Southeast Australia Autumn Rainfall Reduction: A Climate-Change-Induced Poleward Shift of Ocean-Atmosphere Circulation

Wenju Cai*, Tim Cowan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Since the 1950s annual rainfall over southeastern Australia (SEA) has decreased considerably with a maximum decline in the austral autumn season (March-May), particularly from 1980 onward. The understanding of SEA autumn rainfall variability, the causes, and associated mechanisms for the autumn reduction remain elusive. As such, a new plausible mechanism for SEA autumn rainfall variability is described, and the dynamics for the reduction are hypothesized. First, there is no recent coherence between SEA autumn rainfall and the southern annular mode, discounting it as a possible driver of the autumn rainfall reduction. Second, weak trends in the subtropical ridge intensity cannot explain the recent autumn rainfall reduction across SEA, even though a significant relationship exists between the ridge and rainfall in April and May. With a collapse in the relationship between the autumn subtropical ridge intensity and position in recent decades, a strengthening in the influence of the postmonsoonal winds from north of Australia has emerged, as evident by a strong post-1980 coherence with SEA mean sea level pressure and rainfall. From mid to late autumn, there has been a replacement of a relative wet climate in SEA with a drier climate from northern latitudes, representing a climate shift that has contributed to the rainfall reduction. The maximum baroclinicity, as indicated by Eady growth rates, has shifted poleward. An associated poleward shift of the dominant process controlling SEA autumn rainfall has further enhanced the reduction, particularly across southern SEA. This observed change over the past few decades is consistent with a poleward shift of the ocean and atmosphere circulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-205
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • SEA-SURFACE TEMPERATURE
  • SST DIPOLE EVENTS
  • INDIAN-OCEAN
  • OZONE DEPLETION
  • ANNULAR MODE
  • HEMISPHERE CIRCULATION
  • SUBTROPICAL RIDGE
  • WINTER RAINFALL
  • VARIABILITY
  • ATLANTIC

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