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Analysis and Comment (38)

Annual show: each spring, thousands of people make the road trip north from Perth to see the wildflowers. Annual show: each spring, thousands of people make the road trip north from Perth to see the wildflowers. Supplied

Drought and fire threaten WA’s famous spring wildflowers

Spring has sprung. This time of year is peak wildflower season in the area around Perth, and the display is a major tourism draw card. People flock to places like Lesueur National Park and the Eneabba…
An El Niño - even a weak one - can cause reduced rainfall in eastern Australia. An El Niño - even a weak one - can cause reduced rainfall in eastern Australia. Tim J Keegan/Flickr

Don’t dismiss a 2014 ‘super’ El Niño just yet

It looks like it’s all over bar the shouting for the chance of this year bringing on a “super” El Niño. Or is it? The Bureau of Meteorology has brought the odds of an El Niño event down to 50%, from 70…
The once-popular Loch McNess north of Perth has dried up almost completely after a decades-long dry period. The once-popular Loch McNess north of Perth has dried up almost completely after a decades-long dry period. ron_n_beth/Flickr

Saving water in a drying climate: lessons from south-west Australia

Since 1970, average rainfall in the south-west of Western Australia has decreased by nearly a fifth, and the science suggests that this is linked to human-caused climate change. Across Australia, CSIRO…
Australia’s weather is influenced by warm water movements in the Pacific. Australia’s weather is influenced by warm water movements in the Pacific. Flickr/Shayan USA

Explainer: El Niño and La Niña

We wait in anticipation of droughts and floods when El Niño and La Niña are forecast but what are these climatic events? The simplest way to understand El Niño and La Niña is through the sloshing around…
Drought conditions are set to become more frequent with the changing behaviour of the Indian Ocean. Drought conditions are set to become more frequent with the changing behaviour of the Indian Ocean. Peripitus/Wikimedia Commons

Drought in store as El Niño’s western cousin to grow stronger

Over the past few months, a lot of attention has been paid to the potentially strong El Niño event brewing in the Pacific Ocean. But there is also the potential for an emerging climate phenomenon in the…
Prime Minister Tony Abbott met Rural Financial Counselling Service officers In February, but the Commission of Audit has recommended the service be abolished. Prime Minister Tony Abbott met Rural Financial Counselling Service officers In February, but the Commission of Audit has recommended the service be abolished. Andrew Meares/AAP

Should drought support measures survive the budget axe?

Last week’s Commission of Audit advocated a “commonsense approach to handling risks in society,” targeting drought assistance for its role in “discouraging drought preparedness and self-reliance”. The…
We could be in for some warmer weather with an increased risk of drought and bushfires. We could be in for some warmer weather with an increased risk of drought and bushfires. Flickr/Len Matthews

Are we heading for a worrying Super El Niño?

We have only just moved into May and despite being seven months away from next summer in the southern hemisphere, climate researchers are seeing the beginnings of what could be the most powerful El Niño…
Abbott: One rule for farmers, another for manufacturers. Abbott: One rule for farmers, another for manufacturers. Andrew Meares/AAP

Moving beyond the agriculture of entitlement

The announcement of drought relief funding for farmers by an Australian prime minister would not normally be a cause for surprise. But last week’s A$324 million drought package comes amid a concerted push…
Melbourne beachgoers battle January’s heatwave. They may need to get used to it. Melbourne beachgoers battle January’s heatwave. They may need to get used to it. AAP Image/David Crosling

Australia’s climate: time to act on rising heatwaves and fires

The State of the Climate 2014 report, released today by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, confirms that Australia is heating up. It has warmed by 0.9C since 1910, with more in store thanks to the…
Tony Abbott may say his government is giving farmers a ‘hand-up’ - as opposed to welfare ‘hand-outs’ - but all publicly funded assistance must be equitable. Tony Abbott may say his government is giving farmers a ‘hand-up’ - as opposed to welfare ‘hand-outs’ - but all publicly funded assistance must be equitable. AAP/Andrew Meares

Farm poverty: an area of policy aid built on sands of ignorance

The drought package announced by prime minister Tony Abbott on Wednesday included “more generous criteria for accessing income support” by drought-affected farmers. Income support is to be paid through…
A dingo in the wild. A dingo in the wild. Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre

Want dingoes to leave people alone? Cut the junk food

Dingoes are back in the news, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott raising concerns on ABC radio last week about dingoes in drought-hit areas of Queensland and New South Wales: I’d learnt some years ago on…
Tony Abbott has pledged to help drought-stricken farmers while dismissing the link to climate change. Tony Abbott has pledged to help drought-stricken farmers while dismissing the link to climate change. AAP

‘It’s been hot before’: faulty logic skews the climate debate

Global warming is increasing the risk of heatwaves. This isn’t a hypothetical abstraction that our grandchildren may experience in the distant future. Heatwaves are currently getting hotter, they’re lasting…
El Nino could stoke more extreme bushfire weather. El Nino could stoke more extreme bushfire weather. James975/Flickr

Should we be preparing for an El Niño in 2014?

