Rainfall over nearly all of Australia during the cooler half of the year (May–October) was well below average in 2002. Mean maximum temperatures were very high during this period, as was evaporation. This would suggest that drought conditions (precipitation minus evaporation) were worse than in previous recent periods with similarly low rainfall (1982, 1994). Mean minimum temperatures were also much higher during the 2002 drought than in the 1982 and 1994 droughts. The relatively warm temperatures in 2002 were partly the result of a continued warming evident in Australia since the middle of the 20th century. The possibility that the enhanced greenhouse effect is increasing the severity of Australian droughts, by raising temperatures and hence increasing evaporation, even if the rainfall does not decrease, needs to be considered.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Gibbs, W. J.: 1975, Drought-its Definition, Delineation and Effects, Special Environmental Report No. 5, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 113 pp.
Gibbs, W. J.: 1987, A Drought Watch System, WCP-134, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 23 pp.
Heim, R. R.: 2000, 'Drought Indices: A Review', in Wilhite, D. (ed.), Drought: A Global Assessment, Routledge, London & New York, Vol. 1, pp. 159–167.
Heim, R. R.: 2002, 'A Review of Twentieth Century Drought Indices Used in the United States', Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc. 83, 1149–1165.
IPCC: 2001, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in Houghton, J. T., Ding, Y., Griggs, D. J., Noguer, M., van der Linden, P. J., Dai, X., Maskell, K., and Johnson, C. A. (eds.), Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 881 pp.
Jones, D. A.: 2002, 'The 2002 El Niño and its Impacts on Australia', Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Society 15, 91–95.
Jones, D. A. and Trewin, B. C.: 2000, 'On the Relationships between the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Australian Land Surface Temperature', Int. J. Clim. 20, 697–719.
Jones, R. N. and Page, C. M.: 2001, 'Assessing the Risk of Climate Change on the Water Resources of the Macquarie River Catchment', in Ghassemi, F., Whetton, P., Little, R., and Littleboy, M., (eds.), Integrating Models for Natural Resources Management across Disciplines, Issues and Scales, Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra, pp. 673–678.
Lavery, B., Joung, G., and Nicholls, N.: 1997, 'An Extended High-Quality Historical Rainfall Dataset for Australia', Australian Meteorological Magazine 46, 27–38.
Nicholls, N.: 1983, 'Predictability of the 1982 Australian Drought', Search 14, 154–155.
Nicholls, N.: 1985, 'Towards the Prediction of Major Australian Droughts', Australian Meteorological Magazine 33, 161–66.
Nicholls, N.: 1997a, 'Increased Australian Wheat Yield Due to Recent Climate Trends', Nature 387, 484–485.
Nicholls, N.: 1997b, 'Developments in Climatology in Australia: 1946-1996', Australian Meteorological Magazine 46, 127–135.
Nicholls, N., Lavery, B., Frederiksen, C, Drosdowsky, W., and Torok, S.: 1996, 'Recent Apparent Changes in Relationships between the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and Australian Rainfall and Temperature', Geophys. Res. Lett. 23, 3357–3360.
Nicholls, N. and Powers, P.: 2003, 'DIAGNOSE: Real-Time Research on the Nature and Causes of Climate Anomalies', Extended Abstracts, 7th International Conference on Southern Hemisphere Meteorology and Oceanography, Wellington, New Zealand, 24-28 March 2003, American Meteorological Society, Boston.
Nicholls, N., Tapp, R., Burrows, K., and Richards, D.: 1996, 'Historical Thermometer Exposures in Australia', Int. J. Clim. 16, 705–710.
Rind, D.: 2000, 'Drought, Variability, and Climate Change in the Twenty-First Century', in Wilhite, D. (ed.), Drought: A Global Assessment, Routledge, London & New York, Vol. 2, pp. 264–272.
Torok, S. J.: 1996, The Development of a High Quality Historical Temperature Data Base for Australia, Ph.D. Thesis, Univ. of Melbourne, 2 Vols.
Torok, S. and Nicholls, N.: 1996, 'A Historical Annual Temperature Dataset for Australia', Australian Meteorological Magazine 45, 251–260.
Watkins, A. B.: 2002, '2002 Australian Climate Summary: Dry and Warm Conditions Dominate', Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological & Oceanographic Society 15, 109–114.
Wilhite, D. A.: 2000, 'Drought as a Natural Hazard: Concepts and Definitions', in Wilhite, D. (ed.), Drought: A Global Assessment, Routledge, London & New York, Vol. 1, pp. 3–18.
About this article
Cite this article
Nicholls, N. The Changing Nature of Australian Droughts. Climatic Change 63, 323–336 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:CLIM.0000018515.46344.6d
- 20th Century
- Minimum Temperature
- Drought Condition