Australia is experiencing its worst drought in 100 years, due to the widening ozone hole. The ozone hole was once thought to only affect skin cancer rates in Australia, by letting in more ultraviolet light. But now it’s been discovered that ozone acts with changing winds to blow the rain clouds away.

Mark Horstman writes in ABC Australia Online that an accelerating vortex of winds moving at 100 miles an hour is pulling rain clouds away from Australia and into the Southern Ocean. Meteorologist David Jones says, “We can’t just look at natural variability or greenhouse climate change in isolation?we also have to factor in ozone.”

The Antarctic polar vortex is a natural “tornado” of fast moving, super-cold winds that surrounds the ozone hole. It’s created by the movement of the Earth interacting with temperature differences between the Antarctic and the rest of the Earth’s surface. The vortex blows in the rain clouds that southern Australia depends on for its water supply.

Jones discovered that global warming and ozone depletion are working together to shrink the vortex, as well as cause the winds to move even faster, dragging rain clouds towards the south pole, away from Australia’s landmass.

Australia is a major agricultural exporter, but it may not be for much longer. Climate predictions show Australia in winter having the largest reduction in rainfall of any region in the world. Rainfall has already declined by nearly 20% in the last 7 years, at the same time Australia is getting warmer, meaning it needs more rain just to stay even. This condition could become permanent.

Meteorologist James Risbey says, “The worst case scenario is that we start to run out of water around the cities. In that case we’d have to think seriously about moving some of the water out of agriculture and into urban uses.”

It’s hard to imagine a major country like Australia ceasing to exist, but it’s happened before.

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