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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Exceedence of Critial Heat Thresholds in Melbourne

Southeast Australia has suffered under a heatwave this past week, with temperatures today in Melbourne peaking at 44C (111F). The weather conditions have revealed that Australian systems are ill-equipped to cope with extreme heat. Disruption of power supplies due to infrastructure failures along with peak demand on the electricity grids approaching the limits of production indicate that Victoria's energy system becomes increasingly unreliable above 35C and begins to breakdown altogether around 40C. Meanwhile, Melbourne's rail network has fared worse. A reported 450 rail services were canceled in Melbourne yesterday and widespread service disruptions were also apparent today. In addition, finger-pointing between Connex (the service provider) and the unions suggests that system dysfunction is not only a function of the climate, but also institutional conflict. The predictability of such problems during extreme heat events suggests the current coping capacity of critical systems is quite limited. What conclusions should we draw about the capacity of Australia's city's to adapt to future climate change?

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