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Australia: Worst Drought on Record

by: SGW    18 November 2005

The 2002 drought was quite probably the worst drought in the history of Australia since federation, but it was definitely the worst since proper financial records have been kept, according to the Chief Economist with ANZ bank, Saul Eslake. The Gross Domestic product figures showed a massive fall in farm income of around seventy percent and agricultural exports fell more than twenty-eight percent.

Australia may be facing a permanent drought because of an accelerating vortex of winds whipping around the Antarctic that threatens to disrupt rainfall, scientists said on Tuesday. Spinning faster and tighter, the 100 mile an hour jet stream is pulling climate bands south and dragging rain from Australia into the Southern Ocean, they say. They attribute the phenomenon to global warming and loss of the ozone layer over Antarctica. "This is a very serious situation that we're probably not confronting as full-on as we should," Dr James Risbey of the Center for Dynamical Meteorology and Oceanography at Melbourne's Monash University told Reuters.

Australians have been warned they face an environmental crisis unless they stop squandering scarce water resources. The problem is most acute in large cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, which account for well over two-thirds of Australia's 20 million people. With reservoir levels below 50 percent in all of Australia's major cities except Brisbane, experts have warned something must be done.

Update since 2002:
Forecasters fear Australia slipping back into drought
TerraDaily SYDNEY (AFP) May 01, 2005


Forecasters have expressed fears Australia faces another damaging drought after the country experienced the driest four months on record. With farmers still struggling to recover from a severe drought in 2002-03, the National Climate Centre (NCC) said there was a high probability Australia would experience an El Nino weather cycle... The last drought cost an estimated five billion dollars (3.9 billion US dollars) in rural exports and cut Australia's economic growth by about a third... Despite the dry conditions, inhabitants of the world's most arid populated continent have done little to curb water usage, which remains 30 percent higher than the OECD average. In response, cities experiencing falling dam levels have introduced strict water usage restrictions and many are planning desalination plants to convert seawater for household usage. New South Wales Premier Bob Carr said his government would this week consider a proposal for a two billion dollar desalination plant to service Sydney... The dry weather has severely affected the rural economy, with a report last week estimating 50,000 jobs had been lost in regional towns.