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Climate Change Adaptation

Impacts of Climate Change

Changes to the global climate are evidently clear from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures (by over 1°C), widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising average sea level.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) most recent Special Report details the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. You can read the summary here. The Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement 2018 documents all the trends and observations for Australia. 

Current Trends for Adelaide

In Adelaide and the Adelaide Eastern Region, the following trends have been projected. However, the impacts of a changing climate are already being felt across Adelaide. Documented beneath each one is a current snapshot of what we are already experiencing:

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The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology projections estimate that the average number of days over 35 could increase by 180% without strong climate policies, from historical averages of 18–25 days per year up to 51–69 days per year by 2090.

Mitigation vs Adaptation

Even if we achieve a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) changes to our climate are already locked in. This means in addition to reducing emissions, we also need to prepare and respond to the impacts of a changing climate (adaptation). By being proactive and thinking and planning now for future impacts, the City and the community will be in a better position to manage the challenges of climate change and take advantage of any opportunities.

To stabilise global warming at 1.5°C, we need to reduce our emissions to zero in the next 30 years.

There is still time to take action, but together we must act now.  

Urban Heat Islands

The number of extreme heat days is predicted to increase significantly over the next few decades in all Australian cities with detrimental impacts on public health, mortality rates, energy demand and the economy.

The urban heat island effect is an extensively documented climate phenomenon and is prevalent in many Australian cities.  Cities of concrete and stone and roads paved with asphalt create heat islands that can be significantly hotter than temperatures in the surrounding suburban and rural areas.

Urban heat island effects create real problems for cities and for the people who live and work in them including:

  • Making life uncomfortable;
  • Leading to health problems such as heat stroke;
  • Exaggerating airborne pollution by preventing pollution dispersing;
  • Increasing the energy use and air conditioning costs needed to keep our buildings cool inside.

Heatwave Preparedness

Impact of heatwaves

Heatwaves kill more people than any other natural disaster in Australia (including cyclones, bushfire, floods, earthquakes) and will do so into the future. South Australia has the highest number of heat related deaths per capita. Projected increases in extreme heat will escalate this vulnerability particularly in relation to vulnerable community members. Other impacts include:

  • Impacts of heat waves on liveability and accessibility.
  • Impacts of heatwaves on the economy and businesses, particularly in sectors such as retail and hospitality.
  • Reduced water availability and increasing heat resulting in increased stress and resources required for maintaining open space, public realm and vegetation.
  • Animal health and biodiversity loss.

On behalf of the eight Resilient East councils, the City of Adelaide hosted a hypothetical heatwave scenario panel session called Feeling Hot Hot Hot! on Wednesday 6th February 2019 in the Adelaide Town Hall.  Senior representatives from Business SA, SA State Emergency Service, SA Power Networks, South Australian Tourism Commission, Bureau of Meteorology, Adelaide Sustainable Building Network, SA Health, Australian Red Cross and Environmental Scientist Tim Jarvis provided advice on practical actions that the community can take to manage risks and be climate ready.

You can watch the highlights below.

You can watch the full length video here.

For more information on the event, key take home messages and 10 common actions to prepare for heatwaves, please refer to

For more information on preparing for heatwaves:

Heat Mapping

Heatmap of Adelaide Resilient East’s Heat Mapping Tool was launched in February 2019 by Mayor Kevin Knight, City of Tea Tree Gully.  Partnering with the Department of Environment and Water (DEW), we have mapped heat in our suburbs and vegetation health to identify areas most at risk.

Any citizen or business can find out how heat exposed their property or neighbourhood is by entering an address into the search function of the interactive map. For those not in the Eastern Region, find your map here.  Here’s a handy guide of how to use the online map tool.

To understand more about the heat mapping project, the methods used, and some of the findings, here’s a link to the Collaborative Heat Mapping for Eastern and Northern Project Report.

Key findings include:

  • artificial turf creates a much hotter playing surface than living, irrigated turf;
  • tree lined streets have lower average temperatures than those without trees;
  • water sensitive urban design features, in addition to improving the water quality of stormwater runoff, can create localised cool features along roads;
  • bikeways can benefit from consideration of different road surface materials and vegetation in close proximity to cyclists;
  • incorporation of trees and shade sails into playgrounds can reduce the increased heat, caused by surfaces such as rubber soft fall, bitumen and concrete; and
  • the use of bitumen instead of concrete can significantly impact the amount of heat absorbed by car parking areas during the day time.

These findings will influence urban design decisions in metropolitan Adelaide. 

Resilient East – climate adaptation partnership

The Resilient East Project is an initiative between the City of Adelaide, Campbelltown City Council, the City of Burnside, City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, City of Prospect, City of Tea Tree Gully, City of Unley, the Town of Walkerville and the Government of South Australia. The goal of Resilient East is to improve the resilience of communities, assets and infrastructure, local economies and natural environments so we can cope with the challenges and opportunities of climate change. 

The Regional East Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan came into operation in 2016. The Plan was developed with peak bodies, business and residents’ groups across the region. Resilient East works collaboratively to deliver on the priority actions identified in this plan.

The Project is supported through a partnership Climate Change Sector Agreement with the South Australian Government that was signed on 23 March 2017.

Please visit the Resilient East website to learn more about joint projects and the impacts of climate change across the Eastern Region.

Other Climate Adaptation Networks

Increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves

  • There were three separate heatwaves in 2018, each with five or more days over 35°C.
  • In January 2019, Australia experienced its hottest month on record.
  • On the 24th January the Adelaide CBD recorded an all-time capital city high of 46.6°C.
  • As of February 2019, Adelaide has already experienced 7 days over 40 degrees, which is more than the projections for 2030.
  • March 2019 was the hottest March on record!

Increase in average temperatures

  • 2018 was the third-warmest year on record for Australia with the mean temperature +1.14°C above the 1961–1990 average.
  • Minimum temperatures were 0.73°C above average - the 11th warmest on record in Australia.
  • 2018 was the sixth-warmest year on record for Adelaide.

Lower average rainfall and significant decreases in spring rainfall

  • 2018 was Australia’s 39th driest year in a record spanning from 1900 to now.
  • In 2018 rainfall for Adelaide was very much below average.
  • The Adelaide CBD did not record rain for 47 days this summer (2018/19), having our driest start to the year since 1957.
  • Adelaide CBD rainfall for February 2019 was 32% of the long-term average.

Increase in intensity of rainfall events.

A higher proportion of total annual rainfall in recent decades has come from heavy rain days.

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