Australia is a land of extremes, but this is worsening.
During spring, the eastern states have experienced floods and severe storms. Weeks of heavy rain have soaked catchments and primed them for further flooding.
The declaration of another La Nina means an increased chance of heavy rainfall particularly in eastern states, and the likelihood of more tropical cyclones.
The resulting grass growth from the rain means more fuel for future grass fires and above average temperatures forecast in most areas could lead to heatwaves.
Many of our worst disaster seasons have occurred during periods of La Nina.
The summer of 2010/11 is an example of a significant La Nina event. Major flooding occurred throughout Victoria, which I helped respond to, and Queensland. Tropical Cyclone Yasi also made landfall in Far North Queensland. Close to 30,000 homes and businesses suffered inundation in Brisbane and 37 people died across Queensland. While floods occurred in the eastern states, bushfires west of Perth destroyed 71 homes. About 700,000 Australians were affected.
Our climate is warming, increasing the chances of severe weather events. Climate scientists expect the frequency of extreme La Nina events will increase in the future.
Not only does this bring an urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Now is the time to prepare. When it comes to flooding, listening to warnings and taking protective actions can significantly reduce property losses. Risk Frontiers research revealed well prepared small businesses can save up to 80 per cent of their losses if sufficient warning time is provided.
Make a plan with your household or at work; the Red Cross RediPlan is a fantastic resource that can assist. Listen to emergency broadcasters or check websites for warnings. Check-in with vulnerable people in your community to ensure they are prepared too.
When travelling, plan a flood free route. Never try to drive through floodwater. This is the leading cause of death during floods.
Over the longer-term, flood mitigation investments by governments can lower damages and reduce insurance premiums. According to the United Nations, for every dollar spent on mitigation some $7 in losses are saved. In Roma, Queensland the construction of flood mitigation resulted in insurance premiums dropping by half.
We must all know our risks and be prepared this summer. We all have a part to play in building a resilient Australia.
- Andrew Gissing, is general manager of Risk Frontiers.