Known by surfers across the globe as some of the world's finest, Australia's waves attract almost 3 million surfers a year. That number could be shrinking soon, though, as a new study indicates that large wave events down under might be a thing of the past thanks to climate change.
In a study published in Nature Climate Change by the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, researchers have produced the first peer-reviewed data showing why large waves on the east coast of Australia are disappearing because of the warming atmosphere.
The research showed that “an increase in the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gas is likely to lead to a reduction in the number of days with large ocean waves.”
Depending on the level of emissions, 25 to 42 percent fewer storm wave events are projected to take place in coming years, according to Andrew Dowdy, the researcher at the Bureau of Meteorology who led the study.
''Our study was focused on storm waves. We found increasing greenhouse gases will likely reduce the number of storm waves for central east coast of Australia for the end of this century,'' he told Australia's The Age newspaper.
"Dead" conditions for surfers will perhaps be the least concern for many Australians, though, as Dowdy says changing weather patterns will have troubling effects on coastal communities:
Future changes to the occurrence of East Coast Lows are also likely to have an impact on rainfall, and as a consequence, on water availability and flood risk in this region. These storms account for a significant proportion of the heavy rainfall events that are important for water availability along the central and southern eastern seaboard.
Australia's “State of the Climate Report” published this year indicated that Australia has been experiencing more warm weather and extreme heat and fewer cool extremes. “There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia,” the report said.
It's not the only continent whose large wave patterns will diminish because of climate change. Last year, scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australia's national science agency, found that climate change will decrease wave height across 25 percent of the global ocean.