A Cataclysmic Storm and Lakes Entrance

Burchardi Flood (Wikipedia)
Burchardi Flood (Wikipedia)

Recently I blogged that the Lakes Entrance foreshore could disappear overnight with a cataclysmic storm related to sea level rise and climate change. Naturally these events probably occurred only 1 in 500 or 1 in a 1000 years. One such event was known as the Burchardi flood which demolished the island of Strand (or Nordstrand) in the North Friesian Islands in 1634. The island was overwhelmed and pulverised by a cataclysmic storm that reduced the land area from over 500 sq. Ks to about 50 sq. Ks in three small islands, and 6000 people were drowned. I am aware of this event because I am descended from one of the survivors.

Modern storms such as Hurricane Sandy are similar but these are now definitely, and probably heavily, influenced by man-made global warming. Wikipedia noted that: “According to NCAR senior climatologist Kevin E. Trenberth, “The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be” and that “the storm was caused by “natural variability” but adds that it was “enhanced by global warming””. It remains a challenge for science to identify how much influence global warming has on these events.

What we do know is that climate change increases the frequency of these superstorms so that, for instance, a 1 in 100 year event may become 1 in 10. We also know that the intensity of these storms is increased dramatically, possibly exponentially. Also the geographical dimensions of these extreme weather events – the area over which they occur – is becoming progressively larger. To the slowly increasing sea level rise extra hazards such as heavy rainfall, wave size and storm surge can be added. If these events were to coincide with a King tide and if Bruuns Rule (where the coast retreats 100 times more than the sea level rise) is anywhere near accurate then the fate of Lakes Entrance and many similar coastal towns may quite possibly be similar to the Strand.

As the frequency of these storm events increases over time then the chances of these various factors coinciding also increases. When the superstorm comes the foreshore dunes between the Ocean and Cunningham Arm will possibly disappear overnight with enormous damage inflicted on downtown Lakes Entrance – if not demolishing it altogether. All the buildings on the foreshore will disappear, the Esplanade become the new coast and the modern Meyer St footbridge be the bridge to nowhere. It is not a matter of if, but when. The longer term message is that Lakes Entrance will, sooner or later, definitely be going under.