Views and Visions: Posts from our People
The future is not just an extension of what we know
The northern hemisphere summer of 2018 is shaping up as being one of the most memorable from a natural disaster perspective - it may even point to a significant turning point in what we understand about the nature of hazards we could face in the future.
In recent weeks we have seen devastating drought and heatwave conditions across large parts of Europe, leading to almost unprecedented bushfires in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland. Even countries that regularly face large fires, such as Greece, are again experiencing large and destructive bushfires – in recent days the small town of Mati almost entirely razed to the ground, and sadly the death toll is rising.
In the US it is shaping up to be another big fire year, with huge fires burning across California, Colorado and Oregon, while in Hawaii, the Kilauea volcano has been erupting on and off since May. Canada is also having to deal with large fires driven by prolonged heat and dry weather.
Japan has seen huge record breaking floods and now record-breaking heat, while heatwaves in many places around the world are killing thousands. We even saw villagers in Greenland evacuated because of a large iceberg.
Here in Australia, it has been drier and warmer over the last few months. A good example is NSW, which has seen temperatures 2.38 degrees above the norm in the January to June period, half a degree warmer than the previous record set only last year. If this continues we could be looking at a busy fire season across southern Australia.
But what does this potentially tell us about the future we are to face? The answer is probably that we cannot any longer be sure of what is possible. When we are seeing weather records being routinely broken, how can we extrapolate from the past?
All of this means that no matter what we think we control, we will also need to be ready for the unexpected, and to do that we need to do to find a way to embrace uncertainty and plan for the inevitable. How we actually do that is still unclear, and is a topic in urgent need of research. Although we are thinking about this now, this undoubtedly will be one of the topics of an extended CRC beyond our current funding period, which ends in three years.
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