We investigate factors that drive the variability in total column CO2 at the Total Carbon Column Observing Network sites in the Southern Hemisphere using fluxes tagged by process and by source region from the CarbonTracker analysed product as well as the Simple Biosphere model. We show that the terrestrial biosphere is the largest driver of variability in the Southern Hemisphere column CO2. However, it does not dominate in the same fashion as in the Northern Hemisphere. Local- and hemispheric-scale biomass burning can also play an important role, particularly at the tropical site, Darwin. The magnitude of seasonal variability in the column-average dry-air mole fraction of CO2, XCO2, is also much smaller in the Southern Hemisphere and comparable in magnitude to the annual increase. Comparison of measurements to the model simulations highlights that there is some discrepancy between the two time series, especially in the early part of the Darwin data record. We show that this mismatch is most likely due to erroneously estimated local fluxes in the Australian tropical region, which are associated with enhanced photosynthesis caused by early rainfall during the tropical monsoon season.