Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Climate change is increasing Australia’s heat and drought

Great southern drought: Australian farmers crippled, climate action stalled https://www.dw.com/en/great-southern-drought-australian-farmers-crippled-climate-action-stalled/a-45015773

Amidst the worst drought in living memory, the world’s driest continent is also heating up due to climate change. Critics say too little is being done to prevent increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall.

New South Wales, which is Australia’s most populous state and about the size of France, was declared 100 percent in drought on Wednesday.

Despite the fact that it is winter, farmers in the state and throughout the southern region of Australia are struggling to maintain their livelihood as crops fail and livestock die.

With grazing land turned to dust, some farmers have resorted to hand-feeding to keep their stock alive. They also have permission to shoot kangaroos that compete for pasture. Depression and suicide among farmers are on the rise.

And yet, there is no end in sight to this crippling drought, unseen for generations. The predicted start of bushfire season has been brought forward two months in New South Wales to prepare for what could be an apocalyptic summer scenario.

Though Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth and has regularly experienced intense droughts since modern record-taking began after European colonization, the relatively fertile southern regions continue getting hotter while receiving less rain.

Autumn of 2017 in southern Australia was the driest for 116 years. And 2017 was also the hottest year ever in New South Wales.

Increasing drought

“These regions experienced increasing intensity and frequency of hot days and heat waves over the past 50 years, in turn increasing drought severity,” said Lesley Hughes, a professor of biology at Sydney’s Macquarie University and councillor with the Climate Council — a climate change information nonprofit created after the current government closed down the state-funded Climate Commission.

But the “source of the problem is complex,” she told DW.

Scientists are confident that warming linked to human-induced climate change “has contributed to a southward shift in weather fronts from the Southern Ocean, which typically bring rain to southern Australia during winter and spring,” Hughes explained of the reduced precipitation.

As rain-inducing weather fronts drift away from land to the Southern Ocean, the risk of drought has increased, especially in agricultural heartlands such as the Murray Darling Basin in New South Wales.

Benjamin Henley, a research fellow in climate and water resources at the University of Melbourne, shares this view.

“Climate model projections suggest that with anthropogenic emissions, the storm track will shift south, reducing rainfall [over land] in the south,” he told DW.

But global warming could also be increasing the intensity of drought. “Higher temperatures during droughts, which influence evaporation rates, can be due to both the lack of rain itself [due to the reduced evaporative cooling], and the higher probability of warmer temperatures due to climate change,” Henley explained.

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August 11, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming

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