Environment Australia loses vital rain as climate change shifts winds

Australia loses vital rain as climate change shifts winds

Human-caused climate change is reducing rain from southern parts of Australia by shifting Southern Ocean westerly winds towards Antarctica, according to a new study.

Lead Australian researcher Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, from The Australian National University (ANU), said the loss of rain by 20 percent since the 1970s in southwest Australia combined with 2016 set to smash the hottest-year record was ominous for communities and the environment.

“Our findings confirm that climate change is already having an impact on parts of Australia,” said Dr Abram from the Research School of Earth Sciences and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at ANU.

“Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are remote but this region influences Australia’s heat waves, affects whether our crops get the winter rainfall they need and determines how quickly our ocean levels rise.”

The research, which involved ANU and 16 other institutions from around the world, is published in Nature Climate Change.

The research team investigated how recent Antarctic climate trends compared to past climate fluctuations using ice cores drilled into the Antarctic ice sheet. They also studied how Antarctica’s recent climate changes compared with climate model simulations.

ANU collaborated on this study with Sheffield in the UK, UNSW, Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre in Tasmania and 13 other institutes from the United States, Argentina, New Zealand, UK, Belgium, France and Italy.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, which is a consortium of five Australian Universities with national and international partners, supported the study.

Read more about the research here. [Story credit: ANU newsroom]

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