Regime transitions of Australian climate and climate extremes
Abstract. Systematic changes, since the beginning of the 20th century, in average and extreme Australian rainfall and temperatures indicate that Southern Australian climate has undergone regime transitions into a drier and warmer state. South-west Western Australia (SWWA) experienced the most dramatic drying trend with average streamflow into Perth dams, in the last decade, just 20 % of that before the 1960s and extreme, decile 10, rainfall reduced to near zero. In south-eastern Australia (SEA) systematic decreases in average and extreme cool season rainfall became evident in the late 1990s with a halving of the area experiencing average decile 10 rainfall in the early 21st century compared with that for the 20th century. The shift in annual surface temperatures over SWWA and SEA, and indeed for Australia as a whole, has occurred primarily over the last 20 years with the percentage area experiencing extreme maximum temperatures in decile 10 increasing to an average of more than 45 % since the start of the 21st century compared with less than 3 % for the 20th century mean. Average maximum temperatures have also increased by circa 1 °C for SWWA and SEA over the last 20 years. The climate changes are associated with atmospheric circulation shifts and are indicative of second order regime transitions, apart from extreme temperatures for which the dramatic increases are suggestive of first order transitions.
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