Planning for a variable climate

An expected rise in average temperatures, days of extreme fire-weather risk, drought conditions and a decrease in rainfall and snow has lead to Alpine and Towong Shire Council’s combining to discuss how to best plan for these conditions.

The councils assessed how their services and assets would be affected by predicted climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather and reduced water availability.

It is predicted by the CSIRO that temperatures in north-eastern Victoria could be on average up to 1.6 degrees warmer by 2030 and up to five degrees warmer by 2070.

Snow fall is expected to be reduced by between 10 and 40 per cent by 2030 and between 22 and 85 per cent by 2050.

The number of very-high and extreme fire-weather risk days is also expected to climb by between four and 25 percent by 2020 and 15 to 70 per cent by 2050.

Alpine Shire Council’s Manager Planning and Environment Services, Heather Green said the findings did not recommend that councils fundamentally change the way they operate.

“They suggest that the predicted climatic conditions need to be considered in all council services, regardless of whether it is the construction of a road or the development of a plan or strategy,” she said.

“It is a much wiser use of council resources to include these considerations when scoping works.

"For example, factoring predicted increases in flooding and storm events when upgrading urban storm-water systems will minimise the need to replace damaged infrastructure and reduce the risk to the community.

“Using climate variability information during our planning processes will ensure that upgrades and new plans are scoped adequately and support our communities into the future.”

The climate change risk assessments undertaken by both councils will result in the development of specific service area action plans to enable current services, assets and policies to adapt to the predicted climate variability.

The project has been delivered in partnership with the North East Greenhouse Alliance and funded with the assistance of the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Expected climate change impacts in North East Victoria: (Source: CSIRO)

Variable Changes
Temperature Annual warming of 0.3 to 1.6ºC by 2030 and 0.8 to 5.0ºC by 2070
Daytime maximum temperatures and night-time minimum temperatures are likely to rise at a similar rate
Warming is likely to be greater in spring and summer
A 10 to 60 per cent increase in the number of hot summer days (more than 35ºC) by 2030 and a 20 to 300 per cent increase by 2070 on the plains.
Rate of increase will greater in the mountains
A zero to 50 per cent reduction in the number of frost days by 2030 and a 50-100 per cent decrease by 2070.
Rainfall Annual rainfall decreases are likely (changes of +3 to -10 per cent by 2030 and +10 to -25 per cent by 2070
Extreme daily rainfall events are likely to become more intense.
Snow Area with at least one day of snow cover per year is likely to be reduced 10 to 40 per cent by 2030 with 22-85 per cent by 2050
Area with at least 60 days of cover shrinks 18 to 60 per cent by 2020, and 38-96 per cent by 2050
At Mt Hotham, peak snow depth declines 10 to 50 per cent by 2020, and 25 to 95 per cent by 2050.
Drought Droughts are likely to become longer and more frequent, particularly in winter-spring
Rainfall deficiencies that currently occur once every five winter-springs may occur once every three to five years by 2030 and once every two to three years by 2070
Due to hotter conditions, droughts are also likely to be become more intense.
Fire A 10 to 40 per cent increase in the frequency of days with extreme fire-weather risk by 2020, and 20-120 per cent increase by 2050
Four to 25 per cent increase in the frequency of days with very high and extreme fire-weather risk by 2020, and 15 to 70 per cent increase by 2050.

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