WA drought boosts snow in Antarctica

By AAP with AG Staff 26 October 2010
Reading Time: < 1 Print this page
Climatic patterns around southwest Australia are apparently linked to increased snowfall in Antarctica.

THE SIGNIFICANT DROUGHT IN southwest Australia may be linked to increased snowfall in the Antarctic over the past 30 years, researchers say. Understanding the connection could help farmers in Western Australia plan for years to come.

Analysis of ice cores, drilled at Law Dome just inland from Australia’s Casey Station in the Antarctic, shows snowfall may be linked to climate in the Australian sector of the Southern Ocean and southwest WA.

Dr Tas van Ommen, principal research scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart, presented his research results at Curtin University in Perth on Monday. He said the ice cores from the Law Dome site provided a record of annual snowfall variations stretching back over 750 years. And and over the past 30 years, the cores indicated there had been a significant increase in snowfall in that area, he said.

This was associated with significantly lower rainfall and subsequent drought in the southwest of Western Australia. “So when there’s extra moisture at Law Dome, the same circulation pattern is starving Western Australia of moisture,” Tas said.

Further work is underway to explore these connections and understand the reasons behind them, he added.


Researchers say the greater snowfall in the Antarctic and drought in WA also coincides with human-induced changes in the atmosphere that may be contributing to global warming.

“The snowfall increase we see in the last 30 years lies well outside the natural range recorded over the past 750 years,” Tas said. “By doing this very practical climate science we’re understanding things that will help farmers plan for years to come. If you can adapt to change then you’re really going to be ahead of the curve,” he added.