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Is it drought, or climate change?

- Friday, November 21, 2008

After yet another poor winter crop season in southern Australia, more and more farmers are wondering whether the current run of dry autumns and low rainfall is evidence of climate change, rather than just another extended drought.

One who believes that recent seasonal patterns are simply a continuation of the historically variable climate that is a feature of  Australia is Professor Stuart Franks, of the University of Newcastle. An article he has prepared for the Australian Farm Institute discusses historical evidence of the variability of the Australian climate and its links to well known climatic events such as La Nina and El Nino. His article can be accessed here.

Holding a contrary view is Dr. Ian Smith, of the CSIRO. He believes that, while recurrent drought is undoubtedly a feature of the Australian climate, there is evidence the current drought is being made worse by the effects of human-induced climate change. His response to Stuart Franks’ paper can be accessed here.

You can make a comment about these articles by clicking on the 'Comment' link below.

Luke commented on 21-Nov-2008 02:09 PM
While there is nothing wrong with some things that Franks has said - it’s more an issue of what contemporary research has conveniently been left out of the discussion. There is more than a good story to be told as to some anthropogenic influence. That’s “some” not all.

He has not mentioned much recent published work by many Australian researchers on the southern annular mode (an Antarctic oscillation affected by both greenhouse and depletion of stratospheric ozone), movement in the sub-tropical ridge, warming in the Indian Ocean, decrease in the Walker circulation, changes in the super-gyre, and east Australian current. A warming Tasman Sea. Nor we do we see any discussion on snow depth and the effect of temperature and rainfall.

There are many changes occurring.
Readers would be well advised to read for themselves the latest science journal publications by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Indeed if climate change is having some impact it will do it including aspects of existing variation like El Nino and La Nina and decadal influences. And it seems on balance that we may have a bit of both.

It’s not a question of polarising the debate by stating that “CO2 did not cause this drought” (which incidentally has its roots back to 1996) - it’ a question of whether there is a plausible argument for some additional anthropogenic influence (from both ozone and CO2!).

Australian farmers would be wise to keep their own counsel and compare and contrast evidence from both sides of the global warming debate.

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