Warming Causes More Extreme Shifts of the Southern Hemisphere's Largest Rain Band

The changes will result from the South Pacific rain band responding to greenhouse warming. The South Pacific rain band is largest and most persistent of the Southern Hemisphere spanning the Pacific from south of the Equator, south-eastward to French Polynesia. Occasionally, the rain band moves northwards towards the Equator by 1000 kilometres, inducing extreme climate events.

The international study, led by CSIRO oceanographer Dr Wenju Cai, focuses on how the frequency of such movement may change in the future. The study finds the frequency will almost double in the next 100 years, with a corresponding intensification of the rain band.

Dr Wenju and colleagues turned to the extensive archives of general circulation models submitted for the fourth and fifth IPCC Assessments and found that increases in greenhouse gases are projected to enhance equatorial Pacific warming. In turn, and in spite of disagreement about the future of El Niño events, this warming leads to the increased frequency of extreme excursions of the rain band.

During moderate El Niño events with warming in the equatorial eastern Pacific, the rain band moves north-eastward by 300 kilometres. Countries located within the bands' normal position such as Vanuatu, Samoa, and the southern Cook Islands experience forest fires and droughts as well as increased frequency of tropical cyclones, whereas countries to which the rain band moves experience extreme floods.

"During extreme El Niño events, such as 1982/83 and 1997/98, the band moved northward by up to 1000 kilometres. The shift brings more severe extremes, including cyclones to regions such as French Polynesia that are not accustomed to such events," said Dr Cai, a scientist at the Wealth from Oceans Flagship.
A central issue for community adaptation in Australia and across the Pacific is understanding how the warming atmosphere and oceans will influence the intensity and frequency of extreme events. The impact associated with the observed extreme excursions includes massive droughts, severe food shortage, and coral reef mortality through thermally-induced coral bleaching across the South Pacific.

"Understanding changes in the frequency of these events as the climate changes proceed is therefore of broad scientific and socio-economic interest."

Download Center

  • Your Guide to Environmental Metrics that Drive Performance

    Translating sustainability into action starts with implementing the right metrics to assess your environmental risk and performance. Learn how to design metrics that improve your decision-making process and drive enterprise performance.

  • Unpacking ESG: 6 Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask

    Environmental and Sustainability experts from Arcadis and Cority answer 6 of the most pressing questions EHS professionals have about getting started with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.

  • 5 Keys to Best-in-Class Chemical Management

    Running a safe chemical program is challenging and complex: from knowing what's on-site to proper handling and disposal - all while navigating regulatory changes. Learn the best ways to mitigate chemical risk, get the most value out of your data, and gain buy-in for a chemical management solution.

  • Streamline Your Air Emissions Management

    See how consolidating all your emissions management functions into one centralized system can help you streamline your operations, more easily maintain compliance, and achieve greater time and cost savings.

  • A Crash Course in Creating the Right Environmental Scoring System

    Learn how to develop the right environmental scoring system so you can easily benchmark performance across all your facilities and gain a holistic view of your environmental programs.

  • Industry Safe