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Temporal Variations in Rainfall Volume in the Southwest of Western Australia

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  • 1 School of Engineering and Built Environment, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  • 2 Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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Abstract

Rainfall in the southwest of Western Australia (SWWA) has decreased significantly over recent decades. Previous studies documented this decrease in terms of the change in rainfall depth or decrease in the frequency of rainfall events for selected sites. Although rainfall volume is of vital importance to determine water resources availability for a given region, no study has yet been undertaken to examine the change in rainfall volume in SWWA. The aim of this study is to examine the spatiotemporal changes in rainfall volume and to attribute this change to the changes in wet area and rainfall depth. Gridded daily rainfall data at 0.05° resolution for the period from 1911 to 2018 were used for an area of 265 952 km2 in SWWA. For the whole region and most zones, rainfall volume decreased, which was mostly due to a decrease in the wet area, despite an increase in the mean rain depth. In the regions near the coast with mean annual rainfall ≥ 600 mm, 84% of the decrease in rainfall volume could be attributed to a decrease in the wet area, whereas the decrease in rainfall depth only played a minor role. The regions near the coast with a higher number of rain days showed a decreasing trend in wet area, and the regions farther inland with a lower number of rain days showed an increasing trend in wet area. On the coast, the rate of decrease in rainfall has been reduced, and heavy rainfall, in fact, has increased over the past 30 years, although there was no concurrent change in the southern annular mode (SAM). This suggests that the relationship between SAM and rainfall could have changed and that other climate drivers could also be responsible for the recent rainfall trend and variations in the coastal regions of SWWA.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Bofu Yu, b.yu@griffith.edu.au

Abstract

Rainfall in the southwest of Western Australia (SWWA) has decreased significantly over recent decades. Previous studies documented this decrease in terms of the change in rainfall depth or decrease in the frequency of rainfall events for selected sites. Although rainfall volume is of vital importance to determine water resources availability for a given region, no study has yet been undertaken to examine the change in rainfall volume in SWWA. The aim of this study is to examine the spatiotemporal changes in rainfall volume and to attribute this change to the changes in wet area and rainfall depth. Gridded daily rainfall data at 0.05° resolution for the period from 1911 to 2018 were used for an area of 265 952 km2 in SWWA. For the whole region and most zones, rainfall volume decreased, which was mostly due to a decrease in the wet area, despite an increase in the mean rain depth. In the regions near the coast with mean annual rainfall ≥ 600 mm, 84% of the decrease in rainfall volume could be attributed to a decrease in the wet area, whereas the decrease in rainfall depth only played a minor role. The regions near the coast with a higher number of rain days showed a decreasing trend in wet area, and the regions farther inland with a lower number of rain days showed an increasing trend in wet area. On the coast, the rate of decrease in rainfall has been reduced, and heavy rainfall, in fact, has increased over the past 30 years, although there was no concurrent change in the southern annular mode (SAM). This suggests that the relationship between SAM and rainfall could have changed and that other climate drivers could also be responsible for the recent rainfall trend and variations in the coastal regions of SWWA.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Bofu Yu, b.yu@griffith.edu.au
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