East Australian Rainfall Events: Interannual Variations, Trends, and Relationships with the Southern Oscillation

Neville Nicholls Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia

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Alex Kariko Bureau of Meteorology Research Centre, Melbourne, Australia

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Abstract

The number, average length, and average intensity of rain events at five stations located in eastern Australia have been calculated for each year from 1910 to 1988, using daily rainfall totals. A rain event has been defined as a period of consecutive days on which rainfall has been recorded on each day. Inter-relationships between the rain-event variables (at each station and between stations), along with their relationships with annual rainfall and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, have been investigated. Trends in the time series of the rain-event variables have also been examined. Annual rainfall variations are found to be primarily caused by variations in intensity. Fluctuations in the three rain-event variables are essentially independent of each other. This is due, in some cases, to inter-relationships at interdecadal time scales offsetting relationships of the opposite sense at shorter time scales. The large-scale geographical nature of east Australian rainfall fluctuations mainly reflects interstation correlations in the number of events. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation affects rainfall mainly by influencing the number and intensity of rain events. Twentieth century increases in east Australian rainfall have been due, primarily, to increased numbers of events. Intensity of rain events has generally declined, offsetting some of the increase in rainfall expected from more frequent events.

Abstract

The number, average length, and average intensity of rain events at five stations located in eastern Australia have been calculated for each year from 1910 to 1988, using daily rainfall totals. A rain event has been defined as a period of consecutive days on which rainfall has been recorded on each day. Inter-relationships between the rain-event variables (at each station and between stations), along with their relationships with annual rainfall and the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, have been investigated. Trends in the time series of the rain-event variables have also been examined. Annual rainfall variations are found to be primarily caused by variations in intensity. Fluctuations in the three rain-event variables are essentially independent of each other. This is due, in some cases, to inter-relationships at interdecadal time scales offsetting relationships of the opposite sense at shorter time scales. The large-scale geographical nature of east Australian rainfall fluctuations mainly reflects interstation correlations in the number of events. The El Niño-Southern Oscillation affects rainfall mainly by influencing the number and intensity of rain events. Twentieth century increases in east Australian rainfall have been due, primarily, to increased numbers of events. Intensity of rain events has generally declined, offsetting some of the increase in rainfall expected from more frequent events.

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