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Did aboriginal vegetation burning impact on the Australian summer monsoon?

by Michael Notaro, Karl Heinz Wyrwoll, Guangshan Chen
Geophysical Research Letters ()

Abstract

Aboriginal vegetation burning practices and their role in the Australian environment remains a central theme of Australian environmental history. Previous studies have identified a decline in the Australian summer monsoon during the late Quaternary and attributed it to land surface-atmosphere feedbacks, related to Aboriginal burning practices. Here we undertake a comprehensive, ensemble model evaluation of the effects of a decrease in vegetation cover over the summer monsoon region of northern Australia. Our results show that the climate response, while relatively muted during the full monsoon, was significant for the pre-monsoon season (austral spring), with decreases in precipitation, higher surface and ground temperatures, and enhanced atmospheric stability. These early monsoon season changes can invoke far-reaching ecological impacts and set-up land surface-atmosphere feedbacks that further accentuate atmospheric stability. Citation: Notaro, M., K.-H. Wyrwoll, and G. Chen (2011), Did aboriginal vegetation burning impact on the Australian summer monsoon?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L11704, doi: 10.1029/2011GL047774.

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