The latest international study has indicated that Australia is one of the most at risk regions for economic damage due to the El Niño climate event.
The researchers constructed a model of flood impacts to populations and economies across the world using data from between the years of 1959 to 2000 and found that Australia is one of the worst hit areas for El Nino flood damage.
Currently Australia’s El Nino watch by the Bureau of Meteorology is on Neutral.
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is characterised by extended periods of above or below average sea surface temperatures west of South America and can cause extreme climate fluctuations around the world that sometimes result in severe weather events including hurricanes, flooding or drought.
Philip Ward of Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University, Amsterdam, and colleagues investigated the influence of ENSO on floods.
The authors constructed a model of flood impacts to populations and economies using global population, gross domestic product, a hydrological model, and climate data between 1959-2000 from EU-WATCH.
The model revealed that 34% of the Earth’s land surface experiences floods that are either lower or higher than average during El Niño events in which ocean surface temperatures are warmer than normal.
Similarly, 38% of the Earth’s land surface experiences floods during La Niña events.
Higher than average flood volumes tend to increase economic damage, whereas lower than average flood volumes reduce economic damage.
The model showed that 44% of the Earth’s land area experiences levels of urban damage higher or lower than average during El Niño and La Nina events.
The research is published in the journal PNAS.
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