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  • Author or Editor: Scott B. Power x
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Scott B. Power and Jeff Callaghan

Abstract

The variability in the number of severe floods that occurred in coastal catchments in southeastern Australia since the mid–nineteenth century, along with the variability in both the frequency of the weather types that triggered the floods and the associated death tolls, is analyzed. Previous research has shown that all of the severe floods identified were associated with one of two major weather types: east coast lows (ECLs) and tropical interactions (TIs). El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is shown to strongly modulate the frequency of severe coastal flooding, weather types, and the number of associated deaths. The analysis presented herein, which examines links over more than a century, provides one of very few known statistically significant links between ENSO and death tolls anywhere in the world. Over the period 1876/77–2013/14 the average numbers of coastal floods, ECLs, TIs, and deaths associated with freshwater drowning in La Niña years are 92%, 55%, 150%, and 220% higher than the corresponding averages in El Niño years. The average number of deaths per flood in La Niña years is 3.2, which is 66% higher than the average in El Niño years. Death tolls of 10 or more occurred in only 5% of El Niño years, but in 27% of La Niña years. The interdecadal Pacific oscillation also modulates the frequency of severe floods, weather types, and death tolls. The results of this study are consistent with earlier research over shorter periods and broader regions, using less-complete datasets.

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