Queensland’s climate has shifted south, research shows

The Courier-Mail, August 07, 2008

TAKING a dip in the ocean at Redcliffe these days is like swimming at Maryborough in 1950, new research has revealed.

Scientists say global warming sceptics should dip their toes in the water off a Queensland beach if they want proof the phenomenon exists.

They claim climate zones have moved south by more than 200km in the past 60 years, so Brisbane’s climate has moved to Byron Bay to make way for a more balmy weather pattern.

Australian Institute of Marine Science researcher Janice Lough revealed the findings in a paper published by the American Geophysical Union.

She said she was in no doubt the changes were due to global warming caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.

“Sea surface temperatures are significantly warming along the northwest and northeast coasts of Australia – regions containing well-protected and internationally significant tropical marine ecosystems,” she says in the research paper.

Dr Lough looked at sea surface temperatures recorded by ships and from satellite technology from 1950 to 2007.

She analysed results from measurements taken as far north as Thursday Island in the Torres Strait and south to Coffs Harbour. She also analysed temperatures off the northwest coast of Australia.

She found sea surface temperatures had been rising by as much as 0.12C per decade, which, with no further increases in greenhouse gas emissions, would make waters off southeast Queensland 2C warmer within the next 100 years.

“Average climate zones have also shifted more than 200km south along the northeast coast and about half that distance along the northwest coast,” her paper concludes.

She said yesterday that a lot of the climate change literature was about the future.

“This paper was to show that this is happening now – and has already happened,” she said..

“This is down to global warming, due to human activities.”

“A rise of 0.1C every 10 years might not seem like a lot, but in scientific terms it is significant.

“Over 50 or 100 years, you are completely changing the climate region.”

She said while she believed the Great Barrier Reef would always be there, her findings showed there would be more coral bleaching and further disruption to marine ecology.

Professor Peter Grace, research director at the Queensland University of Technology Institute for Sustainable Resources, said the research gave further impetus to the need to invest in tactics to adapt to climate change.

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