Climate change in the region

Climate change is recognised by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board as one of the key drivers of change in the region.

The actions of the board are based on the best scientific evidence currently available, which is indicating the following:

  • the region is becoming warmer on average, consistent with South Australia’s overall 0.96°C warming between 1910 to 2005
  • the region is projected to become drier overall, although rainfall projections have a lower level of certainty attached to them than temperature projections
  • heatwaves could become more frequent and more severe, with days over 35C in Adelaide projected to increase from their current average of 20 to 24-29 by 2030 and to 29-57 by 2090 (depending on the emission scenario and the model used)
  • due to a strong projected spring warming and drying, the fire season is likely to start earlier, thereby narrowing the window for prescribed burning which helps to reduce fuel loads
  • the number of fire danger days is likely to increase, and fires may become more frequent and harder to control once they start
  • while overall annual rainfall is projected to decrease, rainfall intensity may increase by about 11% on average (albeit from a relatively low baseline)
  • as a result of thermal expansion of the oceans, sea levels have in recent times risen at a rate of approximately 5 mm per year in the region; the projected sea level rise is 33 – 40cm by 2070 and 45 – 60cm by 2090 (relative to a 1986-2005 baseline)
  • Gulf and ocean waters are warming, and are also becoming more acidic as a result of absorbing higher amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Climate change investigations

In order to better understand the likely impacts of climate change on managing natural resources and to strategically address them, the board has undertaken or participated in the following investigations:

Urban heat mapping. A comparison of three commonly used urban heat mapping methodologies, providing recommendations regarding which methodology may be the most advisable under given circumstances

Climate vulnerability. A climate vulnerability assessment for the following sectors: viticulture, perennial and annual horticulture, annual cropping, extensive livestock and dairy

Biodiversity: A landscape-scale assessment of climate impacts on terrestrial biodiversity and adaptation strategies; further investigations are in train to identify the region’s terrestrial biodiversity adaptation actions at a finer geographical scale

Hills and Coast assessment: A landscape scenario assessment for the Resilient Hills and Coasts region, covering the local government areas of Alexandrina, Victor Harbor, Adelaide Hills, Yankalilla, Mt Barker and Kangaroo Island

Surface water: an assessment of the impact of climate change on the region’s surface water resources.

Fire weather: The report Fire weather in the Mount Lofty Ranges: Identifying trends to inform planning decisions analyses and projects trends in the extent of historical fire danger seasons in the Mount Lofty Ranges in order to better understand future fire weather patterns in the district and inform planning decisions made by the board. Key findings include: 

  • Fire season in the Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Ban District are trending towards an earlier start, and an overall increase in the length of the fire danger period can therefore be expected. 
  • On current trends, the Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Ban District is predicted to experience 26 Total Fire Ban days, an increase of 10 days (or 60%) from the year 2000. 

While climate change projections have not been used in this study, the historical trends identified through this study are broadly consistent with typical climate change projections for the Mount Lofty Ranges area, with warmer and drier conditions expected to lead to an increase in fire weather frequency and severity. 

Climate adaptation thinking and action

The board has also been a key stakeholder and part funder in several local government-led regional climate adaptation projects.

These are: Resilient South (led by the City of Onkaparinga); Resilient East (led by the City of Unley); AdaptWest (led by the City of Charles Sturt); Barossa (led by Barossa Regional Development Australia); Resilient Hills and Coasts (led by Alexandrina Council); and Adapting Northern Adelaide (led jointly by the cities of Playford and Salisbury).

Climate change forum

As a leader in climate adaptation thinking and action in the region, the board held a climate change practitioners forum in 2015. The forum aimed to strengthen the capacity of policy makers, planners and decision makers to understand and act on the region’s key climate vulnerabilities and opportunities in a collaborative manner. It was attended by more than 100 people and featured a range of leading speakers from South Australia and interstate.

Due to time constraints, a number of questions went unanswered on the day. Responses to some of these questions have been kindly provided by the presenters.

See videos from the forum: Morning session highlights | Afternoon session highlights | Panel session highlights

See presentations from the forum:

From projections to action: using science to point the way forward on climate change
By Darren Ray, Bureau of Meteorology

Terrestrial biodiversity adaptation: chaos to clarity?
By Andrew West, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges

South Australia’s approach to climate change.
By Julia Grant, Department for Environment and Water

Towards adaptation action.
By Mark Howden, CSIRO

Plans are nothing; planning is everything, (or a real world guide to climate adaptation planning).
By Paul Ryan, Australian Resilience Centre

Green Infrastructure: creating the urban cool.
By Dr Sheryn Pitman, Botanic Gardens of South Australia

March of the (salt)marsh; planning for coastal habitat retreat - the Samphire Coast Icon Project. 
By Tony Flaherty, Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges

Related links

Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges