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Wet weather in Australia reverses rising sea levels

Brett Worthington, Tuesday September 3, 2013 - 08:06 EST
ABC image
Water fills Lake Eyre in northern South Australia. - ABC
ABC image
Floodwaters consume a road subject to flooding sign on January 13, 2011. Flooding across Australia in 2010 and 2011 led to global sea levels temporarily falling. - ABC

Scientists in the United States have discovered wet weather in Australia temporarily reversed rising sea levels.

Australia recorded its wettest back-to-back years on record in 2010 and 2011.

Dr John Fasullo, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, says it's the first time scientists have recorded a fall in sea levels after high rainfall.

"It has its ups and downs over time, but generally its rise has been very steady," he said.

"It's about three millimetres per year, maybe a little bit more than that.

"So it's a complete outlier. There is nothing else in the satellite record that is even comparable to this. It's kind of this big blip.

"Since then, we have actually returned to the long-term trend and gone above it."

Dr Fasullo says floods across Australia contributed to the 18-month sea level drop.

He says most of the flood water remained inland, soaking into the dry outback and filling Lake Eyre, instead of flowing out to the ocean.

"A typical continent is filled with river basins that run off to the ocean and they run off to the ocean relatively quickly, (usually) within a month or two," Dr Fasullo said.

"Australia is not that way and much of Australia doesn't have co-ordinated river run-off at all.

"The western plateau region is very dry and doesn't have the co-ordinated river run-off and in the east you have an interior basin. So there are rivers but the rivers actually run towards the centre of the continent and not out to the ocean.

"So all these things were involved in the sea level drop."


© ABC 2013

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