New South Wales' and ACT's changing climate
NSW and ACT are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, which vary across the region. The climate of NSW and ACT is projected to continue to change into the future.
Climate change projections of Australia’s future climate are delivered at a national level through the Climate Change in Australia website. In addition, state-based climate projections for NSW and ACT are delivered by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
in collaboration with the ACT Government and the University of NSW’s Climate Change Research Centre, through the NSW and ACT Regional Climate Modelling project (NARCliM). These state-based projections are provided at a higher resolution than the national projections, provide local-scale information and may better represent regional climate. While the methodologies for producing the national and state-based projections differ, the resulting information about the changing climate is broadly consistent, but with some regional differences.
For more information and data on NSW and ACT regional climate projections, please visit the NSW and ACT Regional Climate Modelling (NARCliM) Project website
The climate statements below are largely based on the national projections data provided through the Climate Change in Australia website, and on past observational data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Projections are focused on mid-century (2040-2059) relative to 1986-2005 (unless otherwise stated), in line with baselines used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5). Projections are based on a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), and averages refer to the average of projected changes across the whole of NSW/ACT combined.
NSW/ACT is already experiencing the impacts of climate change:
- All of NSW/ACT has warmed since 1910. Average annual temperature has increased by 1.4 °C since 1910. In general, inland areas across the region have experience more warming than coastal areas.
- Annual average rainfall over NSW/ACT since 1900 shows large decadal variations but no long-term trend.
- The number of days with dangerous weather conditions for bushfires has increased across the region.
The climate of NSW and the ACT is projected to continue to change over the coming decades. By mid-century, the following changes are projected:
- NSW and ACT will continue to get hotter into the future, with less warming on the coast and more warming inland.
- Under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5), NSW/ACT can expect an average annual temperature increase of around 1.4-2.3 °C (central estimate of 1.9 °C).
- Large and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions (RCP2.6) reduce projected warming to around 0.7-1.4 °C (central estimate 1.1 °C).
- More than double the number of hot days (>35 °C) in Sydney and Canberra are expected, increasing from approximately 4 to 8 days per year in Sydney and from approximately 6 to 14 days per year in Canberra1.
- By mid-century under a high emissions scenario2:
- The climate of Sydney is projected to be more like the current climate of Grafton.
- The climate of Broken Hill is projected to be more like the current climate of White Cliffs.
- The climate of Canberra is projected to be more like the current climate of Albury-Wodonga.
- NSW and ACT can expect longer fire seasons, with around 40% more very high fire danger days.
- Sea levels are projected to rise by around 27 cm along the NSW coast3.
- Rainfall projections in NSW and ACT vary by season and region. Projected change in average rainfall for NSW/ACT is less certain than for temperature and sea level.
- Whilst rainfall is expected to increase over most regions in summer, large regions show projected decreases in rainfall during winter, with these reductions being largest along coastal NSW as compared to some inland regions.
- Extreme rain events in NSW and ACT are projected to become more intense.
- In the future, east coast lows are projected to decrease by up to 20% under a high emissions scenario, primarily due to a reduction of events during winter4.
- In Alpine regions an increase in snowmelt, especially at low latitudes, is projected along with a decline in snowfall.
Further reading and resources:
- Climate projections for NSW and ACT (NARCliM)
- Downloading NARCliM data
- NSW Climate Data Portal
- NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment climate change website
- Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub
- Bureau of Meteorology, Climate change – trends and extremes
- State of the Climate (CSIRO & BoM)
- IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, The Physical Science Basis
1 Compares 2036-2065 with 1986-2005. For more information, access the Climate Change in Australia Thresholds Calculator
2 Climate Change in Australia, Climate Analogues
3 Average of New South Wales coastal council values from CoastAdapt
Page last updated 14th March 2021