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Southern Hemisphere rainfall variability over the past 200 years

Abstract

This study presents an analysis of three palaeoclimate rainfall reconstructions from the Southern Hemisphere regions of south-eastern Australia (SEA), southern South Africa (SAF) and southern South America (SSA). We provide a first comparison of rainfall variations in these three regions over the past two centuries, with a focus on identifying synchronous wet and dry periods. Despite the uncertainties associated with the spatial and temporal limitations of the rainfall reconstructions, we find evidence of dynamically-forced climate influences. An investigation of the twentieth century relationship between regional rainfall and the large-scale climate circulation features of the Pacific, Indian and Southern Ocean regions revealed that Indo-Pacific variations of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Indian Ocean dipole dominate rainfall variability in SEA and SAF, while the higher latitude Southern Annular Mode (SAM) exerts a greater influence in SSA. An assessment of the stability of the regional rainfall–climate circulation modes over the past two centuries revealed a number of non-stationarities, the most notable of which occurs during the early nineteenth century around 1820. This corresponds to a time when the influence of ENSO on SEA, SAF and SSA rainfall weakens and there is a strengthening of the influence of SAM. We conclude by advocating the use of long-term palaeoclimate data to estimate decadal rainfall variability for future water resource management.

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Acknowledgments

JG was funded by Australian Research Council Project DE130100668. BJH acknowledges funding support from the Cooperative Research Network Self Sustaining Regions Research and Innovation Initiative in partnership with Federation University, Australia, and Australian Research Council Project LP150100062. Raphael Neukom, David Karoly and Alex Pezza are thanked for helpful advice throughout the course of this study. We are grateful for the thorough reviewer comments on the manuscript that greatly improved the paper. This work is a product of the Aus2k working group of the Past Global Changes (PAGES) Regional 2k Network.

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Correspondence to Joëlle Gergis.

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Gergis, J., Henley, B.J. Southern Hemisphere rainfall variability over the past 200 years. Clim Dyn 48, 2087–2105 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-016-3191-7

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Keywords

  • Southeastern Australia
  • South Africa
  • South America
  • Rainfall
  • Drought
  • Decadal climate variability
  • El Niño–Southern Oscillation
  • Indian Ocean dipole
  • Southern Annular Mode
  • Southern Hemisphere