Wetter future could be on cards

TOWNSVILLE could go from being the driest city in North Queensland to the wettest place in the state due to a quirk of global warming, a leading professor says.

Professor Ray Wills spoke to the Bulletin after a recent article which stated geography in Townsville could be to blame for the notorious "dome" - an invisible barrier that stops rain - and instead blames climate change.

Prof Willis is a commentator and adviser on sustainability and technology and responded to comments made by Thomas Hinterdorfer, a forecaster from weather group Higgins Storm Chasing.

Mr Hinterdorfer said the geography of Mount Stuart and other smaller surrounding hills were forming a barrier against rain.

Prof Wills noted Townsville had historically experienced wet periods and argued climate change was the real driver of the long dry period and failed wet seasons.

"Mount Stuart hasn't changed in height, however the climate has and it is changing as a result of global warming," he said.

Prof Wills said the phenomenon was linked to atmospheric circulation, temperature and rainfall.

He said Townsville temperatures were up and rainfall was down, especially in summer.

The Bureau of Meteorology's 2017 Annual Climate Survey showed Townsville was the driest of the coastal cities in North Queensland last year and had 30 per cent less rain than the long-term average.

Townsville received just 791mm in 2017, against the long-term average of 1128mm. It is the fifth consecutive year of below-average rainfall in Townsville. The city's residents also endured a year of hotter-than-average temperatures. But it might not stay dry for long.

Prof Wills said climate change was moving the "climate belt" - areas with distinct climates - south.

"What Townsville could well be experiencing is what would have been a dry area further north that is being pushed southward," he said.

With places such as Tully to the north of Townsville - where average annual rainfall is more than 4000mm - that could mean a wet future for Townsville.

"That's a possible scenario," Prof Wills said, but it could take decades. He also said mountains surrounding Townsville complicated forecasts, as did oceanic currents and atmospheric circulation.



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