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Australia might face unprecedented megadroughts

New modelling by The Australian National University (ANU) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes suggests Australia could face megadroughts lasting more than 20 years. These findings, which do not yet account for human-induced climate change post-Industrial Revolution, indicate that droughts in the 20th century, particularly in southwestern and eastern Australia, including the Murray-Darling Basin, were longer than those in pre-industrial times.

Dr Georgy Falster, co-lead author from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, highlighted the potential exacerbation of future droughts due to climate change. The study underscores the necessity of preparing for multi-decade megadroughts, considering the limited historical data on prolonged droughts in Australia. The research specifically focused on the Murray-Darling Basin, emphasizing its significance to Australia's agriculture.

The team aimed to understand the full range of potential droughts, including their duration and intensity, even without considering climate change effects. They utilized multiple climate models to simulate droughts from 850 to 2000, to project future scenarios. The study found that droughts in Australia could potentially last 20 years or more, with human-caused climate change likely increasing the frequency of such events.

Professor Nerilie Abram, a co-author, noted the contribution of human-induced climate change to longer droughts in specific regions, including the Murray-Darling Basin. The study suggests that mitigating future drought severity and length requires rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and preparedness in water management and community support.


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