The impact of anthropogenic forcing and natural processes on past, present, and future rainfall over Victoria, Australia

Surendra P. Rauniyar, Scott B. Power

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Abstract

Cool-season (April to October) rainfall dominates the annual average rainfall over Victoria, Australia, and is important for agriculture and replenishing reservoirs. Rainfall during the cool season has been unusually low since the beginning of the Millennium Drought in 1997 (;12% below the twentieth-century average). In this study, 24 CMIP5 climate models are used to estimate 1) the extent to which this drying is driven by external forcing and 2) future rainfall, taking both external forcing and internal natural climate variability into account. All models have preindustrial, historical, and twenty-first-century (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, and RCP8.5) simulations. It is found that rainfall in the past two decades is below the preindustrial average in two-thirds or more of model simulations. However, the magnitude of the multimodel median externally forced drying is equivalent to only 20% of the observed drying (interquartile range of 40% to 24%), suggesting that the drying is dominated by internally generated rainfall variability. Underestimation of internal variability of rainfall by the models, however, increases the uncertainties in these estimates. According to models the anthropogenically forced drying becomes dominant from 2010 to 2029, when drying is evident in over 90% of the model simulations. For the 2018–37 period, it is found that there is only a;12% chance that internal rainfall variability could completely offset the anthropogenically forced drying. By the late twenty-first century, the anthropogenically forced drying under RCP8.5 is so large that internal variability appears too small to be able to offset it. Confidence in the projections is lowered because models have difficulty in simulating the magnitude of the observed decline in rainfall.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8087-8106
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume33
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2020

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