Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Climate Change and Western Australia's Worst Drought in 750 Years


Photo Credit:The Age

New studies suggest a link between Antarctic climate patterns and the epic drought in Western Australia:
Researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre have identified a link between the drought, which began in the early 1970s, and snowfall at a site in East Antarctica over the same period.

In research published in Nature Geoscience, they say the relationship is inverse - high snowfalls at the Law Dome site correlate with low rain in the South-West.

That is as a result of the atmospheric circulation pattern that brings dry, cool air to Australia, while sending warm, moist air to East Antarctica.

However, the high snowfall at Law Dome was unlike any other in the past 750 years, and led the researchers to believe the drought was similarly unusual....

"It also suggests ... that if the mix of factors that influence [South-West] rainfall over the past century reflects that of the longer term, then the recent drought ... may be similarly unusual," the researchers say.
The Age

The recent studies suggest that humans have influenced the feedback loop that is helping to create the drought in Western Australia. The drought, they conclude, "lies outside the envelope of natural variability and supports the hypothesis of anthropogenically (man-made) induced climate shift."

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