Changing times for rivers and catchments

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In the 21st century we will see river flows and patterns of rainfall runoff change as the impacts of climate shifts are felt in Tasmania, detailed modelling by the Climate Futures for Tasmania project shows.

The research has been undertaken for the Tasmanian Government with support from Hydro Tasmania. Climate Futures for Tasmania is hosted by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre. The report is being launched today by the Minister for Climate Change, the Hon. Nick McKim.

The Climate Futures for Tasmania Water and Catchments Technical Report projects river flows for more than 1900 subcatchments in 78 river catchments covering more than 70 per cent of Tasmania. Six IPCC global climate models were downscaled to a fine grid covering the State and this information was combined with hydrological modelling to project catchment yields until 2100. The future operation of Tasmania's hydro-electric system and 14 major irrigation storages were simulated.

The research found that, in a changing climate, runoff is likely to increase and decrease in different catchments across Tasmania. Seasonal runoff will differ markedly from the current runoff pattern.

Among the research findings:

• Large irrigation storages fed from runoff from the Central Highlands (eg, Lake Crescent/Lake Sorell and Meander Dam) are likely to have reduced inflows by 2100, but irrigation storages in the Macquarie River (Tooms Lake and Lake Leake) and Coal River (Craigbourne Dam) catchments are projected to experience increased inflows.
• Runoff is likely to increase in the important agricultural regions of the Derwent Valley and the Midlands.
• 32 of the 78 modelled rivers are projected to change by more than 10% by 2100.

The project leader and coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Nathan Bindoff, said the results would allow informed decision-making on the future use of water in different parts of Tasmania. 'What we have done is to provide the State Government and industry with the information needed to make crucial decisions for many years to come,' he said.

The CEO of the ACE CRC, Dr Tony Press, said the projections were at a scale that would allow governments and businesses to better understand the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate. 'This is Tasmania's most important source of climate change information at a local scale,' Dr Press said. 'Policymakers will be in a position to take advantage of opportunities and to plan for the future.'

The Climate Futures for Tasmania Water and Catchments Technical Report is one of a series of products resulting from the collaborative Climate Futures for Tasmania project. The report is being released concurrently with the Impacts on Agriculture Technical Report. The first of the technical reports, General Climate Impacts, was released in October 2010.

The Climate Futures for Tasmania project was funded primarily by the State Government, the Australian Government's Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities Program and Natural Disaster Mitigation Program and Hydro Tasmania.

Scientific leadership and contributions were made from a consortium of organisations including: Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmanian State Emergency Service, Entura, Geoscience Australia, Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research and the University of Tasmania.

Read the full report here.

Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems website
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