PROJECT 5.2: Understanding climate variability and change – past, present and future
Australia has a variable climate which is affected by large-scale features in the global climate system, including the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, Indian Ocean Dipole and the Southern Annular Mode. These drivers impact our climate by affecting rainfall patterns, drought, bushfire weather and floods. Reliable and accessible information on the role of natural variability and the human influence on our climate is therefore important to manage the country’s infrastructure, agriculture and natural resource sectors under a changing climate.
We’ve utilised the latest available observations and model outputs (as well as our own model simulations) to better understand the drivers of Australia’s large-scale variability, their impacts on Australia’s climate and how these impacts may change in the future. This increased understanding of how climate drivers vary and interact, as well as more accurate simulations of these drivers in climate models, have provided reliable and relevant information for input into climate projections and planning and management activities.
We’ve also developed and applied methods to better distinguish the influence and contribution of climate change on extreme weather events such as heatwaves and drought. This has allowed important information on the role of climate change in extreme events to be provided to governments, industries and businesses to assist them to better manage their current and future climate risks.
For more information
Christine Chung, Bureau of Meteorology
- Flash drought in Australia – this factsheet provides an overview of ESCC Hub research which has significantly progressed scientific understanding of the nature of flash droughts in Australia. This includes better understanding when, where and why flash drought occurs, and what tools might be most useful for identifying and monitoring them.
- What causes dry extremes across southern Australia? – this factsheet outlines research by the ESCC Hub on the causes of dry periods across southern Australia to determine how unusual these extreme dry periods are and how likely we are to see more of them under a warmer future.
- Exploring drivers of Australia’s variable and changing climate – this report discusses the key findings of ESCC Hub research on how our variable climate is likely to change under increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. This includes investigating how the frequency of extreme El Niño and positive Indian Ocean Dipole events may change in the future, and the impact this change will have on Australia’s climate system.
- What role does climate change play in extreme events? – provides a science update on the causes and drivers of extreme events, how researchers attribute the role of climate change to events, and examples of recent extreme events in Australia.
Publications and papers:
- Cai W, Ng B, Geng T, Wu L, Santoso A, McPhaden MJ. 2020. Butterfly effect and a self-modulating El Niño response to global warming, Nature, 585, 68-73, doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2641-x | Abstract
- Cai W, Yang K, Wu L, Huang G, Santoso A, Ng B, Wang G, Yamagata T. 2020. Opposite response of strong and moderate positive Indian Ocean Dipole to global warming. Nature Climate Change, doi: 10.1038/s41558-020-00943-1 | Full paper
- Cai W, Santoso A, Wang G, Wu L, Collins M, Lengaigne M, Power S, Timmermann A. 2020. ENSO Response to Greenhouse Forcing (Chapter 13). In El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate. McPhaden M, Santoso A, Cai W. (Eds.), American Geophysical Union, Wiley. | Publication November 2020 | Visit publisher
- Chung CTY, Power SB, Sullivan A, Delage F, 2019. The role of the South Pacific in modulating Tropical Pacific Variability. Scientific Reports. 9 (18311), doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52805-2 | Full paper
- Delage FPD and Power SB. 2020. The impact of global warming and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation on seasonal precipitation extremes in Australia. Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-020-05235-0 | Full paper
- Dhame S, Taschetto AS, Santoso A, Meissner KJ. 2020. Indian Ocean warming modulates global atmospheric circulation trends. Climate Dymanics, 55, 2052-2073, doi:10.1007/s00382-020-05369-1 | Full paper
- Du Y, Zhang Y, Zhang LY, Tozuka T, Ng B, Cai W. 2020. Thermocline warming induced extreme Indian Ocean dipole in 2019. Geophysical Research Letters. 47(18), doi:10.1029/2020GL090079 | Full paper
