Bless the rains down in… Australia?

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  • Lake Eyre filling the last time, in 2009. NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data provided by the United States Geological Survey.

    Image of Lake Eyre from Space. This image was acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor on July 29, 1999. This is a false-color composite image made using shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and blue wavelengths (ETM+ bands 7, 4, & 1).

  • Bless the rains down in… Australia?
    09.01.2016 18:10

    Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre has filled for the first time since 2009. In 2009 the lake only managed to reach a depth of 1.5m, ¼ of its maximum of 6m. However, this year there is strong belief that a greater depth could occur as more areas have had high rainfall amounts.

    When the lake does fill it brings the desert back to life, as plants flower and birds as well as fish return in large numbers. The lake is so vast it can been viewed from space.

    The lake, when filled, is the largest in Australia and although located in the South Australia state its catchment area is huge, expanding deep into Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. The lake is the lowest point in Australia at 15m below sea level.

    The lake was able to form as high rain totals occurred across the catchment area. The high rainfall totals were in turn linked to two low pressure systems.  The monsoon trough, which was particularly strong due to an active MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation), helped create a tropical depression which tracked southwards across Queensland bringing rain to northern parts of the lake’s basin. In a freak occurrence a second low pressure system off the coast of New South Wales was blown inland and combined with the tropical low pressure system heading down form Queensland. This brought further rain to the eastern side of Lake Eyre’s catchment area.

    Although, the monsoon trough in the north is now dissipating as the MJO moves into its next phase, and the two low pressure systems have filled, more rain is expected to push in from the east on Wednesday. This will help the lake fill a bit more before it once again turns back to desert.

    The lake filling has come with a cost weather-wise though. The low pressure that helped fill the lake has destroyed other areas by flash floods. Newcastle in New South Wales was one of the places most badly hit with 201mm of rain falling in 24 hours. (274mm in three days). This was the heaviest rain Newcastle had seen in 25 years and already its wettest January on record. People were forced to evacuate as power went out in the city inundated with flood water. Thankfully the flood water has now subsided.

    By: John Griffiths