Investigating the ocean’s influence on Australia’s drought

Investigating the ocean’s influence on Australia’s drought

Caroline Ummenhofer, a physical oceanographer at WHOI, studies how ocean patterns in the Indian Ocean influence rainfall and extreme events—such as droughts and floods—on adjacent landmasses. “The Indian Ocean is a key driver of Australian rainfall variability,” says Ummenhofer. A record Indian Ocean dipole event occurred during the second half of 2019, during which stronger monsoon winds in the eastern Indian Ocean pushed warm waters to the western Indian Ocean. When it comes to Australian dry spells, however, the Indian Ocean typically does not act in isolation. “When the effects of several of these climate phenomena occur simultaneously, extreme weather and climate conditions are often the result,” Ummenhofer says.

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