Could the Australian floods be caused by climate change?

Are the devastating and deadly recent floods in Australia caused by climate change?

No. Australia has always been "a land of drought and flooding rains," as a foundational poem about the nation, My Country, by Dorothy McKellar, described it over a hundred years ago. 

But could a tendency towards drought and flood be worsened by climate change?

Yes, says Australian researcher David Karoly, of the University of Melbourne. 

“What gives very heavy rainfall is high Indian Ocean temperatures and La Niña in the Pacific,” Karoly explains. “This year we have both of those, and both are at record highs.”

The toasty temperatures in the Indian Ocean aren’t just a one or two year occurrence, however. Looking back over the past several years, there is a pronounced long-term warming trend in the waters near Australia. Karoly says, “This isn’t just climate variability. This is man-made climate change.”

But not according to Fox News's Tom Switzer. He mocks an Australian representative for suggesting in public that climate change could worsen the nation's a) flooding, b) drought, and c) wildfires. 

That one trend could push the climate towards extremes of precipitation, drought, and heat is apparently inconceivable. 

Except to scientists like Karoly. When the poem by McKellar was mentioned to him by Climate Central's reporter Alyson Kenward, he said:

“What I think now is that climate change is making Australia the land of more droughts and worse flooding rains.”  

Don't tell Fox News. They don't want to hear it.  


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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