On the east Australian coast, climate change is expressed as a slowly rising sea level. Analysis of records, dating back over two centuries, also shows oscillating multidecadal ‘storm’ and ‘drought’ dominated climate periods that are distinct from long-term climate change. Climate variability, as expressed by these distinct multidecadal periods, is generally associated with phases of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation Index (IPO). Two centuries of climate and coastline response are examined for the central east coast of Australia, between Fraser Island and Coffs Harbour. The long record has been compiled by analysing a wide range of indicators and observations, including: historical accounts, storm records, sea level trends, assessment of storm erosion faces, and coastal movement in relation to fixed monuments, surveys, and maps. Periods of suppressed sea level, beach accretion, and drought were found to be associated with strongly positive IPO. Periods of higher sea level, increased storminess, and beach erosion were associated with strongly negative IPO. Understanding the behaviour of climate variability over different timescales has the potential to improve the understanding of, and responses to, climate change. This will be important in the sustainable management of geomorphic and ecological systems.
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