Illawarra and south coast sport: Grounds for concern on climate change and sea level rise?

Icecaps and glaciers might seem a long way from south coast NSW. But global warming because of excess greenhouse gases we have been putting into the air is going into warming the oceans, even more than it is going into warming the atmosphere. This makes the water expand and rise, even before we start accounting for icecaps and glaciers.

Sea levels rose by around 200mm last century and accelerating.

OzCoasts has been publishing maps of impacts for major parts of the Australian coast.

Unfortunately, though, we don’t yet have  maps for some areas, including the Illawarra and NSW south coast,  to verify whether some coastal grounds would be within or beyond the reach of a sea level rise such as 1.1 metres, which has been modelled by OzCoasts for other areas.

Among grounds used by Cricket Illawarra:

  • Darcy Wentworth in Warrawong has two grounds which Google Earth shows as only 2 metres above current average sea level
  • Fred Finch in Berkeley has four grounds, which show as only 1 metre above current average sea level on Google Earth
  • Thomas Dalton Park at Fairy Meadow has four grounds on the coast, shown as 3-4 metres above current average sea level on Google Earth. Some grounds at similar altitudes in areas where risks have been modelled by OzCoasts show up as at risk of inundation from 1.1 metres sea level rise – due to tides and king tides, even before storm surges are considered
  • For JJ Kelly Park, Wollongong, although the pitch is shown as 4 metres above current average sea level on Google Earth,  some of the ground is shown as only 2 metres

Obviously it’s not good enough to have to rely on Google Earth for such important issues. We need professional assessments, such as have been done for other areas by OzCoasts.

Local governments around Australia have been updating flood assessment and mapping to take account of climate change. But of course they are giving priority to effects on housing and infrastructure. Sports fields by definition are often in lower lying areas where there was already too much flood risk to approve housing or commercial and industrial development.

Expert information is needed on risks to grounds which at first sight may seem relatively safe  because they are a few metres above current average sea levels, but which are adjacent to  rivers and near the coast, and so may be exposed to increased flood risks from tides and from floodwaters being less able to escape to sea with higher high tides.

For example, further south, Bomaderry Oval shows on Google Earth as 4 metres above current average sea level, but is also immediately adjacent to the Shoalhaven River.

Further south, and, like Bomaderry, among the grounds used for NSW Country Cricket competitions):

  • Eden oval shows on Google Earth as 4 metres above the average level of the nearby ocean
  • The Hanging Rock and Mackay grounds in Batemans Bay both show on Google Earth as 4 to 5 metres above current average sea level

 Climate change – the time for games is over

 Authorised by David Mason, 47 Charles St Marrickville NSW

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