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Increasing Cost of Natural Hazards as Climate Changes

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A study of Australian natural hazards paints a picture of increasing heatwaves and extreme bushfires as the century progresses, but there is much more uncertainty about the future of storms and rainfall.

The study, published in a special edition of Climatic Change, documents the historical record and projected change of seven natural hazards in Australia: flood, storms (including wind and hail), coastal extremes, drought, heatwaves, bushfires and frost.

“Temperature-related hazards, particularly heatwaves and bushfires, are increasing, and projections show a high level of agreement that we will continue to see these hazards become more extreme into the 21st century,” says issue editor A/Prof Seth Westra of the Intelligent Water Decisions group at The University of Adelaide.

“Other hazards, particularly those related to storms and rainfall, are more ambiguous. Cyclones are projected to occur less frequently, but when they do occur they may well be more intense. In terms of rainfall-induced floods we have conflicting lines of evidence, with some analyses pointing to an increase into the future and others pointing to a decrease.

“One thing that became very clear is how much all these hazards are interconnected. For example, drought leads to drying out of the land surface, which in turn can lead to increased risk of heat waves and bushfires, while...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.