Antarctic wind steals our rain

Winds circling Antarctica have sped up over the past 70 years, shielding the continent from the effects of a warming climate but drawing rain away from areas such as southern WA.

Amid long-held questions over why southern Australia was drying out as Antarctica bucked the warming trend, researchers claim to have found the answers.

According to a team of scientists from Australian National University, rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were strengthening storm systems in the Southern Ocean.

The effect was helping to keep Antarctica relatively cool by effectively "trapping" cold air over the icy continent.

However, it was also making southern Australia drier by pulling storm bands that brought winter rains southwards, lead researcher Nerilie Abram said.

"With greenhouse warming, Antarctica is actually stealing more of Australia's rainfall," Dr Abram said.

"It's not good news - as greenhouse gases continue to rise we'll get fewer storms chased up into Australia.

"As the westerly winds are getting tighter they're actually trapping more of the cold air over Antarctica.

"This is why Antarctica has bucked the trend. Every other continent is warming, and the Arctic is warming fastest of anywhere on Earth."

The West Australian

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