Hotter and drier

Australia will get even hotter and drier due to climate change. Temperatures had already increased, sea levels had risen and the oceans surrounding the country had warmed, Scott Power, principal research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology said on 3 Oct 2007. "Further warming and further sea level rise seems inevitable," he said, releasing a major new report, Climate Change in Australia by Bureau and the CSIRO.

Temperatures up
Temperatures were expected to rise by about 1°Celsius by 2030 and could rise more. Temperatures in Australia have already risen by 0.9°C since 1950, producing the hottest year on record in 2005 (1.09°C above the standard 1961-90 average). 2007 may prove to have been even hotter.

At low emissions of greenhouse gases, warming of between 1°C and 2.5°C was expected by 2070, with a best estimate of 1.8°C. At high emissions, the best estimate was warming of 3.4°C, in a range of 2.2°C to 5°C. The report predicts fewer frosts and substantially more days over 35°C.

Less water

Rainfall is forecast to decrease by up to 20% by 2070 in southern Australia if greenhouse gas emissions are low and by up to 30% if gas emissions are high. Rainfall during the last month in the Murray-Darling Basin was the lowest on record.

Australia was likely to be hit harder by climate change than other sub-tropical parts of the world. Frequently recurring drought will be more severe because of higher temperatures and periods of high fire danger will continue to increase, as well as coastal flooding from storms. Our inland agriculture, producing grain, wool and meat for export will suffer more than coastal areas. Our wheat crop has already been hit hard by drought in 2002, 2006 and 2007. There will be much less water for irrigated crops, which include grapes, cotton and rice.

City water supplies are vulnerable. Most of our cities have now had years of well below-average rainfall and water use restrictions are now permanently in force across most of southern Australia.