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Using large-scale diagnostic quantities to investigate change in East Coast Lows

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East Coast Lows (ECLs) are intense low-pressure systems that affect the eastern seaboard of Australia. They have attracted research interest for both their destructive nature and water supplying capability. Estimating the changes in ECLs in the future has a major impact on emergency response as well as water management strategies for the coastal communities on the east coast of Australia. In this study, ECLs were identified using two large-scale diagnostic quantities: isentropic potential vorticity (IPV) and geostrophic vorticity (GV), which were calculated from outputs of historical and future regional climate simulations from the NSW/ACT regional climate modelling (NARCliM) project. The diagnostic results for the historical period were evaluated against a subjective ECL event database. Future simulations using a high emission scenario were examined to estimate changes in frequency, duration, and intensity of ECLs. The use of a relatively high resolution regional climate model makes this the first study to examine future changes in ECLs while resolving the full range of ECL sizes which can be as small as 100–200 km in diameter. The results indicate that it is likely that there will be fewer ECLs, with weaker intensity in the future. There could also be a seasonal shift in ECLs from cool months to warm months. These changes have the potential to significantly impact the water security on the east coast of Australia.

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This work is made possible by funding from the NSW Environmental Trust for the ESCCI-ECL project, the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage backed NSW/ACT Regional Climate Modelling Project (NARCliM), and the Australian Research Council as part of the Future Fellowship FT110100576 and Linkage Project LP120200777. We thank Acacia Pepler and Andrew Dowdy for providing subjective analysed ECL data and useful discussions. The modelling work was undertaken on the NCI high performance computers in Canberra, Australia, which is supported by the Australian Commonwealth Government.

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Correspondence to Fei Ji.

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Ji, F., Evans, J.P., Argueso, D. et al. Using large-scale diagnostic quantities to investigate change in East Coast Lows. Clim Dyn 45, 2443–2453 (2015).

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