The role of climate variability in Australian drought

Much of Australia has been in severe drought since at least 2017. Here we link Australian droughts to the absence of Pacific and Indian Ocean mode states that act as key drivers of drought-breaking rains. Predicting the impact of climate change on drought requires accurate modelling of these modes of variability.

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Fig. 1: The recent drought in context and the drivers of seasonal rainfall variability in the Murray–Darling Basin of Australia.
Fig. 2: A lack of recent La Niña or negative IOD conditions is contributing to the ongoing drought in the Murray–Darling Basin.


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We thank the Bureau of Meteorology, the Bureau of Rural Sciences and CSIRO for providing the Australian Water Availability Project data. Several authors received funding through the Australian Research Council: A.D.K. (DE180100638), and A.J.P. and A.M.U. (CE170100023). B.J.H. received funding from an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (LP150100062), which was co-funded by Melbourne Water and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and supported by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

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A.D.K. conceived the study and performed the analysis. All authors contributed to the methodological design and the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to Andrew D. King.

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King, A.D., Pitman, A.J., Henley, B.J. et al. The role of climate variability in Australian drought. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 177–179 (2020).

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