Friday, October 11, 2013

Floods could have catastrophic impact on Australia’s east coast, study warns

Oliver Milman in the Guardian (UK): A repeat of the worst floods charted over the past 150 years, potentially exacerbated by climate change, would have a “catastrophic impact” on coastal communities on the eastern seaboard of Australia, a new study has warned.

Bureau of Meteorology research of a 1,500km stretch of Australia’s east coast, reaching from Brisbane south to Eden, found that more than 600 people died from floods between 1860 and 2012. In total, 253 major floods occurred in this time, caused by tropical cyclones and locally originating “east coast lows”.

Many of these large floods occurred in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The report warns that a repeat of these events, with the intensity possibly ramped up by climate change, would spell disaster for communities on the coast.

Dr Scott Power, co-author of the report, told Guardian Australia: “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.

“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. It’s still very sobering to look at the data to see what has happened as far back as 1860.”

Power said despite increased understanding of extreme weather impacts, the number of lives lost from major floods has remained consistent over the past 150 years, with an average of 2.5 deaths for each event...

A flooded McDonald's parking lot in Newcastle, New South Wales, shot in 2007 by Roderick Breis, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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