People who have lived on the coast for a long time will have first hand experience of the erosion that occurs in big storms. The worst erosion in Shoalhaven coast's history happened during big storms in the 1970s. High water levels and strong high waves cut into beaches and dunes, undermining houses and surf clubs and damaging ramps and stairways onto the beach.
A quiet time followed the 1970s, with few very large storms for more than 20 years. Over time, the sand washed off the beach during storms was pushed back onto the beach by gentle waves. Sand cut out by waves is known as the storm bite - the storm 'bite' can sometimes be seen in the dunes at the back of the beach.
Climate change has a big impact on the coast
Climate change is about more than erosion from occasional big storms.
Warmer than average temperatures, different seasonal rainfall, wind and storm patterns, as well as rising sea level are all part of climate change that are affecting our coastal community.
- Warmer average temperatures - Warmer water can affect supplies of wild fish and shellfish which has an impact on both recreational and commercial fishing.
- Changes to storms - Intense rainfall affects how well storm water systems work and more frequent storms leave less time for beaches and dunes to recover.
- Rise in sea level - Scientists are carefully monitoring sea level world-wide. Current rates of rise means sea level will possibly rise faster over the next century and beyond.
When sea level rises, sandy beaches erode. Every extra centimetre of sea level results in about one metre of long-term coastal erosion. Higher sea levels also mean that coastal lakes are likely to be closed off from the sea for longer than they are now.
The 2009 NSW Government sea level rise policy required that Council consider, as a minimum, 40cm sea level rise by 2050 and 90cm rise by 2100. This has now changed and the State Government now encourages each council to adopt their own benchmarks.
How will climate change affect the NSW south coast in the future?
For more information about how climate change is expected to affect the NSW South Coast, follow these links.
Australian Government Department of Climate Change
NSW Government Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water
Local Government and Shires Association
Structural protection for the coastline