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New research into climate change and waves released.

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PW 173/08 10 September 2008


Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, today released new research to improve understanding of how climate change might affect off-shore waves and the potential impact on our coastal zones.

The research investigated climatic conditions which could lead to changes in waves on Australia’s coast, including ‘extreme waves’ of around three metres or more.

The available modelled data suggests that over the past 45 years there has been an increase in the frequency of weather events which led to large waves being generated off Australia’s southern coast.

“There is excellent work underway in Australia to harness the power of waves to generate electricity as we move to a low pollution economy,” Senator Wong said.

“But large waves can also be destructive, leading to coastal inundation, erosion and the disturbance of marine habitats.

“Understanding wave behaviour in a changing climate is critical to how successfully we manage both the opportunities and the risks.

“This study will help increase our understanding of the potential impacts to the coastal zone, as well as providing valuable information for those seeking to generate electricity from wave energy.”

The research found strong correlations between wave power in some Australian regions and changes in climate drivers such as the length and strength of the tropical monsoon season in the north.

The report also outlined, for the first time, a method for identifying which parts of our coast are likely to be more susceptible to the impacts of large and powerful waves.

The $800,000 research project was jointly funded by the Department of Climate Change and the CSIRO.

Senator Wong said it was an important contribution to a broader assessment currently being undertaken by the Government of the vulnerability of Australia’s coastal zones to climate change.

This assessment will provide critical information for coastal zone managers to help them plan for the potential impacts of climate change.

The full report is available at