A new research project by University of Newcastle researchers will examine the important influence of intense climate events, known as east coast lows, on the future water security of Australia's densely populated eastern seaboard.
The project by researchers from the University's Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment and Faculty of Science and Information Technology will provide a greater understanding of the impact of extreme low pressure systems on climate change and the implications for NSW's water storage.
East coast lows are intense low-pressure systems that occur off eastern Australia and can generate gale force winds and heavy rainfall.
The weather phenomenon is the same type that created the destructive storm that grounded the bulk carrier, Pasha Bulker, at Newcastle's Nobbys Beach in 2007.
“East coast lows often result in major flooding and destruction, but this water is crucial for topping up storage levels in coastal regions,” one of the project’s chief investigators, Prof Garry Willgoose said.
“Without the heavy rainfall we experienced during that infamous Pasha Bulker storm boosting the Hunter’s water stores, the region’s reservoirs could have ran dangerously low, having major implications for residents and heavy industry.”
Fellow chief investigator Dr Anthony Kiem said while these east coast lows often brought destructive winds and rain, a decrease in frequency or change in location would also be damaging to water availability.
“There are unresolved questions surrounding the historical and future behaviour of these weather events, and their role in water run-off generation and flow-on impacts for water security,” Dr Kiem said.
The research is part of a wider research program called the Eastern Seaboard Climate Change Initiative, which aims to understand the climate of the eastern seaboard and highlight the implications of climate change adaptation.
This program involves the state’s top university researchers, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and the NSW Government.
The three-year Newcastle research project is supported by a $300,000 Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council.
The project is also sponsored by the NSW's Office of Environment and Heritage, Office of Water and Department of Financial Services, Hunter Water, and the Sydney Catchment Authority.
Media contact: Tess Campbell, Media and Public Relations, (02) 4921 8714.