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Hail, cyclones and fire: Extreme weather risks on the rise

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The greater potential energy in a hotter atmosphere and the access to greater moisture sources from warmer sea-surface temperatures will increase the hail risk. A region from the Hunter in NSW down to Melbourne, including the ACT, faces the largest projected changes to the current hail climatology, the report found.

Warming seas will also fuel tropical cyclones of about one category stronger compared with the sea temperatures of the 1950s.

“There has already been a southward shift of the regions where tropical cyclones reach peak intensity and this is expected to continue,” it said.

“Tropical cyclone risks are therefore expected to increase most rapidly in the south-east Queensland [to] north-east NSW regions, followed by the coastal districts south of Shark Bay in Western Australia.”

As has been identified by the Bureau of Meteorology, the report found extreme fire weather – based on temperatures, wind speed, humidity and drought – is already on the rise, especially in south-eastern Australia.

Such risks are “likely to increase in almost all locations nationally, leading to more frequent and extreme events, and longer fire seasons”, it said.

Insurance and other financial firms have been reassessing their risks to climate change, prodded in part by international groups such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

IAG managing director Peter Harmer said there was “an urgent need for Australia to
prepare for and adapt to climate change”.

Cyclone Yasi in 2011 alone caused more than $3.5 billion in damage when it smashed into Queensland.

Cyclone Yasi in 2011 alone caused more than $3.5 billion in damage when it smashed into Queensland.Credit:AAP

“[It] is critical there is a co-ordinated national approach from governments, industries and businesses to build more resilient communities and reduce the impact of disasters.”

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Executive manager of natural perils at IAG Mark Leplastrier said that, apart from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, communities had two main tools to shape the future risk profile: the tightening of land planning and improving building codes.

“There’s a huge opportunity to adapt,” he said.

For instance, research from Queensland showed that improvements in roof flashing to keep water from entering homes during heavy rain could spare owners huge expense. Flashing may cost about $5 a metre but could save about $1000 per metre, he said.

Higher sea levels were another big peril facing Australia, with rises as much as 30 per cent faster than the global average.

“The higher increases are simulated in the Tasman Sea,” the report found.

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