Increase in extreme fire weather risks

Extreme fire weather conditions in Australia are worsening and rainfall is reducing in some areas says new report.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO have released their fourth biennial State of the Climate report, which provides an update on the changes and long-term trends in Australia’s climate. This report provides greater intelligence for those managing climate risks including the insurance industry.

NIBA CEO Dallas Booth says “Climate risk is real and puts at risk the stability of the economy. Brokers are at the forefront of assessing the risk as well as ensuring individuals and businesses are protected against climate risk. This is a good opportunity to remind your clients to check safety precautions for the upcoming extreme weather season and to ensure they have adequate cover.”

The report states that these changes affect many Australians, particularly changes associated with increases in the frequency or intensity of heat events, fire weather and drought. Australia will need to plan for and adapt to some level of climate change. The science underpinning this report will help inform a range of economic, environmental and social decision-making and local vulnerability assessments, by government, industry and communities.

Key points from the report that affect risk management include the following:

  • Australia’s climate has warmed in both mean surface air temperature and surrounding sea surface temperature by around 1 °C since 1910.
  • The duration, frequency and intensity of extreme heat events have increased across large parts of Australia.
  • There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia since the 1970s.
  • May–July rainfall has reduced by around 19 per cent since 1970 in the southwest of Australia.
  • There has been a decline of around 11 per cent since the mid-1990s in the April–October growing season rainfall in the continental southeast.
  • Rainfall has increased across parts of northern Australia since the 1970s.
  • Oceans around Australia have warmed and ocean acidity levels have increased.
  • Sea levels have risen around Australia. The rise in mean sea level amplifies the effects of high tides and storm surges.

Future projections from the report that will influence risk management decisions include the following:

  • Australian temperatures are projected to continue increasing with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days.
  • The number of days with weather conducive to fire in southern and eastern Australia is projected to increase.
  • Winter and spring rainfall is projected to decrease across southern continental Australia, with more time spent in drought.
  • Past and ongoing greenhouse gas emissions mean further warming of ocean temperatures.
  • Sea-level rise and ocean acidification around Australia are projected to continue.