Saturday, 16 May 2015

As Australia begins to move further into drought the Bureau of Meteorology confirms an El Niño and the Abbott Government dismantles Water Commission and cuts water funding

Australian Bureau of Meteorology confirms tropical Pacific now at El Niño levels

Media Release, 12 May 2015

The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest update on the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) today confirms El Niño thresholds have been reached in the tropical Pacific for the first time since March 2010.

Assistant Director for Climate Information Services, Mr Neil Plummer, said El Niño is often associated with below average rainfall across eastern Australia in the second half of the year, and warmer than average daytime temperatures over the southern half of the country.
“The onset of El Niño in Australia in 2015 is a little earlier than usual. Typically El Niño events commence between June and November,” Mr Plummer said.
“Prolonged El Niño-like conditions have meant that some areas are more vulnerable to the impact of warmer temperatures and drier conditions.
“The failed northern wet season in 2012–13, compounded by poor wet seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15, have contributed to drought in parts of inland Queensland and northern New South Wales,” he said.
Mr Plummer noted that while the El Niño is forecast to strengthen during winter, the strength of an
El Niño does not necessarily correspond with its impact on Australian rainfall. Australia experienced widespread drought during a weak El Niño in 2006–07, while stronger events such as the El Niño event in 1997–98 had only a modest impact on Australian rainfall.
“Recent significant rainfall and flooding along the east coast of Australia, associated with two almost back-to-back East Coast Lows, did not penetrate far into inland regions and therefore have done little to alleviate conditions in drought affected areas,” Mr Plummer said.
While El Niño increases the risk of drought, it does not guarantee it; of the 26 El Niño events since 1900, 17 have resulted in widespread drought.
Despite El Niño increasing the likelihood of drier conditions later this year, the Bureau’s May to July Climate Outlook (see link below) indicates much of Australia is likely to be wetter than average.
This is being driven by warmer than average Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures, which are dominating this outlook.
Further information:
* The Bureau’s ENSO Wrap-Up is published at
* A video entitled Understanding ENSO can be viewed on YouTube
* May to July Climate Outlook
* An El Niño explainer article is published in The Conversation

In the same month that the Bureau confirmed the existence of a Pacific El Niño and 80 per cent of Queensland was officially drought declared - with northern New South Wales inland of the Great Dividing Range and an area stretching from southeastern South Australia and western Victoria also experiencing drought - the Abbott Government began to dismantle the National Water Commission, abolished the River Murray Water Committee and cut funding to the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Programme by $22.7 million over the next two financial years.

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