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Behind the big dry

at is forcing the new climate pattern, the team is exploring apparent links with changes in the behaviour of El Nino and the Antarctic Oscillation Index. Prior to the 1970s when times were wetter this index was negative. However since the mid-1970s it has swung into the positive, with zones of higher than usual air pressure forming over the southern Indian and Pacific Oceans.

To be frank, we dont know really whats behind it yet. To begin with, we blamed it all on changes in the Indian Ocean, but now weve realised we may be dealing with something that affects the entire southern hemisphere.

So weve started to explore this idea that shifts in pressure patterns off the Antarctic can have an influence across southern, and particular southwestern Australia.

Dr Bates says that present indications are that such a prolonged dry spell is fairly rare, and that it is likely to be due to the earths natural climatic fluctuations, rather than man-made changes to the atmosphere.

However, the present experience matches what climate projections are indicating may happen over the next 100 years.

So the experience of southwestern WA may foreshadow the sorts of impacts we will start to see in southern Australia under greenhouse-induced climate change.

Dr Bates said that the team hoped to extend the implications of the work to other states, such as SA and Victoria, but funds were not yet available to do this.


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Contact: Dr Bryson Bates
Bryson.Bates@csiro.au
61-8-9333-6330
CSIRO Australia
14-Mar-2002


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