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Centennial Annual Rainfall Pattern Changes Show an Increasing Trend with Higher Variation over Northern Australia

Jie HeaState Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China
bSchool of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Puyu FengcCollege of Land Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China

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Bin WangaState Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China
dNew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia

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Wei ZhuangaState Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China

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Yongqiang ZhangeKey Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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De Li LiudNew South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
fClimate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Jamie CleverlygCollege of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

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Alfredo HuetebSchool of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Qiang YuaState Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China
bSchool of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
eKey Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

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Abstract

Global warming and anthropogenic activities have imposed noticeable impacts on rainfall pattern changes at both spatial and temporal scales in recent decades. Systematic diagnosis of rainfall pattern changes is urgently needed at spatiotemporal scales for a deeper understanding of how climate change produces variations in rainfall patterns. The objective of this study was to identify rainfall pattern changes systematically under climate change at a subcontinental scale along a rainfall gradient ranging from 1800 to 200 mm yr−1 by analyzing centennial rainfall data covering 230 sites from 1910 to 2017 in the Northern Territory of Australia. Rainfall pattern changes were characterized by considering aspects of trends and periodicity of annual rainfall, abrupt changes, rainfall distribution, and extreme rainfall events. Our results illustrated that rainfall patterns in northern Australia have changed significantly compared with the early period of the twentieth century. Specifically, 1) a significant increasing trend in annual precipitation associated with greater variation in recent decades was observed over the entire study area, 2) temporal variations represented a mean rainfall periodicity of 27 years over wet to dry regions, 3) an abrupt change of annual rainfall amount occurred consistently in both humid and arid regions during the 1966–75 period, and 4) partitioned long-term time series of rainfall demonstrated a wetter rainfall distribution trend across coastal to inland areas that was associated with more frequent extreme rainfall events in recent decades. The findings of this study could facilitate further studies on the mechanisms of climate change that influence rainfall pattern changes.

Significance Statement

Characterizing long-term rainfall pattern changes under different rainfall conditions is important to understand the impacts of climate change. We conducted diagnosis of centennial rainfall pattern changes across wet to dry regions in northern Australia and found that rainfall patterns have noticeably changed in recent decades. The entire region has a consistent increasing trend of annual rainfall with higher variation. Meanwhile, the main shifting period of rainfall pattern was during 1966–75. Although annual rainfall seems to become wetter with an increasing trend, more frequent extreme rainfall events should also be noticed for assessing the impacts of climate changes. The findings support further study to understand long-term rainfall pattern changes under climate change.

© 2022 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: Q. Yu, yuq@nwafu.edu.cn

Abstract

Global warming and anthropogenic activities have imposed noticeable impacts on rainfall pattern changes at both spatial and temporal scales in recent decades. Systematic diagnosis of rainfall pattern changes is urgently needed at spatiotemporal scales for a deeper understanding of how climate change produces variations in rainfall patterns. The objective of this study was to identify rainfall pattern changes systematically under climate change at a subcontinental scale along a rainfall gradient ranging from 1800 to 200 mm yr−1 by analyzing centennial rainfall data covering 230 sites from 1910 to 2017 in the Northern Territory of Australia. Rainfall pattern changes were characterized by considering aspects of trends and periodicity of annual rainfall, abrupt changes, rainfall distribution, and extreme rainfall events. Our results illustrated that rainfall patterns in northern Australia have changed significantly compared with the early period of the twentieth century. Specifically, 1) a significant increasing trend in annual precipitation associated with greater variation in recent decades was observed over the entire study area, 2) temporal variations represented a mean rainfall periodicity of 27 years over wet to dry regions, 3) an abrupt change of annual rainfall amount occurred consistently in both humid and arid regions during the 1966–75 period, and 4) partitioned long-term time series of rainfall demonstrated a wetter rainfall distribution trend across coastal to inland areas that was associated with more frequent extreme rainfall events in recent decades. The findings of this study could facilitate further studies on the mechanisms of climate change that influence rainfall pattern changes.

Significance Statement

Characterizing long-term rainfall pattern changes under different rainfall conditions is important to understand the impacts of climate change. We conducted diagnosis of centennial rainfall pattern changes across wet to dry regions in northern Australia and found that rainfall patterns have noticeably changed in recent decades. The entire region has a consistent increasing trend of annual rainfall with higher variation. Meanwhile, the main shifting period of rainfall pattern was during 1966–75. Although annual rainfall seems to become wetter with an increasing trend, more frequent extreme rainfall events should also be noticed for assessing the impacts of climate changes. The findings support further study to understand long-term rainfall pattern changes under climate change.

© 2022 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: Q. Yu, yuq@nwafu.edu.cn
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