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What causes southeast Australia's worst droughts?
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-16, 23:54 authored by Ummenhofer, CC, England, MH, McIntosh, PC, Meyers, GA, Pook, MJ, Risbey, JS, Sen Gupta, A, Taschetto, AS
Since 1995, a large region of Australia has been gripped by the most severe drought in living memory, the so-called ‘‘Big Dry’’. The ramifications for affected regions are dire, with acute water shortages for rural and metropolitan areas, record agricultural losses, the dryingout of two of Australia’s major river systems and farreaching ecosystem damage. Yet the drought’s origins have remained elusive. For Southeast Australia, we show here that the ‘‘Big Dry’’ and other iconic 20th Century droughts, including the Federation Drought (1895–1902) and World War II drought (1937–1945), are driven by Indian Ocean variability, not Pacific Ocean conditions as traditionally assumed. Specifically, a conspicuous absence of Indian Ocean temperature conditions conducive to enhanced tropical moisture transport has deprived southeastern Australia of its normal rainfall quota. In the case of the ‘‘Big Dry’’, its unprecedented intensity is also related to recent higher temperatures. Citation: Ummenhofer, C. C., M. H. England, P. C. McIntosh, G. A. Meyers, M. J. Pook, J. S. Risbey, A. S. Gupta, and A. S. Taschetto (2009), What causes southeast Australia’s worst droughts?,
Publication titleGEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS
Department/SchoolInstitute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
Place of publicationUnited States
Rights statementAn edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2009 American Geophysical Union.