Australian research highlights impact of climate change on rainfall

This image made from video shows home engulfed in flames outside Perth, Australia, Dec. 21, 2023. [AP Photo]

Australian researchers have found that record heat profoundly affected the global water cycle in 2023, contributing to severe storms, floods and droughts. An Australian National University study published Thursday asserts that rising sea and air temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels have intensified monsoons, cyclones and other storm systems.

The world’s climate is increasingly lurching between extreme events, according to the study. It results in severe storms and cyclones dumping more water than they used to and droughts developing much faster.

The burning of fossil fuels is identified by the report’s authors as “by far the biggest contributor to global warming.”

They say that some of the worst disasters of 2023 were linked to unusually strong cyclones that brought massive rainfall to Libya, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand and Australia. A lack of rainfall and high temperatures exacerbated long-standing droughts in South America, parts of Africa and the Mediterranean.

Lead author Albert Van Dijk, a professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University College of Science, told VOA climate change is deeply affecting the global water cycle.

“On the one hand, we see that severe storm and rainfall events carry more water than they used to,” he said. “So cyclones dump more water and start to behave in some erratic ways that causes them to slow down, which happened, for instance, in Australia, but also in other places, dumping a lot of water in one place and causing massive flooding. On the other hand, we’re seeing that droughts develop much faster.”

The research team in Australia used data from thousands of ground stations and satellites to provide real-time information on rainfall, air temperature and humidity in the air.

Severe storms have hit parts of eastern Australia in recent weeks, while other parts of the country have battled bushfires.

In the first few days of summer, in early December, a heat wave warning affected areas in every state and territory, apart from the island of Tasmania.

Increasing natural disasters in Australia have raised concerns among politicians, environmental activists and scientists about the impacts of climate change.

Australia’s government has legislated a target to cut carbon emissions by 43% from 2005 levels by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

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