Recently speculation has been rife that the end of 2014 will see an El Niño event — the change in Pacific ocean and atmosphere circulation that is known to produce drought, extreme heat, and fire in Australia…
As prime minister Tony Abbott and his ministers tour drought-affected areas, the pressure is on Cabinet to cobble together a policy package in a hurry. As prime minister Tony Abbott and his ministers tour drought-affected areas, the pressure is on Cabinet to cobble together a policy package in a hurry. AAP/Paul Osborne

Death of National Drought Policy takes us back to policy on the run

Australia’s National Drought Policy, introduced in 1992 and recognised internationally as world’s best practice, now appears to be dead. In its place we are seeing back-to-the-future policymaking. This…
Australians sympathise with farmers, but governments need to choose policy carefully. Australians sympathise with farmers, but governments need to choose policy carefully. AAP

Help farmers with direct assistance rather than subsidies

Droughts, seasonal fluctuations, and changing commodity prices are a given and unchangeable characteristic of farming. Farmers voluntarily invest in agriculture and expect that the good times will more…
Australia’s very hot January was followed by a very warm September and a worldwide record for November. Australia’s very hot January was followed by a very warm September and a worldwide record for November. BaboMike/Flickr

2013 was Australia’s hottest year, warm for much of the world

The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed 2013 as Australia’s hottest year since records began in 1910. Average temperatures over the continent have been 1.2C above the 1961-1990 average, breaking the previous…
Drought is part of life in Australia. Drought is part of life in Australia. Flickr/Schilling 2

Drought conditions return to Australia’s eastern states

While much of Australia has received average to above average rainfall over recent months, parts of Australia such as western Queensland are in the middle of a drought. Drought has been a feature of the…
Longer droughts and hotter temperatures are taking down the world’s forests. Longer droughts and hotter temperatures are taking down the world’s forests. Jonathan Nalder

Across the world, trees are dropping dead

Over the last 30 years, every forested continent has had a widespread drought which has killed trees. The geographical scale of drought, and the duration and almost coordinated nature of these droughts…
Before the 1980s, farmers thought lack of water limited their yield. New crops and sowing methods are breaking yield barriers. Before the 1980s, farmers thought lack of water limited their yield. New crops and sowing methods are breaking yield barriers. Michael Middleton

Australia’s farming future: doing more with less water

Changing climate, drought and urban expansion threaten the yield of Australia’s wheat. But changes in cropping methods could address reduced water and lead to a jump in yield not seen since the late 1980s…
New drought policy is designed to manage the risks climate change conditions pose to successful crop production in Western Australia. New drought policy is designed to manage the risks climate change conditions pose to successful crop production in Western Australia. Flickr/Grevillea

Australia’s farming future: Western Australia

Climate change, and its associated variability, is posing a challenge for farm businesses in Western Australia. The grainbelt has experienced a 20% decline in rainfall over the last several decades, more…
The lessons learnt from the Millennium drought may not help us prepare for the next Big Dry. The lessons learnt from the Millennium drought may not help us prepare for the next Big Dry. Flickr/thoughtfactory

Australia is not ready for the next big dry

Three years ago in March 2010, southeast Australia was still in the grip of “the big dry” or the “millennium drought” - billed as the worst drought since European settlement. Dams across the Murray-Darling…
South East Queensland’s grid of water treatment plants are meant to drought proof the region, but could help in floods too. South East Queensland’s grid of water treatment plants are meant to drought proof the region, but could help in floods too. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

How ‘drought infrastructure’ can help us get through floods

Over the last six years, there have been major investments made in “climate independent” water supplies and other measures to help “drought-proof” most of Australia’s capital cities. These have included…
Last time around, the Victorian Government made too many decisions predicated on a stereotyped idea of Australian drought. Last time around, the Victorian Government made too many decisions predicated on a stereotyped idea of Australian drought. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Victoria needs flexibility to get through the next drought

The notion that Australia is the driest inhabited continent on the planet has created a persistent stereotype. Recent weather shows it to be misguided. It suits embarrassed planners, myopic politicians…
The waters of the Kimberley in Western Australia have long tempted politicians and engineers wanting to make the drier southern regions bloom. The waters of the Kimberley in Western Australia have long tempted politicians and engineers wanting to make the drier southern regions bloom. Flickr/Koala:Bear

Western water dreamers rise again with Colin Barnett’s canal vision

Settler Australians have a long history of trying to harness the continent’s great rivers to water the dead heart of the country. Schemes such as those of Bradfield and Idriess in the 1930s and 1940s sought…
The rains came too late for these Texas wheat crops, which are stunted and thin. But there’s more to rising food prices than bad weather. The rains came too late for these Texas wheat crops, which are stunted and thin. But there’s more to rising food prices than bad weather. Flickr/agrilifetoday

Crops hit by drought and biofuel policy: another food price crisis?

