It’s official, the drought has broken across Australia. The announcement will be made today by the Federal Government, making it the first time in 10 years that Australia will be drought free.
Two strong, back-to-back La Ninas are responsible for the large amounts of rain seen across the country over the last couple of years, and for breaking the decade long drought experienced across large portions of Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that 2011 was the third wettest year on record (wettest since 1970), and the first cooler than average year experienced in Australia since 2001.
La Ninas are a natural climate phenomenon, caused by the shifting of warm water across the Pacific Ocean. In Australia, La Nina conditions are associated with above average rainfall across, particularly, the east coast. The opposite phase, known as El Nino, is well known to bring dry conditions, and often drought to Australia.
Unfortunately, this news has lead a number of people to believe that climate change must be no longer occurring. An important thing to remember, is that just because we have been experiencing cool and wet weather here in Australia, doesn’t mean that the warming trend has not continued in other parts of the world (for example, North America and South America).
The ENSO cycle (i.e. El Nino and La Ninas) are a natural part of the climate variability experienced here in Australia. While it may seem that the warming has stopped here in Australia, it is important to note that 2011 was the warmest La Nina event yet recorded in Australia. This means that although 2011 was cooler compared to the years surrounding it, it was in fact the warmest, of these typically cool La Nina years ever recorded.
With even the cool years getting warmer, it is certainly not time to stop thinking about climate change.