Atmosphere Theme Report

Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Dr Peter Manins, Environmental Consulting and Research Unit, CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06746 9

Climate Variability and Change (continued)

Extreme-weather related effects [A Indicator 1.13]

Australia has a high variability of climate associated with ENSO. El Nio and La Nia events produce widespread droughts and floods. Bushfires are associated with dry weather (high temperature, low humidity and strong winds). Tropical cyclones cause severe damage in tropical Australia. Severe thunderstorms, often associated with hail, are another extreme weather phenomenon that causes extensive damage. Strong winds associated with mid-latitude weather systems also cause damage to properties and loss of life in the southern states. Weather-related disasters in Australia from 1967 to 2000, with the exception of drought-related expenditures (see Drought-related impacts) are summarised (Figure 42). Tropical cyclones cause the most damage, with hailstorms second. However, the largest cost for a single event was the Sydney hailstorm of 1999 (Insurance Council of Australia 2000).

Figure 42: Weather-related disasters in Australia.
Costs are calculated using December 1998 dollar values.

 Weather-related disasters in Australia

Source: Insurance Council of Australia (2000)

In addition to damaging city infrastructure, hailstorms may also cause extensive damage to crops and livestock and disrupt rural infrastructure. The amount of insurance claims for crop losses due to hailstorms (Table 5) shows that insurance payouts for hailstorm damage have been highest in New South Wales, with crop insurance records (Pittock et al. 1999) showing the northern tablelands of New South Wales to be the most hail-prone region of the State. Hailstorms are most frequent and most severe in late spring and summer in Australia: in New South Wales, the frequency of hailstorms peaks in November.

Table 5: Crop losses resulting from hailstorms
Costs are calculated using December 1998 dollar values
  1989-90 ($m A) 1990-91 ($m) 1991-92 ($m) 1992-93 ($m) 1993-94 ($m) 1994-95 ($m) 1995-96 ($m)
Victoria 0.66 1.76 3.76 9.0 0.08 0.08 0.26
New South Wales 8.36 1.83 2.20 4.8 1.8 1.8 19.6
South Australia 2.75 0.82 1.90 16.6 0.23 0.23 0.35
Western Australia 0.94 1.34 0.64 4.2 0.33 0.33 6.8
Queensland 6.4 1.4 0.51 3.0 0.35 NAB NA
Total 19.11 7.15 9.01 37.6 2.8 4.9 27.0

A $m indicates millions of dollars.
B NA indicates that the data were not available.

Source: Insurance Council of Australia.