Climate change will more than double the likelihood of intense tropical cyclones across much of the world over the next few decades and Australia is in the firing line, according to a new study.
Tropical cyclone hazard researcher Nadia Bloemendaal and a team of international scientists have developed a new method that combines historical cyclone data with global climate models to understand what the future may hold.
Their results suggest that the likelihood of intense tropical cyclones – category three or more on the Saffir-Simpson International Wind Scale – has more than doubled in all regions except the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mexico.
Modeling also revealed a likely decrease in the frequency of weaker weather systems such as tropical storms.
Many of the places most at risk are low-income countries. Among those expected to see increased risk by the middle of this century are many Pacific island countries, such as the Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Dr. Bloemendaal is a researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Amsterdam.
She says the datasets that underpin her work are publicly available, meaning governments, insurers and others can use them to more accurately analyze cyclone risk for every city or coastal region around the world. .
When applied to Cairns, the risk of an intense tropical cyclone – category three or more Australia-wide – fell from about once every 50 years in the past to once every 30 years in the near future.
“And the chances of a Category 5 near Cairns have gone from once every 2,500 years in the past to once every 300 years over the next few decades. We’re talking about an eightfold increase.”
Dr. Bloemendaal hopes his work will be a wake-up call for governments to prepare now to limit risks to life, property and ecosystems.
Dr Ivan Haigh from the University of Southampton in the UK says it is a major concern that some areas that do not currently receive tropical cyclones are considered likely to have them in the near future.
“The new tropical cyclone dataset we have produced will greatly help in mapping the evolution of flood risk in tropical cyclone regions.”
The research has been published in the journal Science Advances.
Australian Associated Press