Articles | Volume 18, issue 6
Research article
18 Jun 2014
Research article |  | 18 Jun 2014

Synchronicity of historical dry spells in the Southern Hemisphere

D. C. Verdon-Kidd and A. S. Kiem

Abstract. A shift in climate occurred during the mid-1970s that affected the hydroclimate of the Southern Hemisphere resulting in drying trends across continental regions including Australia, New Zealand and southern and western Africa. There is also anecdotal evidence of other periods of climatic synchronicity in the Southern Hemisphere (e.g., the 1920s and 1940s), indicating that the mid-1970s event may not be anomalous. This paper identifies periods within the last ~120 years using statistical analysis where dry spells (in terms of annual to multi-decadal rainfall deficiencies) have coincided across the continental Southern Hemisphere in order to characterize temporal consistency. It is shown that synchronicity of dry spells is (a) most likely common over the last 120 years and (b) associated with changes in the large-scale climate modes of the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans. Importantly, the findings presented in this paper have marked implications for drought management and drought forecasting studies in the Southern Hemisphere.