MEDIA RELEASE: Droughts and flooding rains

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Droughts and flooding rains
How climate models can help us understand causes of variations in extreme weather events and likely future changes

Australia is a land of extreme weather and climate events; a land of droughts and flooding rains. But as global warming takes hold of our planet these events appear to be more frequent and intense. The extreme rainfall and floods in 2010-2012 and heat waves with the consequent fires of 2013 – are some recent examples.

A new study published yesterday by Centre of Excellence researchers at the University of Melbourne, has shown that  Australian’s are five times more likely to experience record hot summers, such as the summer of 2013, due to global warming.

Lead author Dr Sophie Lewis from the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science said: “Our research has shown that due to greenhouse gas emissions, these types of extreme summers will become even more frequent and more severe in the future.”

The study Anthropogenic contributions to Australia’s record summer temperatures of 2013, used climate observations and more than 90 climate model simulations of summer temperatures in Australia over the past 100 years.

Climate models are giving us new insights into these events, telling us what is happening now to our weather and what will happen in the future. They are the literal embodiment of the idea of maths of planet Earth, made up of equations that represent real world processes.

These models, along with climate observations, are the cornerstone of David Karoly’s work. Karoly is a professor of Climate Science in the School of Earth Sciences at The University of Melbourne and a chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

In a co-authored study, Uncertainty in temperature projections reduced using carbon cycle and climate observations, he projects world temperatures will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius by the year 2100 – exceeding the 2 degree threshold that scientists have historically warned would lead to catastrophic climate change.

Over the past century, the Earth’s temperature has warmed by 0.8 degrees Celsius; this has led to shrinking glaciers, vanishing Arctic sea ice, increased flood risks and drought, extreme storms and rising sea levels.

“Climate models help us understand the causes of variations in these extreme events and likely future changes,” Professor Karoly said.

“Our results reconfirm the need for urgent and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avoid exceeding the global warming target of 2 degrees needed to minimise dangerous climate change.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim recognised this in a recent statement when he said: “A 4 degree Celsius warmer world can, and must, be avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

He noted that a dramatic rise in world temperatures would lead to devastating effects on the world’s agricultural and economic markets as well as mass extinction on both flora and fauna.

“It threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today,” Mr Yong Kim said.

At MPE Australia: The Conference, Professor Karoly will explore the use of climate models in understanding variations of extreme weather in Australia, including flooding and record summer temperatures in 2012/13.

Professor Karoly will be speaking at Mathematics of Planet Earth Australia where he will launch “weather@homeANZ“, a new community-based climate modelling project that draws on the power of home computers.

For Interview
Professor David Karoly
Professor of Climate Science in the School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne and Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science

Media Contact
Stephanie Pradier
M: 0424 568 314
E: stephanie@amsi.org.au[subscribe2]

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