New science available to help predict extreme weather events | Pacific Beat

New science available to help predict extreme weather events

New science available to help predict extreme weather events

Updated 18 March 2013, 17:59 AEDT

Australia's principle science and research agency, the CSIRO, says it's developed new web-based tools and data portals to help agencies in the Pacific better plan for extreme weather events.

Some are even designed to help with the prediction of, and response to, possible weather events such as cyclones within the next few months.

The new tools were showcased at a meeting last week in the Solomon Islands, hosted by the Pacific Australia-Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning Program, which is administered jointly by the CSIRO and Australia's Bureau of Meterology.

A Principal Research Scientist at the CSIRO, Kevin Hennessy, was at the meeting in Honiara last week and told Cathy Harper the new web tools can provide detailed information for individual countries.

Presenter: Cathy Harper

Speaker: A Principal Research Scientist at the CSIRO, Kevin Hennessy

HENNESSY: The recent science that we've completed indicates more evidence for a trend in the past toward more hot days and more heavy rainfall events. And we are doing more work on understanding how El Nino and La Nina effect individual Pacific Island countries. And interestingly, in terms of the shorter term projections over the next say, one to nine months, we've got some new tools being developed to provide early warning for extreme sea levels and tropical cyclones, and extreme temperatures that might effect coral bleaching. And finally, we're also looking at a new suite of about 30 different climate models and four new greenhouse gas emissions scenarios that go beyond those considered in the past, to do new projections for things like temperature and rainfall and for extreme events like cyclones, droughts and heavy rainfall. So I think we're getting more information now that is far more relevant to disaster risk management.

HARPER: It sounds like very useful informationm When you say "tools" what exactly do you mean, can you give me an example?

HENNESSY: Well, we have about seven different web based tools that are very popular and one of those tools for example is on climate futures, which is providing ready access in digestible form to some of these very detailed outputs from global climate models. And it presents the information in a way that I think is quite useful for risk management, because it always you to identify a "most likely" future, a "best case" and a "worst case". We also have tools for providing access to observed climate data, over the last 50 or 60 years. And that provides a regional overview of how things have been changing. There's also a tropical cyclone data portal that provides information for each of the partner countries about how cyclones have changed in the past and it shows really nice tracks of those cyclones and some of the potential information about impacts. So there's a lot of information there that I think is providing access to science in ways that are much more easy to understand.

HARPER: Who can access this information? Is it agencies like the national bureaux of meterology?

HENNESSY: All of these data portals or web tools are freely accesible. Some of them have passwords which really just require you to do a training course before accessing the information. And that's just to ensure that people understand what they're looking at without misinterpreting it. So on one of the key, I guess, philosophies, in this program is to provide free and ready access to this information. I think there's a need for more people working directly with the scientists and with people in government, as well those practitioners for example the engineers and the water resource managers to try and bridge some of those gaps. And this is very labour intensive and it goes beyond science itself. And so there's a lot of thought being put into how we do that better in the future.

HARPER: So can you tell me more about the water issue? How are people in the Pacific planning for possible, I presume, water shortages in the future?

HENNESSY: Well, in the Pacific, there's a lot of variability from year to year in rainfall. This is largely driven by El Nino and La Nina. And this brings in some cases floods and in other cases droughts. And in many of the Pacific countries there are limitations to their flood management systems, to their water storage systems and to their waste disposal systems. So providing more infomation about how the climate has changed in the past as well as how the climate will change in the future, helps to give them a beter understanding of risk management.And one of the key themes that keeps coming up is around disaster risk management and how to integrate that with climate change. So for example, if we know that there has been a trend towards increases in extreme rainfall in some countries and we expect that to continue in the future, we can design systems to cope with a larger amount of water in a shorter space of time.

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