East Coast Lows

East coast lows (ECLs) are intense low-pressure systems that occur off the east coast of Australia. They can form at any time of the year and significant ECLs occur on average about 10 times each year. These storms can bring damaging winds and surf and heavy rainfall. They can cause coastal erosion and flooding. But while they can be costly storms, they are also important for water security bringing the heavy soaking rainfall that fills dams along the coast and the Tablelands.

To better understand east coast lows, their impacts along the coast, how they have changed in the past and how they may change in the future, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) designed a major research collaboration as part of the Eastern Seaboard Climate Change Initiative (ESCCI). ESCCI is a research cooperative led by OEH in partnership with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, the University of NSW, the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University.

The ESCCI program has generated important new research for:

  1. Past East Coast Lows
  2. Recent East Coast Lows
  3. Future East Coast Lows
  4. East Coast Lows and Water Security
  5. Economics of East Coast Lows

Research Findings

A comprehensive synthesis of the findings has been developed which distills the science for Emergency and Natural Resource Managers. Download the report here

  • Regional water security over the east coast of NSW is significantly affected by ECL activity
  • There is more than one type of ECL and this matters in terms of storm impacts
  • Clustering of storms may be more important than individual storms
  • NSW has seen periods in the past of very stormy weather and this should be considered in risk assessment and planning
  • Storm erosion risk analysis should consider past extreme storm years and decades
  • ECL prediction may be improved by linking to regional climate drivers
  • ECL activity may change in the future and this should be considered by coastal and water managers