Sea level rise and sports grounds

With around 85% of Australia's population living in the coastal zone, rising sea levels and storm surges will have significant impacts on many of our coastal towns and cities:  OzCoasts

Global warming is warming the oceans as well as the atmosphere. Water expands as it warms. So, the seas are rising - around 200mm last century and accelerating.

This blog is meant to provide a place for information on threats to sport in Australia from climate change. Starting from sea level rise and cricket grounds, and working from there.

Australians are (largely) a coastal people; we are a sporting people, and we are a people who need to act on climate change before it overwhelms our coasts and our sports.


  • shockjocks  and other cash for comment types deny that climate change is even happening;  and while
  • Tony Abbott and his crew claim to accept it's happening, but are trying to roll back action and deny the consequences (like increased risks from bushfires and heatwaves);

people with local responsibilities around Australia are acting much more like grown-ups, mapping and trying to respond to increased flood risks from sea level rise.

Much of this work has been focused on local government responsibilities for building approvals and emergency planning, and increasing risks of damage to major infrastructure. We've seen less discussion so far, though, of threats to something very important to ordinary Australian life: sport.

  • The Sochi Winter Olympics have helped highlighted threats to winter sports from climate change.
  • There has been a little bit  of discussion (not enough) of threats to sport from heatwaves, prompted by the effect of the January 2014 heatwaves on the Australian Open Tennis, including players experiencing heat hallucinations on court.
  • What we haven't seen much of, yet, is discussion of impacts of climate change on summer sports in Australia, such as cricket, and other sports that use the same fields the rest of the year.

Sea level rise presents problems for sports grounds

  • locally as well as worldwide
  • already and into our children's lifetimes
  • and a problem we need to act on to limit its impacts.

Online maps of predicted sea level rise impacts are available from OzCoasts . Maps of sea level rise for 50mm, 80 mm and 110mm sea level rise are available for Sydney; NSW central coast and Hunter; Melbourne; Brisbane and SouthEast  Queensland ; and Perth to south of Mandurah.

As these maps show, high tides spread the impact further, even before we think about storms. For some areas not covered by OzCoasts maps, there are flood maps on line, from local councils like Gosford. And for almost anywhere, it's possible to get basic information on height above sea level just by using Google Earth.

These maps were launched by Greg Combet as long ago as 2010. They have received suprisingly little public attention.

  • One story in the Courier Mail pointed to implications for Brisbane Airport (and met with denial from airport management).
  • One story in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed to widespread flooding of Sydney suburbs, including Sydney Airport.

These stories received very little reaction. Perhaps that's because back in 2010, 1.1 metres sea level rise was regarded by OzCoasts as a "high end"scenario for this century. Now, unfortunately, it's much more in the range of mainstream, even optimistic, forecasts.

Perhaps its because a natural human reaction to stories that "your house will be flooded" would be, well, denial. Even, or especially, if your property is not just a house but a major airport. Or a major sporting venue (like the WACA, or like Flemington Racecourse, both in low lying areas).

Many of the grounds that cricket and other community sports rely on are located in low lying areas along Australia's coasts and rivers. These are often areas where housing and commercial development have already been restricted because of existing flooding risks.

These are still areas that people should care about - particularly given the importance of sport in Australian culture - but, just maybe, without prompting denial of the facts.

Pages linked from this one will present further information on issues in particular areas of Australia, including what local representatives in Federal Parliament are doing. Comments and further information would be very welcome.

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