Variability and trends in the Australian wave climate and consequent coastal vulnerability

27 Oct 2008

Changing wind systems projected to occur with climate change will alter the surface ocean wave energy felt on Australia's coasts. These changes must be quantified in order to assess the ocean wave resources available for renewable energy generation, and to determine how any changes will affect Australia's coastal infrastructure and environment.

The Department of Climate Change and CSIRO Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship funded this study to describe Australia’s ocean wave climate and identify the trends and year-to-year changes in Australia’s offshore wave climate, including an estimate of the range of the extremes. Possible impacts of changing ocean waves in the coastal zone are:

• coastal inundation during severe storm events through the combined effects of sea-level rise, storm surge, and ocean waves.

• chronic coastal erosion brought about by large wave events, or changes in wave direction shifting coastal sand and sediment

• sea-bed disturbance impacting sub-tidal habitats. The study has the effects of increasing our understanding of the potential impacts of these processes. Additionally, the study has quantified the wave power in Australian waters available for electricity generation, which has the potential to reduce emissions and reduce any negative impacts of climate change.

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