Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Australian scientists weigh climate risk

Gregor Heard in Farm Weekly (Australia): CSIRO has presented a grim picture of the realities of life in Australia should climate change lead to an average four degree rise in temperatures, as has been flagged by some researchers. The impact of the rise would see major reductions in the annual rainfall in southern Australia, marked increases in evaporation and reduced snow cover in alpine regions, according to CSIRO’s climate research Penny Whetton, who spoke at the Four Degrees Or More climate change conference in Melbourne last week.

Dr Whetton said a four degree rise in average temperatures compared with those in 1850 could happen by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions stay high. “Rapid global warming of 4ºC would be unlike anything experienced before by modern human societies – presenting us with huge challenges in terms of our ability to adapt,” Dr Whetton said.

She said the southern part of the nation would bear the brunt, with the traditional winter rainfall particularly vulnerable. “There could be likely declines of annual rainfall in southern Australia, particularly in winter, of up to about 50% but uncertain rainfall changes in other regions,” she said. Since records began in 1910, the average temperature has risen nearly 1.0 ºC.

However, Dr Whetton said this scenario was not a fait accompli. “It is important to note that although some climate change is inevitable, changes of the magnitude described here are still avoidable as long as we are able to significantly reduce global greenhouse emissions,” Dr Whetton said….

Composite satellite image of Australia

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