Amplification of risks to Melbourne's water supply at 1.5°C and 2°C
Human-induced climate change poses a major threat to the reliable water supply in many highly populated regions. Dr. Ben Henley will discuss research that evaluates risks to the water supply under projected shifts in the climate at the Paris Agreement warming levels.
Modelling the primary surface water sources for Melbourne, Australia, the research projects that the risk of severe water supply shortage to the climate-dependent portion of the system increases substantially as global warming increases from 1.5 °C to 2.0 °C. Risks are further exacerbated by increases in water demand but substantially ameliorated by supply augmentation from desalination. It is demonstrated that reductions in precipitation, rising temperature and growth in water demand combine to substantially amplify the risk of severe water supply shortage under near-term global warming in the absence of a climate-independent supply. This risk amplification is not as apparent in assessments based on meteorological drought alone.
With the diminishing opportunity of meeting the 1.5 °C Paris target, the study highlights the need to accelerate greenhouse gas mitigation efforts to reduce risks to climate dependent water supply systems.
Dr Henley is a Research Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, working with Prof David Karoly and Dr Joelle Gergis as part of a Cooperative Research Network (CRN) project on decadal climate variations using multi-proxy palaeoclimate records. He is currently investigating the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation using instrumental, palaeoclimate and climate model simulations over the last millennium. Dr Henley received his PhD in hydrology and climate variability from the University of Newcastle (Australia) in 2012 under Dr Mark Thyer and Prof George Kuczera, funded by an ARC linkage project with Hunter Water Corporation. He has worked on a number of academic and industry-based projects investigating hydro-climatic variability and water resource system performance, including hydrological modelling underpinning regional water planning. Dr Henley's research interests include: decadal climate variability and climate change, the climate of the past 2000 years combining high and low resolution records, the evaluation of large-scale climate circulation modes in climate models and hydrological modelling for water supply planning.