Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 16:38 UK

'Extreme waves' worry Australia

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A surfer tackles a high wave off Bondi beach, Sydney, in September 2006
Scientists say coastal areas will see more and more extreme waves

Australia's coastline is increasingly being battered by extreme waves that are driven in part by climate change, government scientists say.

Research has shown that bigger waves are bearing down on the coastline as severe storms become more frequent.

The waves could threaten communities with flooding and coastal erosion.

The national science agency said a network of coastal observation sites should be established to monitor shifting wave patterns.

Climate 'hotspot'

Australia has always borne the brunt of nature's extremes, from drought to bushfires and destructive tropical cyclones.

Scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have identified an emerging threat - monstrous waves that have increasingly pummelled Australia's southern shores.

These ferocious conditions are associated with the passage of extra-tropical storms through the south of the continent.

Researchers believe that a shifting climate could be partly to blame.

They have said that Australia is vulnerable to an accelerated version of global warming, which is causing serious droughts and sudden severe storms.

This vast, arid land was recently listed by the United Nations as a climate change "hotspot".

Large towns and cities dotted along the south-eastern coast, which are home to most Australians, could suffer as a result.

There is a warning that storm surges and pounding seas will increasingly threaten those communities with flooding and erosion.

Research has shown that waves greater than 3m (9 ft) in height are becoming more common.

While acknowledging the risks, Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said that larger, more active surf also presented opportunities to generate greener electricity and to produce less pollution.

Australia needs all the help it can get on that front as it is one of the world's worst per capita emitters of greenhouse gases.

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