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CR 39:159-172 (2009)  -  DOI:

Assessing the impact of climate change on extreme fire weather events over southeastern Australia

A. E. A. Hasson1,3, G. A. Mills1,2, B. Timbal1,*, K. Walsh3

1Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, GPO 1289, Melbourne, Victoria 3001, Australia
2Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, Level 5, 340 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Victoria 3002, Australia
3School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Swanston Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Extreme fire weather events in southeastern Australia are frequently associated with strong cold fronts moving through the area. A recent study has shown that the 850 hPa temperature and the magnitude of its gradient over a small region of southeastern Australia provide a simple means of discriminating the most extreme cold frontal events during the last 40 yr from reanalysis data sets. Applying this technique to 10 general circulation models (GCMs) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and calibrating the temperature gradient and temperature climatology of each model’s simulation of the climate of the 20th century against the reanalysis climates allows estimates of likely changes in frequency of this type of extreme cold front in the middle and end of the 21st century. Applying this analysis to the output of 10 GCM simulations of the 21st century, using low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, suggests that the frequency of such events will increase from around 1 event every 2 yr during the late 20th century to around 1 event per year in the middle of the 21st century and 1 to 2 events per year by the end of the 21st century; however, there is a great degree of variation between models. In addition to a greater overall increase under the high emissions scenario, the rate at which the increase occurs amplifies during the second half of the century, whereas under the low emissions scenario the number of extreme cases stabilizes, although still at a higher rate than that experienced in the late 20th century.

KEY WORDS: Fire weather · Climate change · Strong cold front

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Cite this article as: Hasson AEA, Mills GA, Timbal B, Walsh K (2009) Assessing the impact of climate change on extreme fire weather events over southeastern Australia. Clim Res 39:159-172.

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