Variability and long-term change in Australian monsoon rainfall: A review

Publication Name

Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change


The Australian monsoon delivers seasonal rain across a vast area of the continent stretching from the far northern tropics to the semi-arid regions. This article provides a review of advances in Australian monsoon rainfall (AUMR) research and a supporting analysis of AUMR variability, observed trends, and future projections. AUMR displays a high degree of interannual variability with a standard deviation of approximately 34% of the mean. AUMR variability is mostly driven by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), although sea surface temperature anomalies in the tropical Indian Ocean and north of Australia also play a role. Decadal AUMR variability is strongly linked to the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO), partially through the IPO's impact on the strength and position of the Pacific Walker Circulation and the South Pacific Convergence Zone. AUMR exhibits a century-long positive trend, which is large (approximately 20 mm per decade) and statistically significant over northwest Australia. The cause of the observed trend is still debated. Future changes in AUMR over the next century remain uncertain due to low climate model agreement on the sign of change. Recommendations to improve the understanding of AUMR and confidence in AUMR projections are provided. This includes improving the representation of atmospheric convective processes in models, further explaining the mechanisms responsible for AUMR variability and change. Clarifying the mechanisms of AUMR variability and change would aid with creating more sustainable future agricultural systems by increasing the reliability of predictions and projections. This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Modern Climate Change.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Sponsor

National Computational Infrastructure



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