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Title: Today’s 100 year droughts in Australia may become the norm by the end of the century

Accumulating evidence on the impact of climate change on droughts, highlights the necessity for developing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies. Changes in future drought risk and severity in Australia are quantified by analyzing nine Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 climate models. Historic conditions (1981–2014) and projections for mid-century (2015–2050) and end-century (2051–2100) from four shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP1-2.6, SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5) are examined. Drought events are identified using both the standardized precipitation index and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index. The spatial-temporal evolution of droughts is addressed by quantifying the areal extent of regions under moderate, severe and extreme drought from historic to end-century periods. Drought characteristics derived from the models are used to develop severity–duration–frequency curves using an extreme value analysis method based on ordinary events. Under SSP5-8.5, a tenfold increase in the area subject to extreme droughts is projected by the end of the century, while a twofold increase is projected under SSP1-2.6. Increase in extreme droughts frequency is found to be more pronounced in the southern and western regions of Australia. For example, frequency analysis of 12 month duration droughts for the state of South Australia indicates that, under SSP5-8.5, drought severities currently expected to happen on average only once in 100 years could happen as often as once in 3 years by the end of the century, with a 33 times higher risk (from 1% to 33%), while under SSP1-2.6, the increase is fivefold (1%–5%). The significant difference in the increase of drought risk between the two extreme scenarios highlights the urge to reduce greenhouse gases emission in order to avoid extreme drought conditions to become the norm by the end of the century.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
IOP Publishing
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Article No. 044034
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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