Researchers Call For A National Coastline Observatory in Australia With Concerns About Coastal Erosion

23/04/2016 3:42 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Researchers are calling for the creation of a national coastline observatory in Australia with increasing concerns about the impact of climate change on the country’s shoreline.

The researchers, from the University of New South Wales, say climate change and severe weather events are damaging populated areas and a national scheme would be the best strategy for slowing down the erosion.

In one of the world’s longest-running beach erosion research programs, the researchers have been monitoring the coastal pipeline of Sydney's Northern Beaches for 40 years.

But with no structured program to document coastal changes there is currently no method to accurately predict how climate change will impact the rest of Australia's beaches and coast lines.

One of the researchers, Dr Mitchell Harley, told ABC that the 40-year-record of beach changes have provided a great insight into fluctuations that occur in this section of south-east Australia.

“We're working blind in terms of other sections of the coast line across Australia,” said Harley.

He said that although there are over 11,000 beaches in Australia there is no need for them all to be monitored.

“What we've found is if you just be clever and select representative sites representative of certain types of coast lines across Australia, we can get a good snapshot of the whole Australian coastline just from, say, representative sites of 15 to 20 different sites,” said Harley.

“What we'd like to see is a national coastline observatory with 20 or so representative sites across Australia which will provide the snapshot of the coastal variability that's happening.”

He said this would provide important data that could be used to understand how Australia’s beaches are changing as climate change sets in and to accurately predict how they will respond in the years to come.

Harley said the issue of coastal erosion is caused by the location of coastal infrastructures being too close to the coastline which he attributes to a lack of knowledge and data on coastal changes.

“A lot of these planning decisions were done well over 100 years ago, they really had no idea about how the coastline was changing and unfortunately we're still like that in many sections of the coastline across Australia,” said Harley.

He said their climate change research is not only in relation to the ocean, rising sea levels and the effect that this will have on the coastline, but also the changing storm patterns and wave directions.

Between 20-23 April 2015: a severe east coast low thrashed Sydney's coastline, which was hit by waves as high as 14.9m.

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