Melbourne Heat Wave and Energy Demand: SimCLIM for ArcGIS/Climate Applied

Posted on behalf of and authored by Dr. Peter Urich, Managing Director of CLIMsystems Ltd., Hamilton, New Zealand

Recently, CLIMsystems Ltd. analyzed future climate impacts on the Hazelwood brown-coal fired power station located 150 km east of Melbourne in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia. These impacts included changes in ambient temperatures. The power station produces around 10 terawatt (TW) hours of energy, supplying up to 25% of Victoria’s energy requirements and 5.4% of Australia’s energy demand. The power station is a heat-intensive operation and relies on water extracted from a dedicated cooling pond. The Australian Energy Market Operator has forecast that Victorians would use an average about 10,250 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day through the three days of the recent heat wave event. On a typical summer day Victorians use about 6600 MW a day. Blackouts have occurred in parts of Victoria, and fan numbers were down during the opening rounds at the Australian Open grand slam tennis event with some players expressing concern after heat exhaustion. Tournament officials finally enacted their “Extreme Heat Policy” (for temperatures exceeding 42°C or 108°F) and suspeneded matches on the outer courts for several hours. Over this stretch of several days in January Melbourne experienced its longest heat wave in more than a century.

The SimCLIM for ArcGIS/Climate software tool was used to analyze climate variability and change over a downscaled geographical area and a set timeframe. Results indicated that future temperature increases in Victoria will:

  • reduce power-generating capacity as it becomes harder for the power station to expend heat and cool its operations; and
  • increase power demands through increased residential and commercial air-conditioning and other cooling technology requirements.

CLIMsystems used the results of an ensemble of 35 global climate models (GCMs) and applied the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 scenario with high climate sensitivity (by 2040, the global mean temperature could rise by 1.92°C compared to 1990 levels). The extreme temperature events for given return periods were computed and demonstrated that by 2040 the maximum temperature extremes (for both a 1-day period, as well as for the 7-day average maximum) will be significantly higher. Instead of focusing on the temperature increase for a given return period, the analysis can also produce the change in return period for the current extreme events. The current extreme temperatures could become more than three times more frequent by 2040. Seven-day heat waves, with a current return period of 1 in 100 years, could become nearly five times more frequent by 2040 under this emission scenario.

The modeling for this work was carried out using the SimCLIM for ArcGIS Climate add-in for ArcGIS desktop and was supported by the latest CMIP5 data processed for the tool, which is all available on-line at The modelling was supported by SimCLIM 2013, which handles site-specific analysis (as well as spatial), but with the capacity to export maps in an Esri-compatible format. The two tools together form a formidable climate change risk and adaptation assessment toolset. Both tools can be trialed for free by registering at

Further Reading:
Urich, P.B., Kouwenhoven, P., Li, Y. (2013) The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report in Context: Implications for End Users in the Transition From AR4, CLIMsystems Technical Report, 15 pp.

Urich, P.B., Kouwenhoven, P., Li, Y., Freas, K., Poon, J. (2013) How climate change will impact on the water industry. Australian Water Association Journal, 450(8): 45-50.

Zielinski, C., Gough, D., and Cauchi, S., (2014) Melbourne and Victoria to bake through another hot day, The Age, Melbourne Australia, online.

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