Climate change is occurring as a result of an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Even if the release of greenhouse gases slows in the coming decades, a certain amount of climate change is now inevitable. Preparing for this change is called “adaptation”; that is, taking action so that people, communities, businesses and the environment are able to respond as much as possible to changes in climatic variables like temperature and rainfall. South Australia has a clear commitment to adapting to climate change. For example, Target 62 of the State Strategic Plan is to: “Develop regional climate change adaptation plans in all State Government regions by 2016”. This links with a primary goal of the Plan that the State adapt to the long-term physical changes that climate change presents.
In 2011, the Goyder Institute commenced a project to develop an agreed set of downscaled projections for South Australia, that is, possible future climates generated at a local scale. The aim of the climate projections is to provide a common basis on which Government, business and the community in South Australia can develop adaptation plans and undertake more detailed modelling and planning exercises. In addition, the aim of this project was to increase levels of confidence in State Government policy decisions by providing a foundation of reliable scientific evidence about both climate change that accounts for current climate variability and the influence of known climate drivers such as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean Dipole. Distributions of environmental time series were developed from a suite of agreed downscaled global climate model (GCM) projections for 6 climate variables: rainfall, maximum and minimum temperature, areal potential evapotranspiration, solar radiation, and vapour pressure deficit. Projections of average change in these variables (from a 20 year baseline period 1986 to 2005) were generated for four agreed 20-year time periods, centred on 2030, 2050, 2070, and 2090, annually as well as seasonally for these periods.
The project involved the following major tasks:
The Development of an agreed set of climate change projections for South Australia project has produced the most comprehensive set of downscaled climate projections data ever available in South Australia. Data is available at the scale of selected individual weather stations across the State. This data has also been summarised at a natural resource management region scale to provide region-scale trend information.