A panel of experts were put to the test last Wednesday night when they came together to discuss heatwaves and the affect they are having on South Australia.
The panel hosted by the Marion Cultural Centre were posed the scenario of a hypothetical extended heatwave, occurring at the end of the century with each panelist discussing challenges posed by heatwaves in southern Adelaide, as well as practical actions that can be taken to manage risks and support those most vulnerable.
From discussions, it was learnt that by the end of the century, in Adelaide, heatwaves will reflect weather similar to that of Port Pirie and Port Pirie’s weather will reflect Leigh Creek’s weather.
The State Manager of the Bureau of Meterology, John Nairn says that days where it is usually 39 degrees in Adelaide, at the end of the century it will be 43 degrees.
“The interesting thing about heat waves, unfortunately is that they are increasing in duration and in intensity for every location on the map. We end up with quite high minimum temperatures as well, that means we are reaching higher temperatures sooner in the day.”
John explained that meteorologists are now understanding what drives the variable climate in Australia, recogonising that there are several drivers for our heatwaves and that the public and all services are improving on their methods of dealing with the heat.
“Obviously the weather pattern has to have very slow moving air and a high pressure pattern that sits in one location, and draws out air from an interior location across Australia.”
“The other things that drive heat this time of year is if you have longer days and shorter nights in Summer, also we know that drought produces dry soils and you lose cooling from evaporation and therefore you get higher temperatures and finally, is if you are unlucky enough to see a tropical cyclone or low get going to our North west.”
South Australia has become more efficient in coping with heatwaves, according to John, we have learnt a lot since the millennial drought.
“We have certainly learnt a lot since we had the millennial drought and the 2009 extreme heatwave. We had a 2014 heatwave which we coped with a lot better than 2009. We did learn, we have adapted. It is understanding that you get busy and start doing things to get ready.”
With hotter weather expected in the future, John believes that we will cope quite well with the temperature increase, but it is the extreme weather events which people need to prepare for.
“In any weather environment, you are going to have periods of extremes and then you will just track back into the more average temperatures and people will cope with it quite well.”
“It is just how we get through the extreme bits, those are things that people need to plan for. There are strategies that you can employ, but it will mean that there will need to be some infrastructure changes and some good cooling strategies community wise.”
“In the end, they have to consider the ratings of their conditioning equipment and their reliability of power- those are the things that get you through the big extremes. You also need to have some business resilient strategies so that you know you are not going to be badly impacted.”
The panel consisted of Bob Thiele, Principal, Hackham East Primary, Chris Beattie, Chief Officer, SES, Ian Cox, CEO, Hutt Street Centre, Frank Crisci, Emergency Manager, SA Power Networks, John Nairn, State Director, Bureau of Meteorology, Larissa Nicholls, Research Fellow, RMIT University, Noel Bamford, Assistant Commissioner, SA Police, Paddy Phillips, Chief Medical Officer, SA Health, Rose Rhodes PSM, Chairperson SA Divisional Advisory Board, Australian Red Cross, Sandy Pitcher, Chief Executive, DEWNR, Tony Lines, General Manager City Services, City of Marion
To see the effects of climate change on Port Pirie and other Australian towns and cities, visit Climate Change Australia’s website.