Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cyclones and climate change

In the wake of Cyclone Larry, I'm surprised that there hasn't been much press about global warming and increased cyclone activity. It's sensible, because you can't possibly blame one cyclone on global warming, but sense never stopped the media before.

So it was co-incidental to read a summary of the recent research and press on RealClimate - there's a reasonable amount of dissent, but most scientists believe that the increase in cyclones is real, and that it is related to the increase in sea-temperature in the last 50 years.

But if you are an insurance company, the major reason why insurance claims from cyclones has increased over that time is that there is more insured property in cyclone prone areas. And the reason why Australia, even though we have a vast coastline exposed to cyclone risk, hasn't had as bad a time with cyclones than the US over that time (even counting Cyclone Tracy, I think the US would be worse off as a % of GDP lost) is because a lot of our coastline is thinly populated. Larry has caused horrendous damage, but if Innisfail had been a big city like Miami, it would have been much much worse.

So if you're thinking about moving to the coast, you should realise that if you go to the tropics, you're going to need to be protected against cyclones in future. And you should also realise that cyclones are going to come further south (in our case) than they used to - Byron Bay perhaps shouldn't be the ageing hippy's choice after all!

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