Why this year brings intense severe weather to Australia
Climate experts predicted that this storm season would be a bad one, so Green Cross hit the road across regional Queensland from Miles to Roma to Goondiwindi with a range of Storm Season Community Forums supported by Suncorp Insurance, Volunteering Queensland, CSIRO and Building Codes Queensland. Find our storm season preparation and sustainable post-storm recovery tips here.
Why this looks like a bad storm season
La Niña (Spanish for "The Girl" is the meteorological label for the opposite of the better known El Niño (Spanish for "The Boy". They are opposite ends of the "Southern Oscillation Index" which is calculated from the monthly fluctuations in the air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin.
In late 2010 Australia is experiencing a strong La Nina event due to extensive cooling of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.
In Eastern Australia, La Niña events are associated with increased probability of wetter conditions.
As CSIRO's Andrew Ash discusses in The Science of Storm Season, because so much rainfall has already hit catchments across Australia's East Coast, this year floods will continue to hit hard.
This season there is a probability of more cyclones.
Climate change scientific models predict that cyclones may become more intense, and may move further South - so Green Cross is concerned about major cyclones in Queensland this storm season.
We are particularly concerned about cyclone activity this season. Griffith University expert Rodger Tomlinson talked with Mara about the possibility of storm surges on the Gold Coast.
Six months ago Green Cross and the Property Council of Australia led a hypothetical about a major cyclone hitting Southeast Queensland directly, in front of an audience of 300 business leaders in Parliament House Canberra. The panel included then Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Shadow Sustainable Cities Minister Bruce Billson. We wrote an open letter to Premier Anna Bligh, Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman and Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke - all Green Cross supporters.
How sea level rise combines with storm surge to increase impacts
For coastal communities, resilience will be challenged as gradual increases in sea level rise combine with king tides and major weather events to put social and built infrastructure at risk.
According to the Federal Department of Climate Change's Coastal Climate Change - The Science Basis report, "Many people imagine that with climate change sea level will rise gradually, like water rising in a bath. However, the combined effect of rising sea levels and changes in extreme storm events will produce much greater risks in the coastal zone than any single factor."
Explore OzCoasts sea level rise maps and you can see how a 1.1 meter sea level rise could impact on the Gold Coast looking at a 2100 scenario - picture a storm surge several metres high on top of rising seas to understand why coastal adaptation is becoming a pressing challenge for Australia.
Green Cross embraces the integration of climate change mitigation with adaptation - each time we protect, retreat and rebuild coastal infrastructure we can both reduce our greenhouse and other environmental impacts as well as building community safety and resilience.
Eco-resilience makes sense: the most sustainable approach to natural disaster preparedness is to protect our homes and neighbourhood infrastructure so they do not have to be rebuilt.
What happens in major weather events
Usually major cyclones track the Queensland coast then veer offshore, but as we saw with Cyclone Larry in 2006, they can hit land. In the case of Larry, the damage due to severe winds was widespread.
Cyclone Larry damaged 50% of homes in Innisfail - 35% of private industry was damaged as well as 25% of government buildings including schools.
During Cyclone Larry in Innisfail, wind of up to 290km/h ripped roofs from houses, demolished an ambulance station, damaged a hospital and police station, and uprooted trees
Larry rebuilding costs were estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, with up to 10,000 houses damaged and one in three losing their roofs.
Post disaster assessments of Larry showed 50% of homes in Innisfail were damaged while 35% of private industry structures needed repairs, and 25% of government buildings were severely damaged including the hospital.
The bill for Queensland's March 2010 Southwest floods ran up to the hundreds of millions, with families, businesses and properties inundated across a large portion of the State.
During floods families can incur costs significantly above what they are insured for, especially if rooftops, gutters and latches are not up to scratch. Preparing for floods can save $$$.
It can take time for help to arrive after sudden events like last year's The Gap storm in Brisbane, as we are seeing with tragic consequences in the Lockyer Valley.
The challenging gradual recovery process underway across Brisbane demonstrates why being prepared can save time, reduce environmental impacts by reducing waste and protecting homes and buildings, and reduce community risks along the way.
In Brisbane's storm at The Gap, 145 000 houses and business lost power, and over 10,000 calls were made to the SES. 4,000 houses were damaged in The Gap, and 30 became uninhabitable.
For a personal story about tips for securing your home and how neighbours can work together in the aftermath, watch the video A Case Study: The Gap - A Community Response with Andrew Ash.
Other resources we found useful
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency's Report Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coast
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency's Report Climate Change Risks To Coastal Buildings and InfrastructureError parsing XSLT file: \xslt\MoreInformation-Content.xslt