A new study has found that South Australia’s droughts are getting worse, becoming longer and more severe.
Professor Simon Beecham, UniSA’s Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation, led the study and drew on data from his Goyder Institute for Water Research SA Climate Ready project. The Institute’s SA Climate Ready project was the most extensive climate change investigation ever undertaken in South Australia, where researchers developed an agreed set of downscaled climate change projections to support proactive responses to climate change in water resource planning and management. Project partners included UniSA, the Department for Environment and Water, CSIRO, The University of Adelaide, and Flinders University.
Prof Beecham’s study, recently published in a Royal Meteorological Society Journal, drew from the SA Climate Ready data to determine a clear drought pattern, showing that drought is increasing in SA’s south and over the Murray Darling Basin – our most heavily inhabited areas, food production areas and major catchments.
The data also showed that there has been significant long term reductions in rainfall through autumn and winter, when water systems should be recharging and flows building up again. Prof Beecham said that when it is dry during this time, as it was earlier this year, it is a problem for the State’s water supplies, as winter rain is soaked up by the dry environment and less ends up in reservoirs. He cautions that we cannot afford to be complacent about the effects of climate change on our society. You can read more about his research here.
Although finalised in 2015, the Institute’s SA Climate Ready project continues to have an impact across the State as researchers and planners use the data to help us better understand climate change and its impact now and in the future. The Institute’s award-winning Climate Resilience Analysis Framework and Tools (CRAFT) project is another example of how the Climate Ready data has been to help improve planning and decision making in South Australia. The CRAFT tools address a significant knowledge gap – how to best use climate projections to modify or augment a system’s design to improve its resilience in a changing hydroclimate.