02 November 2008

Asia plans for extreme weather and rising seas

Malaysia is planning to put its citizens out of harm's way, while Indonesia is preparing evacuation plans for the 2,000 islands that are expected to sink beneath the waves between 2030 and 2040.

Australia, Thailand and China are also taking steps to understand and deal with extreme weather, giant waves and rising seas.

Malaysia is embarking on a mammoth effort to identify and map geo-hazards like floods, landslides and fires in all local council areas in Peninsular Malaysia. To be carried out throughout the next Malaysia Plan, it will generate local plans with areas marked high, medium or low risk in relation to hazards like floods. The hope is to avert disasters and minimise losses caused by moving development away from high-risk areas and people out of harm's way.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government is preparing to relocate people living on islands considered vulnerable to rising sea levels over the next three decades. About 2,000 islands across the country will sink due to a surge in sea levels expected between 2030 and 2040. Vulnerable islands were located in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua. Indonesia has lost about 60 islands in the western part of Sumatra following the tsunami in December 2004, not to mention several others due to mining activities.

Thailand and China was to sign an agreement to launch a three-year study of climatic changes in the Andaman Sea so they can better predict monsoon patterns. "The Andaman is the birthplace of the monsoon. The study may also be able to help understand cyclone patterns." The two annual monsoons in Thailand have increasingly brought floods and droughts to the kingdom.

What are some of the recent findings on extreme weather and rising sea levels?

In Australia, rising sea levels will erode Sydney's iconic beaches by 2050, with some at risk of disappearing, and threaten beachfront homes and commercial properties, a new climate change study said. Sea levels along Sydney's coast are expected to rise by up to 40 cm above 1990 levels by 2050 and by 90 cm by 2100, with each one centimetre of rise resulting in one metre of erosion on low-lying beaches. "Most of the state's infrastructure was built with a provision for half a metre of sea level rise, but the individual asset owners are already looking to see if they need to make a change in their asset to prepare for the future."

Australia's vast coastline is increasingly being battered by destructive "extreme waves" driven in part by climate change. "Large waves can also be destructive, leading to coastal inundation, erosion and the disturbance of marine habitats." The research found strong correlations between wave power and changes in climate drivers such as the length and strength of the northern tropical monsoon season. From a report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Global sea level rise could more than double from the IPCC's estimate of 0.59m by the end of the century, according to a report issued by the WWF for a meeting of EU Environment Ministers (thus the focus was on impacts in Europe). Media articles and the WWF report: “Climate change: faster, stronger, sooner” (download PDF file)

No corner of the Earth is immune from the effects of global warming, according to a new study that confirms manmade temperature rises in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Temperature records over the last century show that warming in the planet's coldest and most remote wildernesses is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases. Melting of ice shelves has implications for sea-level rises. From a study by Nathan Gillett published in Nature Geoscience.

Here's the latest reports on rising seas and extreme weather.

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