Climate and Water
It is now well recognised that the impacts of climate change must be taken into account in regional planning and water strategies. Alliance research shows that South East Queensland (SEQ) will experience increased temperature and evaporation, increased frequency and duration of droughts, likely reduced inflows to dams, and increased time between dam-filling events. In SEQ, the rainfall reduction since 1980 is mainly due to a breakdown of El Niño–Southern Oscillation associated with decadal variability. Recent weather events primarily reflect natural climate variability. However, the magnitude of such events over the longer term may increase.
In the absence of catchment-scale climate change information, the present SEQ Water Strategy incorporates a stop-gap constant flat 10% allowance extending into 2050. A more accurate and sophisticated representation is required to better quantify the climate change impact and assess how the demand and supply of water will change over time.
The overarching aim of this project was to assess and quantify the impact of climate variability and change on water supply over the SEQ region. This was achieved by assessing how drought properties may change and by providing future climate information needed for local hydrological models. Research questions addressed through our work include:
- How best to translate global projections of climate change into future water availability?
- How sensitive to climate is the SEQ stream flow models used for assessing water availability?
- What causes drought in the SEQ region and how may this change in a warming climate?
Key Publications and Outputs
The downscaled model outputs will consist of about 1,000 years of virtual future climate for the SEQ region by the end of 2012. A range of journal and conference papers have been produced.
- Technical Reports 18, 62, 78, 79 and 95 address key aspects of the project and its results
- Conference papers listed on the Alliance website
- Proceedings of the Alliance Science Forums
Cai, W. and van Rensch, P. (2012) The 2011 southeast Queensland extreme summer rainfall: A confirmation of a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation phase? Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L08702, DOIi:10.1029/2011GL050820.
Cai, W., van Rensch, P., Cowan, T. and Sullivan, A. (2010) Asymmetry in ENSO Teleconnection with Regional Rainfall, Its Multidecadal Variability, and Impact. Journal of Climate, 23, 4944–4955.
Cai, W., Sullivan, A. and Cowan, T. (2009) Rainfall Teleconnections with Indo-Pacific Variability in the WCRP CMIP3 Models. Climate, 22, 5046–5071. doi: 10.1175/2009JCLI2694.1
This project is highly relevant to the SEQ Water Strategy and Drought Management Plans. It informs planners regarding the anticipated impacts of the highly variable and changing climate on water supply in an area with rapid population growth. Consequently, drought response plans can be improved by identifying future extreme circumstances as a consequence of climate variability and global warming-induced changes. This will help develop long-term water supply strategies and infrastructure investment decisions. It will also help develop more detailed hydrological models to improve our general understanding of water in SEQ.
Dr Wenju Cai, CSIRO
Ph: +61-3-9239 4419