Why did the 2011 Australian floods happen?
The main reason the 2010-2011 floods happened in Australia is, quite simply, because of the unusual amount of rain.
Australia spends many years in drought, often caused by the El Niño effect. When an El Niño occurs, changes in sea surface temperatures cause a shift in air pressure which, in turn, can result in climatic anomalies, such as severe droughts in Australia. These years are punctuated by years of normal rainfall, but occasionally, Australia gets the opposite to an El Niño, which is La Niña.
Australia had been coming out of an El Niño for some time, which means that many parts of Australia had seen gradually increasing rainfall. The rainfall recorded in September 2010 made it Australia's wettest month overall in 110 years. Queensland already experienced flooding in early 2009 (at the same time that southern Australia had the terrible Black Saturday bushfires), and higher than normal rainfall in 2010, increasing towards the end of the year.
Radar images show how large the cyclone system was, even though it was only a category one cyclone, the lowest grade. Low wind speeds do not necessarily mean low rainfall, and in this case the cyclone brought large amounts of rainfall right along the coast. Some of the water runoff from the north flowed down through the inland river system; some of the rainfall fell into the catchment areas of coastal rivers further south. The rivers broke their banks more easily, and there was nowhere for the excess water to go.
Rain continued to fall heavily throughout early January. On 10 January 2011, Toowoomba, a city which sits at an elevation of 700m at the top of the Great Dividing Range, received 150 mm of rain within a 40 minute period. The ground could not hold any more water.
|2011 Flood at Goodna|
Many of the river systems further west which were affected by the flooding which had occurred regularly through December and January feed into the Darling River, which then leads to the Murray River.
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