First it was the ‘very much above average’ rain during spring (September-November) in most parts of Australia — the country’s wettest spring since 2010 and wettest November since its meteorological department started keeping records — and then the heatwaves followed: Since the beginning of December, the official onset of the summer season in the island nation. All in a couple of months time.
Australia received 113 millimetre rainfall, which was 57 per cent above average this sprint — its tenth-wettest since 1990, according to the met department.
New South Wales (NSW), a province in the southwest, experienced its fourth-wettest spring while the Murray Darling basin (in the southeast) reported its eighth-wettest spring.
Queensland, in the northeat, experienced the highest rainfall departure from normal at 78 per cent.
Such extreme precipitation in three months led to flooding and severe storms throughout spring. Swathes across Victoria and NSW provinces were submerged following days of heavy shower that caused rivers to breach banks.
Heavy flooding led to crop losses. Dairy farmers faced problems accessing fodder for their cattle. Simon Oliver, emergency coordinator at NSW Department of Primary Industries pegged the losses at over 1 billion Australian dollars.
The recent extreme precipitation in Australia can be attributed to La Nina and rising sea surface temperature, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.
The periodic La Nina and El Nino together make up the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. While El Nino tends to warm ocean waters, La Nina is the cooling phase.
While it is difficult to point out how ENSO plays out due to climate change, researchers believe the frequency of the phenomenon is going to increase from once every 20 years to one every 10 years by the end of the 21st century.
Australia is already reeling under the effects of climate change, with the island nation having become a hotspot for extreme weather events like the occasional bushfires that the country experiences at the onset of its summer season.
Currently, the country is experiencing from low intensity to extreme heat waves right after the wettest spring the country recorded in over a decade.
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