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Extending and understanding the South West Western Australian rainfall record using a snowfall reconstruction from Law Dome, East Antarctica


Zheng, Y and Jong, LM and Phipps, SJ and Roberts, JL and Moy, AD and Curran, MAJ and van Ommen, TD, Extending and understanding the South West Western Australian rainfall record using a snowfall reconstruction from Law Dome, East Antarctica, Climate of the Past, 17, (5) pp. 1973-1987. ISSN 1814-9324 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License. (

DOI: doi:10.5194/cp-17-1973-2021


South West Western Australia (SWWA) has experienced a prolonged reduction in rainfall in recent decades, with associated reductions in regional water supply and residential and agricultural impacts. The cause of the reduction has been widely considered but remains unclear. The relatively short length of the instrumental record limits long-term investigation. A previous proxy-based study used a statistically negative correlation between SWWA rainfall and snowfall from the Dome Summit South (DSS) ice core drilling site, Law Dome, East Antarctica, and concluded that the anomaly of recent decades is unprecedented over the ∼ 750-year period of the study (12502004 CE). Here, we extend the snow accumulation record to cover the period from 22 BCE to 2015 CE and derive a rainfall reconstruction over this extended period. This extended record confirms that the recent anomaly is unique in the period since 1250 CE and unusual over the full ∼ 2000-year period, with just two other earlier droughts of similar duration and intensity. The reconstruction shows that SWWA rainfall started to decrease around 1971 CE. Ensembles of climate model simulations are used to investigate the potential roles of natural variability and external climate drivers in explaining changes in SWWA rainfall. We find that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are likely to have contributed towards the SWWA rainfall drying trend after 1971 CE. However, natural variability may also have played a role in determining the timing and magnitude of the reduction in rainfall.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:South West Western Australian rainfall reconstruction, snow fall, ice core, Law Dome, East Antarctica
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Climate change science
Research Field:Climate change processes
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Zheng, Y (Mr Yaowen Zheng)
UTAS Author:Jong, LM (Dr Lenneke Jong)
UTAS Author:Phipps, SJ (Dr Steven Phipps)
UTAS Author:Roberts, JL (Dr Jason Roberts)
UTAS Author:Moy, AD (Dr Andrew Moy)
UTAS Author:Curran, MAJ (Dr Mark Curran)
UTAS Author:van Ommen, TD (Dr Tas van Ommen)
ID Code:147234
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Australian Antarctic Program Partnership
Deposited On:2021-10-20
Last Modified:2022-08-29
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