Extreme weather events on the rise


Extreme weather events on the rise

Photo of the cyclone that swept across Lennox Head in 2010, by Josh Lambie, 11 years old.
Photo of the cyclone that swept across Lennox Head in 2010, by Josh Lambie, 11 years old.

EXTREME weather events will increase in magnitude and frequency as a result of climate change, a Senate inquiry has found, and the North Coast will suffer from more cyclonic weather, storms, king tides and coastal erosion.

The inquiry, Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events, released its findings this week.

It has recommended better co-ordination between governments and community service groups when dealing with extreme weather.

Taxes and levies to insurance should be removed as part of a national reform process, and reliable flood mapping for land-owners should be developed.

More research into the link between climate change and extreme weather events was also needed.

Southern Cross University Professor of Geography Dr Bill Boyd agreed it was “highly likely” that extreme weather events would increase.

“There is good evidence that an area such as the North Coast will be affected more by cyclonic weather,” he said.

“We already experience tail ends of tropical cyclones.

“I would expect this will be more common in the future, as the cyclones track further south or become more intense.

“We have also recently experienced increased storminess.

“It appears that storms have become more frequent, resulting in the coastal zone having less recovery time between storms.

“Local extreme weather events such as the tornados that hit the Lennox/Byron coast are very hard to predict, so it is unrealistic to expect localised forecasts.”

Coastal erosion will also continue, Dr Boyd said.

He said that coastal erosion on sandy coasts normally reverses over time and the beaches recover.

But if cyclonic or stormy weather happens more frequently, the coast will lose its natural capacity to recover.

“This will result in the loss of land, especially as the coastal dune system becomes degraded,” he said.

“Especially vulnerable are coastal spits such as those at Wooli and Belongil.”

Sea levels will rise and there will be more king tides.

Dr Boyd said this would flood estuaries and back up drainage systems, causing indirect flooding on the coastal plan.

“These types of change will affect the most densely populated parts of the North Coast, putting pressure on coastal land use and development,” he said.

Decisions about development have long-term effects, Dr Boyd said, and planning authorities should make use of the “good and valid” available to model flooding and sea-level rise.

“The problem is that many areas that would be affected to extreme weather events are already developed,” he said.

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