Rising extreme heat threat to Gold Coast

Dramatic increases in extreme heat days, combined with high humidity and the urban heat island effect present an increasing threat to the health and wellbeing of Gold Coast residents.

The Australia Institute’s new HeatWatch initiative, which uses CSIRO–BoM modelling, shows that the number of extreme heat days (over 35C) experienced on the Gold Coast could increase up to thirty times current levels and that up to almost half summer nights could remain above 25 degrees by 2090.

“Increasing temperatures combined with high humidity are likely to push many days each year to dangerous levels of heat stress,” says Mark Ogge, Principal Adviser at The Australia Institute.

“This will have serious implications for the tourism industry that is such an important part of the Gold Coast economy.

“Humidity of 80% is common on the Gold Coast. When that is combined with 35-degree temperatures, it is considered extremely dangerous to people’s health and can be lethal. In the past, there have been very few days over 35 degrees, but if we don’t reduce emissions, that will change.

“The Gold Coast’s built environment increases extreme temperature risks, creating an urban heat island effect. This traps and increases temperatures even more, particularly at night.

“Most buildings in the region are dependent on air-conditioning. We know power plants fail in heatwaves, increasing the risk of blackouts. If this happens, people will be trapped in very hot buildings without air-conditioning.

“Fortunately this is not inevitable. CSIRO projections show that if we take action and reduce emissions we can prevent virtually all of these rises.”

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