- Freund MB, Brown JR, Henley BJ, Karoly DJ, Brown JN. 2020. Warming patterns affect El Niño diversity in CMIP5 and CMIP6 models, Journal of Climate, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0890.1 | Full paper
- Geng T, Cai W, Wu L. 2020. Two types of ENSO varying in tandem facilitated by nonlinear atmospheric convection. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, doi: 10.1029/2020GL088784 | Abstract
- Grose MR, Black MT, Wang G, King AD, Hope P, Karoly DJ. 2020. The warm and extremely dry spring in 2015 in Tasmania contained the fingerprint of human influence on the climate. J. South. Hemisph. Earth Syst. Sci. doi:10.22499/3.6901.011 | Full paper
- Holmes RM, Zika JD, Ferrari R, Thompson AF, Newsom ER, England MH. 2019. Atlantic Ocean Heat Transport Enabled by Indo-Pacific Heat Uptake and Mixing. Geophysical Research Letters, doi: 10.1029/2019GL085160 | Abstract
- Hong Y, Du Y, Qu T, Zhang Y, Cai W. 2020. Variability of the subantarctic mode water volume in the South Indian Ocean during 2004–2018. Geophysical Research Letters, 47, doi:10.1029/2020GL087830 | Abstract
- Lim EP, Hendon HH, Hope P, Chung C, McPhaden M. Continuation of tropical Pacific Ocean temperature trend will weaken linkage of Southern Annular Mode and extreme El Niño, Scientific Reports, 9, doi:10.1038/s441598-019-53371-3 | Full paper
- McKenna S, Santoso A, Sen Gupta A, Taschetto A, Cai W. 2020. Indian Ocean Dipole in CMIP5 and CMIP6: Characteristics, biases, and links to ENSO. Scientific Reports, 10 (11500), doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-68268-9 | Full paper
- McPhaden, M., A. Santoso, and W. Cai (2020). Introduction to El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate (Chapter 1). In El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate. McPhaden, M., A. Santoso, W. Cai (Eds.), American Geophysical Union, Wiley. | Publication November 2020 | Visit publisher
- Ng, B. et al. 2020. Impacts of low-frequency internal climate variability and greenhouse warming on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Journal of Climate. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-20-0232.1 | Abstract
- Nguyen H, Otkin JA, Wheeler MC, Hope P, Trewin B, Pudmenzky C. 2020. Climatology and variability of the evaporative stress index and its suitability as a tool to monitor Australian drought. Journal of Hydrometeorology. 21, pp. 2309–2324, doi:10.1175/JHM-D-20-0042.1 | Abstract
- Rauniyar S and Power S. 2020. The Impact of Anthropogenic Forcing and Natural Processes on Past, Present, and Future Rainfall over Victoria, Australia. Journal of Climate, 33 (18), pp. 8087-8106, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-19-0759.1 | Full paper
- Sen Gupta A, Jucker M, England MH. 2021. Historical and Projected Changes in the Southern Hemisphere Surface Westerlies. Geophysical Research Letters, (48), doi: 10.1029/2020GL090849 | Pre-print version. An edited version is published by American Geophysical Union | Abstract
- Wang GJ and Cai WJ. 2020. Two-year consecutive concurrences of positive Indian Ocean Dipole and Central Pacific El Nino preconditioned the 2019/2020 Australian “black summer” bushfires. Geoscience Letters, 7(19), doi:10.1186/s40562-020-00168-2 | Full paper
- Wang GJ, Cai WJ, Yang K, Santoso A, Yamagata T. 2020. A unique feature of the 2019 extreme positive Indian Ocean Dipole event. Geophysical Research Letters, 47(18), 1-9, doi:10.1029/2020GL088615 | Full paper
- Wang G, Cai W, Santoso A. 2021. Simulated Thermocline Tilt Over the Tropical Indian Ocean and Its Influence on Future Sea Surface Temperature Variability. Geophysical Research Letters, 48, doi:10.1029/2020GL091902 | Full paper
- Wang G, Hope P, Lim E, Hendon HH, Arblaster JM. 2021. An Initialized Attribution Method for Extreme Events on Subseasonal to Seasonal Time Scales. Journal of Climate, pp. 1453-1465 | Abstract
- Yang K, Cai W, Huang G, Wang G, Ng B, Li S. 2020. Oceanic processes in ocean temperature products key to a realistic presentation of positive Indian Ocean Dipole nonlinearity. Geophysical Research Letters, 46(16), doi:10.1029/2020GL089396 | Full paper
This project contributed to the following climate challenges:
Modelling improvements developed in this project will enhance the quality of climate projections that are available to water managers and planners.
Agricultural and environmental managers will be able to use information developed in this project to make more effective management decisions.
Research undertaken in this project will allow for better simulation of extreme events in climate projections, making them a more useful tool agencies responsible for preparing for and managing natural disasters.