The frequency of major flooding in coastal southeast Australia has significantly increased since the late 19th century

Power, Scott B. and Callaghan, Jeff (2016) The frequency of major flooding in coastal southeast Australia has significantly increased since the late 19th century. Journal of Southern Hemisphere Earth Systems Science, 66 (1). pp. 2-11.


Millions of Australians live in a 1500 km stretch of coastal catchments in south-east Australia. Major flooding in this region causes death, economic loss and major disruptions to the lives of its inhabitants. Concerns have been raised that anthropogenic climate change might lead, or has already led, to an increased risk of extreme rainfall and associated flooding. Images of flooding commonly appear in the media, fuelling perceptions that flood frequency has already increased. Here we use a new dataset that allows us to estimate reliable trends over much longer periods than has previously been the case. The statistical significance of the trends is assessed using a method that is suitable for the non-Gaussian, serially correlated flood frequency data. We identify a statistically significant, increasing trend in the frequency of major floods since the late 19th century, which contributes to a 50% increase in frequency. While possible reasons for the increase are discussed (e.g. land use change, anthropogenic climate change, natural climate variability), further research is needed to clarify the relative importance of possible contributors.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright © 2017 Commonwealth of Australia, Bureau of Meteorology. Bureau of Meteorology.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2021 03:11
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2022 01:34
Uncontrolled Keywords: natural hazards; anthropogenic effect; climate change; coastal zone; extreme event; flooding; nineteenth century; perception; rainfall
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040603 Hydrogeology
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370201 Climate change processes
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9610 Natural Hazards > 961010 Natural Hazards in Urban and Industrial Environments
D Environment > 96 Environment > 9602 Atmosphere and Weather > 960203 Weather
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1905 Understanding climate change > 190504 Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts)
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1904 Natural hazards > 190405 Meteorological hazards (e.g. cyclones and storms)
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.22499/3.6601.002

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