22 Apr 2011

Ozone hole affects Australia's droughts - scientists

11:21 am on 22 April 2011

Scientists say the Antarctic ozone hole is about one-third to blame for Australia's recent series of droughts.

Researchers have concluded the ozone hole has shifted wind and rainfall patterns across the Southern Hemisphere, even in the tropics, the BBC reports.

The research by scientists led from Columbia University in New York has been published in the journal Science.

Their climate models suggest the effect has been notably strong over Australia.

Many parts of the country have seen drought in recent years, with cities forced to invest in technologies such as desalination, and farms closing.

The research team found that overall, the ozone hole has resulted in ranfall moving south along with the winds, though there are regional differences.

Dr Sarah Kang of Columbia University said on average the ozone hole drives about a 10% change but for Australia it is responsible for about a 35% change.

Their modelling indicated that global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was also a factor - although natural climate cycles are also thought to be important, as Australia suffered severe droughts before ozone depletion and late 20th century climate change.