University Of Tasmania

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Reconstructing pre-instrumental streamflow in Eastern Australia using a water balance approach

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 18:01 authored by Tozer, CR, Kiem, AS, Tessa VanceTessa Vance, Jason RobertsJason Roberts, Mark Curran, Andrew MoyAndrew Moy
Streamflow reconstructions based on paleoclimate proxies provide much longer records than the short instrumental period records on which water resource management plans are currently based. In Australia there is a lack of in-situ high resolution paleoclimate proxy records, but remote proxies with teleconnections to Australian climate have utility in producing streamflow reconstructions. Here we investigate, via a case study for a catchment in eastern Australia, the novel use of an Antarctic ice-core based rainfall reconstruction within a Budyko-framework to reconstruct ∼1000 years of annual streamflow. The resulting streamflow reconstruction captures interannual to decadal variability in the instrumental streamflow, validating both the use of the ice core rainfall proxy record and the Budyko-framework method. In the preinstrumental era the streamflow reconstruction shows longer wet and dry epochs and periods of streamflow variability that are higher than observed in the instrumental era. Importantly, for both the instrumental record and preinstrumental reconstructions, the wet (dry) epochs in the rainfall record are shorter (longer) in the streamflow record and this non-linearity must be considered when inferring hydroclimatic risk or historical water availability directly from rainfall proxy records alone. These insights provide a better understanding of present infrastructure vulnerability in the context of past climate variability for eastern Australia. The streamflow reconstruction presented here also provides a better understanding of the range of hydroclimatic variability possible, and therefore represents a more realistic baseline on which to quantify the potential impacts of anthropogenic climate change on water security.


Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation


Publication title

Journal of Hydrology








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

Rights statement

?Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts)