Fact sheet

Fact Check: Craig Kelly says Australia had more rainfall in the first 20 years of this century than the first 20 years of last century. Is he correct?

Liberal Party of Australia Water security Weather

At the height of Australia's recent bushfire crisis, Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly made the rounds of national and international media outlets, arguing against the long-term drying out of the Australian landscape. He claimed that Australia had had more rainfall this century, compared to the first 20 years of the last century, and that data showed there is no nationwide drying trend. Mr Kelly's claim is flawed. Data collected by the Bureau of Meteorology shows an increase in Australia's annual average rainfall for the first two decades of this century compared to the years 1900 to 1919. However, experts contacted by RMIT ABC Fact Check said this was a flawed means of assessing rainfall patterns and drying trends overall in view of Australia's vast landscape and the high variability in rainfall behaviour. They said the national average disguised regional differences, which were most starkly felt between the north and the south of the continent.On average, northern Australia has become wetter but parts of southern Australia have become much drier in recent decades. Further, less rain has been falling in the cooler months in the south, a period critical for streamflows, water storage and agriculture. Experts told Fact Check that because Australia is such a large country national averages wouldn't reflect regional changes.
Verdict: Flawed

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