The results of research looking into what will happen to the Australian climate if and when a global increase of 4º Celsius across the world takes place was presented by CSIRO’s Dr Penny Whetton at the Four Degrees climate change conference in Melbourne.
Dr Whetton, a CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship climate researcher, noted that a 4º C increase above the annual average temperatures recorded in 1850 is likely if greenhouse gas emissions continue apace.
“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
The results presented come from a joint paper written by researchers from CSIRO and Melbourne University which look at results from up to 23 global climate models. Some of the climate changes expected are;
- Temperature increases of about 3ºC to 5ºC in coastal areas and 4ºC to 6ºC in inland areas
- Likely declines of annual rainfall in southern Australia, particularly in winter, of up to about 50% but uncertain rainfall changes in other regions
- Marked increases of potential evaporation of about 5% to 20%
- More droughts in southern Australia
- Snow cover duration falling to zero in most alpine regions.
“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.
CSIRO were the authors of national climate projections in 1990, 1992, 1996 and 2001 and, jointly with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), in 2007, with the next one due in 2014 which is timed to follow the next global assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“In three years, Australians will have the latest climate projections for the 21st Century for a range of factors including; sea levels, seasonal-average temperatures, rainfall, as well as extreme weather events such as heatwaves, fires, droughts, floods, and cyclones,” Dr Whetton said.
“Our research will only be of value if it is clearly communicated and then rigorously applied in formulating adaptation strategies.”