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Truth is Powerful

Yes, Australia is a land of flooding rains. But climate change could be making it worse

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Etching of the 1867 flood in the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley, depicting the Eather family. illustrated Sydney News/author provided By Joelle Gergis , Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, Australian National University .

Over the past three years, I’ve been working on the forthcoming report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . I’m a climate scientist who contributed to the chapter on global water cycle changes . It’s concerning to think some theoretical impacts described in this report may be coming to life – yet again – in Australia.

The recent flooding in New South Wales is consistent with what we might expect as climate change continues.

Australia’s natural rainfall patterns are highly variable. This means the influence climate change has on any single weather event is difficult to determine; the signal is buried in the background of a lot of climatic “noise”.

But as our planet warms, the water-holding capacity of the lower atmosphere increases by around 7% for every 1℃ of warming . This can cause heavier rainfall, which in turn increases flood risk.

The oceans are also warming, especially at the surface. This drives up both evaporation rates and the transport of moisture into weather systems. This makes wet seasons and […]

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