Understanding and managing drought in Australia – What do we know? What do we need to know?
Kiem, A., F. Johnson, S. Westra, J. Evans, D. Jakob, A. van Dijk, C. Barr, A. O'Donnell, O. Batelaan, S. Perkins, R. Mehrotra, B. Sivakumar, M. Thyer, J. Tyler and F. Woldemeskel
MODSIM2015, 21st International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand, Gold Coast, Australia, 29 November – 4 December 2015.
Our ability to monitor, model, forecast and manage drought in Australia, and to differentiate
between and understand the causes and impacts of the different types of droughts (e.g. meteorological,
hydrological, agricultural, socioeconomic) is exposed as insufficient every time a drought occurs. This paper
reviews the existing literature on i) defining, monitoring and forecasting drought, (ii) drought causes and
impacts, (iii) instrumental and pre-instrumental insights into Australia’s drought history and (iii) observed
variability in, and expected future changes to, the frequency, magnitude, duration, location and spatial extent
of drought in Australia.
Open questionsthat may guide future research endeavours are also identified in the paper. These include:
• How best to use emerging information sources (e.g. satellite data, GIS tools, reanalysis data, soil
moisture data etc.) to better understand and deal with drought in Australia?
• What are the effects of antecedent catchment conditions and land use changes such as vegetation,
urbanisation and regulation on drought risk?
• Is drought risk in Australia changing and if so where and when and how and why?
• Is the instrumental record a reliable indicator of the true risk of drought in Australia (now and into
• What is the relationship between atmospheric temperature and the different types of drought?
• What is the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and drought in Australia and is it
possible to distinguish this from influences associate with natural variability (if so, how?)?
• How can insights into the climatic causes of drought be exploited and turned into practically-useful
information that is meaningful for decisions makers and water resource managers responsible for
ensuring water security?
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Last updated 31st January 2013