, Volume 40, Issue 1-2, pp 317-326
Date: 27 Oct 2012

Trends in Australian rainfall: contribution of tropical cyclones and closed lows

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Over the past 40 years there have been significant changes in Australian rainfall with increases in the north-west and decreases in the east. Tropical cyclones (TCs) and other closed low pressure systems are important synoptic systems that provide a large proportion of Australia’s annual rainfall. This study examines the proportion of rainfall that can be attributed to TCs over the 1970–2009 period, and to TCs combined with other closed lows over the 1989–2009 period. The contribution of these systems to Australian rainfall trends is also analysed. Tropical cyclones are found to have little influence on rainfall trends over the full time period. However, when the more recent 21-year period is considered, TCs and other closed low pressure systems can partially explain the positive rainfall trend in the north-west. Similarly, other closed low pressure systems, such as cut-off lows and east coast lows, can explain some of the negative rainfall trend in the south-east. The contribution of TCs and other closed low pressure systems to rainfall trends in the north and south-east is found to be predominantly due to respective increases and decreases in the rainfall producing efficiency of the systems. An understanding of the influence of these synoptic systems on Australian rainfall in the current climate is vital for evaluating how Australia's water budget may change in future climates.