Using meteorological observer data to compare wind erosion during two great droughts in eastern Australia; the World War II Drought (1937-1946) and the Millennium Drought (2001-2010)

Tadhg O'Loingsigh, Grant H McTainsh, Katherine Parsons, Craig L Strong, Phil Shinkfield, Nigel J Tapper

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Australian meteorological observers started using the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) weather coding system in the 1950s. This system is still in use around the world today. However, observing and recording the weather in an organized and systematic manner had been ongoing for over 100 years prior to the adoption of this coding system, and much like Australia, most countries will have historical meteorological records. In this paper we compare the wind erosion of two of the greatest droughts in Australian recorded history; the World War II (WWII) Drought (1937-1945) and the Millennium Drought (2001-2009). To do this we analysed previously unavailable meteorological observer records from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (ABM). Wind erosion records, mostly in long-hand written form, were translated to the modern WMO coding system for the WWII Drought and compared with the wind erosion of Australia s recently-ended Millennium Drought, one of the longest and harshest on record. We quantify wind erosion using Dust Event Days (DED) and a modified version of a published Dust Storm Index (DSI) to show that wind erosion during the WWII Drought was up to 4.6 times higher than during the Millennium Drought. This study has international significance because it demonstrates a methodology for tracking changes in wind erosion over the past 75 years based on observer records available in every country with a history of organized weather observation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Air quality
  • Dust storm
  • Meteorological records
  • Wind erosion
  • WMO

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