A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent and duration of extreme weather and climate events.

What is extreme weather?

Extreme weather and climate events include extreme temperatures, heatwaves, drought, flooding, bushfires, tropical cyclones, and storm surges.

A bushfire burning in a tropical savanna

The natural climate variability that underlies all extreme weather events is now influenced and altered by the effect of human-induced warming of the climate system.

Extreme weather events in the future

Future climate change impacts will be experienced mostly through extreme events rather than gradual changes in mean temperature or rainfall.

Heatwaves, floods, fires and southern Australian droughts are expected to become more intense and more frequent. Frosts, snow and tropical cyclones are expected to occur less often.

Impact of extreme events

Extreme events and natural disasters place a huge burden on individuals, communities, industry and the government and have an enormous impact on Australia’s economy, social fabric and environment. Better preparedness for extreme events through planning, management, engineering and awareness has proved to be effective in reducing their cost.

Over recent decades, we have developed approaches to better prepare for and manage the impacts of extreme events: e.g. new cyclone building codes, improved warning systems, greater coordination between emergency responders, and improved pest and disease surveillance. 

However, many people still lose their lives in natural disasters and the costs of repairing public and private infrastructure, insurance claims and lost productivity can run to tens of billions of dollars. Sudden and unexpected disease or pest outbreaks can also heavily impact human health, the economy and the environment: agriculture, tourism and water supplies all depend on the integrity of our biosecurity systems.

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