Superstorm Sandy a sign of things to come: Climate body

The aftermath of superstorm Sandy which killed more than 100 people.
The aftermath of superstorm Sandy which killed more than 100 people.

THE super storm that devastated large chunks of America's east coast this week could be a sign of things to come for south-east Queensland, the Climate Commission warns.

A paper outlining the ways climate change increased the intensity of hurricane Sandy will be released by the Climate Commission on Saturday.

The paper, which found there were "several links between hurricane Sandy and climate change", was compiled by Climate Commissioner Professor Will Steffan and Climate Commission Science Advisory Panel chair Professor Matthew England in response to questions from the public and the media.

"All the evidence suggests that climate change exacerbated the severity of hurricane Sandy," the paper reads.

The professors argue hurricane Sandy had shown how tropical storms (called hurricanes in the US) would "extend polewards in both hemispheres".

"This means that in the southern hemisphere tropical storms are likely to reach further south, while in the northern hemisphere tropical storms are likely to reach further north," the report reads.

"The track of Hurricane Sandy is consistent with this trend. In Australia there may be an increase in cyclones affecting regions of south-east Queensland."

While the total number of cyclones could become less frequent, the ones that do occur will be stronger and pose a greater risk to people, infrastructure and ecosystems.

The paper's authors write hurricane Sandy, not unlike cyclone Yasi and the 2011 Queensland floods, highlighted the costs of extreme weather.

Prof England said hurricane Sandy, which claimed the lives of at least 80 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage, had given an insight into the risks presented by climate change now and into the future.

"The shifts in climate towards higher temperatures and more moisture in the air are becoming the "new normal" which is influencing the nature and intensity of weather patterns around the world," he said.

"Storm surges had a particularly devastating impact on areas of the USA coast. A warmer world is a world with higher sea levels that make storm surges much worse."

Like The Climate Institute earlier in the week, the professors' paper will make for uncomfortable reading for governments of all levels.

Put simply, Australia's infrastructure is not equipped to deal with the effects of climate change.

"The expected trend towards more intense tropical cyclones and heavier rainfall events will expose the vulnerability of existing infrastructure, much of which has not been designed for the overheated climate we increasingly experiencing," the paper reads.

The Climate Commission was established by the Federal Government to provide independent information on climate change science and solutions.

Topics:  climate commission queensland

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