Not so long ago, things were looking good. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had announced on the 5th of July that the FAO food price index had been falling for the third consecutive month…
We’re just coming to grips with Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, one of the many climate modes that cause Australia’s wide and wonderful range of climate variability. We’re just coming to grips with Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, one of the many climate modes that cause Australia’s wide and wonderful range of climate variability. mattharvey1/Flickr

Decade to decade changes in our climate – what’s really going on?

While most people now understand that the enhanced greenhouse effect means a much warmer planet, communicating regional shifts in weather remains a significant challenge. As with most complex science…
The climate system operates with a range of discrete modes. The climate system operates with a range of discrete modes. Patrick Hoesly

Explainer: climate modes and drought

While most people now understand that the enhanced greenhouse effect means a much warmer planet, communicating regional shifts in weather remains a significant challenge. As with most complex science…
Scientists' job is to brief us on how future climate might affect our lives, even when all the data isn’t in. Scientists' job is to brief us on how future climate might affect our lives, even when all the data isn’t in. Rae Allen

Droughts & flooding rains: what is due to climate change?

While most people now understand that the enhanced greenhouse effect means a much warmer planet, communicating regional shifts in weather remains a significant challenge. As with most complex science…
Rain’s coming: does that mean there’s no such thing as climate change? Rain’s coming: does that mean there’s no such thing as climate change? Georgie Sharp

A land of (more extreme) droughts and flooding rains?

While most people now understand that the enhanced greenhouse effect means a much warmer planet, communicating regional shifts in weather remains a significant challenge. As with most complex science…
In Victoria, only 10 out of 463 usable gigalitres of stormwater is used per year. In Victoria, only 10 out of 463 usable gigalitres of stormwater is used per year. Chesapeake Bay Program

The drought strikes back: how decentralised water supplies will beat the next dry season

Over the past decade, Australians living in capital cities have dramatically reduced their consumption of water from centralised reservoir systems. This has been achieved through the installation of water…
How do farmers cope with the cycle of floods and droughts? How do farmers cope with the cycle of floods and droughts? recoverling/Flickr

Drought, flood and a whole lot else: the lived experience of farm households

It has been a summer of flooding for farmers in northeast Victoria and NSW. Reporters talk about the effect on crops, pastures and yields. But what about the effect on farming households? How do they cope…
When it comes to weather, scientists and the media have different understandings of risk. When it comes to weather, scientists and the media have different understandings of risk. Ameel Khan

Spinning uncertainty? The IPCC extreme weather report and the media

The “reasonable person” would agree that disaster risk is best avoided. Under a changing climate, how exposed people are to risk and how socially and physically vulnerable they are affects how often disasters…
The East African drought is one of the area’s worst in 60 years. The East African drought is one of the area’s worst in 60 years. AAP

From Kenya to Texas: recent climate extremes around the world

2010 was the world’s hottest year on record, with global temperatures 0.53°C above the long-term (1961-1990) average. 2011 started with a strong La Niña (perhaps the strongest since 1917), something which…
The humanitarian crisis in the Horn continues to escalate. The humanitarian crisis in the Horn continues to escalate. EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

From fear to famine: the politics of hunger in the Horn of Africa

While droughts are caused by weather – the failure of the rains – famines are invariably political. The current famine in southern Somalia should have come as no surprise. Aid agencies have been warning…
Aid is not getting to those who need it most. Aid is not getting to those who need it most. AFP

When drought becomes famine: the role of politics in the Horn of Africa

With the UN declaring famine in Somalia for the first time since 1992, and other countries in the Horn of Africa suffering critical food shortages, this already unstable region is facing devastation. Drought-stricken…
The vibrant colours of autumn went missing in years of drought. The vibrant colours of autumn went missing in years of drought. Michael Loke

All the leaves aren’t brown – the amazing story of our technicolour Autumn

If you’ve been for a leisurely stroll in your local park recently, you’ve probably noticed that autumn is in full swing. All manner of brightly coloured leaves cover the ground and this fact alone is cause…

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