The Hot Zone

Spotlight on Queensland: Extreme rains becoming more common

Posted by Alison Hawkes on February 9, 2011
Category : Climate Science and Scientists, Spotlight

Queensland, in Northeast Australia, has seen a troubling years. A decade-long drought was followed this past November by the start extreme rains that flooded an area the size of France and Germany combined.

Extreme rainfall in Queensland may become more frequent under climate change. Photo: SunriseOn7 on Flickr

The large lowlands and subtropical climate make it particularly prone to tropical cyclones and a new study shows climate change could make matters worse. Janice Lough, a climate scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville, Queensland, is publishing a paper in the journal Paleoceanography based on research into historic rainfall patterns indicated in growth patterns in near-shore corals dating back to the 17th century.

The coral colonies have bands of dense and less dense material in their calcium-carbonate skeletons. The coral bands can be analyzed like tree rings determining patterns of wet and dry years.

The corals show that rainfall has increased and become more variable since the 19th century as wet and dry extremes become more frequent. The frequency of extreme events is currently at a peak with very dry years occurring every 7.5 years and very wet years about once every three years. That’s compared to 12 and nine year cycles in the late 1600s to late 1700s.

The research jives with other studies on Great Barrier Reef corals that support predictions of increased tropical rainfall variability in warmer temperatures. But researchers believe more studies are needed.

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