Wet season rainfall onset and flash drought: The case of the northern Australian wet season

Lisonbee, Joel ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8231-6548 and Ribbe, Joachim ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6749-1228 and Otkin, Jason A. and Pudmenzky, Christa (2022) Wet season rainfall onset and flash drought: The case of the northern Australian wet season. International Journal of Climatology. ISSN 0899-8418

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Abstract

In this paper, we report on the frequency of false onsets of wet season rainfall in the case of the Northern Australian wet season and investigate the role of large-scale tropical climate processes such as the El Nino–Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and Madden–Julian Oscillation. A false onset occurs when a wet season rainfall onset criterion is met, but follow-up rainfall is not received for weeks or months later. Our analysis of wet season rainfall data from 1950 through 2020 shows a false onset occurs, on average, between 20 and 30% of wet seasons across all of northern Australia. This increases at a regional and local level such as at Darwin, the Northern Territory (NT), and parts of Queensland's north coast to over 50%. Seasonal climate influences, such as a La Niña pattern and a negative IOD that typically expedite the wet season rainfall onset, also increase the likelihood of a false onset over northern Australia. Our analysis also finds that periods of false onsets can sometimes, but not always, coincide with periods of rapid soil moisture depletion. The false rainfall onsets that develop into flash drought can be potentially disruptive and costly and are of potential significance for agriculture and fire management in northern Australia, and in other monsoonal climates that also typically experience a slow build-up to the seasonal monsoon. In conclusion, effective rainfall indicates that many seasons experience ‘false onsets’ with dry conditions after early rainfall. We propose that false onsets are a physical characteristic of the climate of northern Australia which occurs with relatively high frequency. In addition, these false onsets may sometimes co-occur with a flash drought.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Mathematics, Physics and Computing (1 Jan 2022 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current – Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Agriculture and Environmental Science (1 Jan 2022 -)
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2022 23:32
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2022 01:03
Uncontrolled Keywords: El Nino–Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole, Madden–Julian Oscillation, monsoon onset, rainfall
Fields of Research (2020): 37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370109 Tropospheric and stratospheric physics
37 EARTH SCIENCES > 3701 Atmospheric sciences > 370105 Atmospheric dynamics
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1801 Air quality, atmosphere and weather > 180103 Atmospheric processes and dynamics
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1801 Air quality, atmosphere and weather > 180104 Weather
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/joc.7609
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/51053

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