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What causes southeast Australia's worst droughts?


Ummenhofer, CC and England, MH and McIntosh, PC and Meyers, GA and Pook, MJ and Risbey, JS and Sen Gupta, A and Taschetto, AS, What causes southeast Australia's worst droughts?, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, 36, (L04706) pp. 1-5. ISSN 0094-8276 (2009) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2009 American Geophysical Union.

DOI: doi:10.1029/2008GL036801


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?,

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Australia, drought, Indian Ocean variability, ocean temperature,
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Effects of climate change on Australia (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Meyers, GA (Professor Gary Meyers)
ID Code:57549
Year Published:2009
Web of Science® Times Cited:411
Deposited By:Centre for Marine Science
Deposited On:2009-07-25
Last Modified:2010-05-12

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