The impact of global warming and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation on seasonal precipitation extremes in Australia

Delage, Francois P. D. and Power, Scott B. (2020) The impact of global warming and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation on seasonal precipitation extremes in Australia. Climate Dynamics, 54 (9-10). pp. 4367-4377. ISSN 0930-7575


© 2020, The Author(s).The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drives substantial variability in precipitation and drought risk over Australia. Understanding the combined effect of anthropogenic forcing and ENSO on Australian precipitation extremes over the coming century can assist adaptation efforts. Here we use 24 CMIP5 climate models to examine externally forced changes in the frequency of 'droughts', when precipitation falls below the pre-industrial Decile 1 threshold. We focus on June to November (i.e., southern hemisphere Winter–Spring season) because precipitation during this period is important for agricultural production and recharging reservoirs in many parts of the country. The analysis in this paper is based on two 90-year simulations (1900–1989 and 2010–2099) for Historical and RCP8.5 scenarios. We show that the frequency of droughts, including droughts occurring in consecutive Winter–Spring seasons, is projected to increase in the twenty-first century under the RCP8.5 scenario in all eight Natural Resource Management (NRM) 'clusters'. Approximately 60% of years are projected to be drought years in Perth, 35% in Adelaide, 30% in Melbourne, and approximately 20–25% of years in Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane. The relative frequency distributions of seasonally averaged Winter–Spring precipitation shift to lower values in all NRM clusters. However, apart from the Southern and Southwestern Flatlands, the shifts are accompanied by changes in the shape of the distributions whereby the high end of the distributions do not shift as much as other parts of the distribution and the wettest seasons become marginally wetter. This means that in most locations generally drier conditions are projected to be infrequently punctuated by seasons that are just as wet or wetter than the wettest years experienced during the twentieth century. While the models generally do a poor job in simulating ENSO precipitation teleconnections over Australia, an increase in ENSO-driven variability is suggested for the Wet Tropics, the Monsoonal North, the Central Slopes and the Southern and Southwestern Flatlands.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2021 04:38
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2021 05:09
Uncontrolled Keywords: climate change
Fields of Research (2008): 04 Earth Sciences > 0401 Atmospheric Sciences > 040104 Climate Change Processes
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3702 Climate change science > 370201 Climate change processes
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1905 Understanding climate change > 190502 Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
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