.
Paper: Natural hazards in Australia: Heatwaves.

Photo (top left): Epic storm at Tweed Heads by Andy Kothe-Deeley.

 

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