Research focus: Climate Change
One of the key drivers affecting future water availability in South Australia is climate change, which has placed new pressures on water use and threatened supply.
This cross-cutting research theme supported the incorporation of climate adaptation policy into research outcomes from the Goyder Institute Phase 1 Urban Water, Environmental Water and Water for Industry research themes.
It included future scenarios, based on the best understanding at the time, that there are expected to be increases in demand and possible reductions in water supply to South Australia as a result of a changing climate.
In 2011, the Goyder Institute commenced a project to develop downscaled climate change projections for South Australia, that is, possible future climates generated at a local scale. There are over 40 global climate models (GCMs) used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for generating climate projections. The Goyder Institute identified a subset of these GCMs based on their ability to reproduce the State’s climate drivers such as the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This sub-set of GCMs were then used to generate climate projections at a local scale – providing the best available science to ensure that SA is Climate Ready.
SA Climate Ready
SA Climate Ready is the most comprehensive set of downscaled climate projections data ever available in South Australia. Data is available for six climate variables (rainfall, temperature maximum, temperature minimum, areal potential evapotranspiration, solar radiation, vapour pressure deficit), using two emission scenarios (intermediate and high “representative concentration pathways”) through to 2100.
The key features of SA Climate Ready include:
- Data aligned to the South Australian NRM regions, so it is directly relevant to region scale adaptation planning;
- detailed data that was generated using an approach that has been successfully applied for hydrological impact research in southern Australia;
- selection of global climate models based on their ability to represent the influence of climate drivers such as the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation on South Australia’s climate; and,
- results that were tested through an “application test bed” verifying the applicability of the climate projections data to hydrological modelling in South Australia.
Development of an agreed set of climate change projections for South Australia
Climate change is anticipated to bring about significant changes to the capacity of, and the demand on, South Australia’s water resources. As future changes to these water resources cannot be measured in the present, hydrological models are critical in the planning required to adapt the State’s water resource management strategies to future climate conditions.
In this project, Goyder Institute researchers developed an agreed set of downscaled climate change projections for South Australia to support proactive responses to climate change in water resource planning and management at a State and regional scale.
This priority project involved four major components:
- Understanding the key drivers of climate change in South Australia
- Selection of Global Climate Models that represent South Australia’s climate drivers
- Downscaling climate projections for all eight South Australian Natural Resource Management regions
- Development of an application test bed
SA Climate Ready: regional summaries
The Climate Ready SA data has been summarised at the scale of individual NRM regions for average annual rainfall, maximum temperature and minimum temperature. These summaries provide an overview of the direction of change for these variables for each NRM region for the 21st century. This can assist with raising general awareness about climate change impacts across the State and help inform region scale adaptation planning projects.
The following regional summaries are available:
- Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges
- Eyre Peninsula
- Kangaroo Island
- Northern and Yorke
- South Australian Arid Lands and Alinytjara Wilurara
- South Australian Murray-Darling Basin
- South East
The Climate Ready SA data has already been used for a number projects that are helping to improve planning and decision making in South Australia. The detailed data sets have potential applications for:
- climate change impact modelling studies, commonly in hydrological disciplines, but also in agriculture and infrastructure planning;
- understanding the future climate that infrastructure may be exposed to at a given locality;
- generating site-specific heatwave and bushfire risk metrics; and,
- quantitative risk assessment for many sectors.
The following case studies provide a description of projects that have already applied the Climate Ready SA data:
- SA Climate Ready – Overview
- Impact of climate change on the surface water resources of Kangaroo Island
- Impact of climate change on reservoir water quality
- Predicting the impacts of climate change on wetlands
- Groundwater investigation to assist development of a construction brief (Torrens to Torrens)
- Impacts of climate change on surface water in the Onkaparinga Catchment