Aerial view of damage to Graham and Lynette Bigby’s home at The Gap
Aerial view of damage to Graham and Lynette Bigby’s home at The Gap

Grim super storm warning for state

FREAK super storms are hammering Queensland at a rate three times higher than expected, increasing the risk of flash flooding and raising questions about whether our infrastructure is strong enough to cope.

A new study of Australia's storm activity has found an increase in short, intense rainstorms over the past 50 years.

International scientists said the changes were well above what engineers currently took into account when determining Australia's flood planning levels, or designing stormwater management and flood defence infrastructure.

Graham and Lynette Bigby console each other after their Gap home was demolished in 2008.
Graham and Lynette Bigby console each other after their Gap home was demolished in 2008.

The study, published in the Nature Climate Change journal today, showed the amount of water falling in these short storms was increasing at a rate two to three times higher than expected.

The study's co-author, University of Adelaide Associate Professor Seth Westra, said these storms could lead to more severe flash flooding.

"This large increase has implications for the frequency and severity of flash floods," he said.

"If we keep seeing this rate of change, we risk committing future generations to levels of flood risk that are unacceptable by today's standards."

A car damaged in a super storm that hit Brisbane in 2014
A car damaged in a super storm that hit Brisbane in 2014

Last month Brisbane City Council announced a $100 million flood resilience program for flood-prone areas.

The study's lead author, Dr Selma Guerreiro from the UK's Newcastle University, said the study proved there was no limit to how much rain could fall in extreme storms.

"It was thought there was a limit on how much more rain could fall," she said. "Now that upper limit has been broken.

"The important thing now is to understand why rainfall is becoming so much more intense in Australia, and to look at changes in other places around the world.

Damage at the Port of Brisbane after high winds toppled containers in 2016
Damage at the Port of Brisbane after high winds toppled containers in 2016

"How these rainfall events will change in the future will vary from place to place and depend on local conditions besides temperature increases."

The study looked at rainfall extremes between 1966-1989 and 1990-2013 from 107 weather stations all over Australia.

Former Gap residents Graham and Lynette Bigby endured first-hand one of Queensland's intense storms.

Their home was destroyed in 2008 during a super storm in Brisbane's north.

Mrs Bigby said she wasn't prepared for such an event.

"It felt and sounded like nothing I've been through before," she said.

Brisbane storm chaser Justin Noonan said the Gap event was in his top five most ferocious Queensland storms.

 

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