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Australian climate change extreme weather risks identified

Australian climate change extreme weather risks were identified in a new issue of the journal Climatic Change.

Drought, wildfires, heat waves, fewer but stronger storms, increased flooding in coastal areas: these are just a few of the weather extremes Australia could face in the near future due to climate change, according to a special issue of the journal Climatic Change. The issue highlights the research efforts of more than 45 scientists at 11 universities to uncover the details of Australian climate change, and what effects it may continue to cause in the future.

The picture of the future is not encouraging, according to editor Seth Westra, an associate professor at the University of Adelaide and head of the school’s Intelligent Water Decisions group.

Dr. Westra pointed to one paper that found Australian heatwaves and bushfires have increased in frequency over the past decades, and that the trend seems likely to continue. Another paper found that major storms such as cyclones were decreasing in frequency, but could become more intense and cause more damage when they do occur. A third study found that floods have become more damaging even as they’ve decreased in size because of land management practices and rising population.

Much of the research found underlying connections between changes in Australia’s climate and extreme weather patterns on the continent.

The goal of the special issue was to map out the effects, such as deforestation and more urbanization, of Australia’s growing and changing population. It also sought to get a clearer picture of what consequences future changes in Australia’s climate could bring, so that better planning can be put into place.

Studies have shown that global climate change is causing major environmental changes in Australia, and the continent could be hardest hit by rising temperatures during the next century.

The special issue was organized by the Australian Water and Energy Exchange Research Initiative, a nonprofit community volunteer organization that promotes collaboration and sharing of data. It includes research from scientists with the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology, Australian National University, Curtin University, Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide, University of Newcastle, University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania, University of Western Australia and University of Wollongong.

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