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    Explaining changes in rainfall-runoff relationships during and after Australia's Millennium Drought: a community perspective
    Fowler, K ; Peel, M ; Saft, M ; Peterson, T ; Western, A ; Band, L ; Petheram, C ; Dharmadi, S ; Tan, KS ; Zhang, L ; Lane, P ; Kiem, A ; Marshall, L ; Griebel, A ; Medlyn, B ; Ryu, D ; Bonotto, G ; Wasko, C ; Ukkola, A ; Stephens, C ; Frost, A ; Weligamage, H ; Saco, P ; Zheng, H ; Chiew, F ; Daly, E ; Walker, G ; Vervoort, RW ; Hughes, J ; Trotter, L ; Neal, B ; Cartwright, I ; Nathan, R ( 2022-04-20)
    The Millennium Drought lasted more than a decade, and is notable for causing persistent shifts in the relationship between rainfall and runoff in many south-east Australian catchments. Research to date has successfully characterised where and when shifts occurred and explored relationships with potential drivers, but a convincing physical explanation for observed changes in catchment behaviour is still lacking. Originating from a large multi-disciplinary workshop, this paper presents a range of possible process explanations of flow response, and then evaluates these hypotheses against available evidence. The hypotheses consider climatic forcing, vegetation, soil moisture dynamics, groundwater, and anthropogenic influence. The hypotheses are assessed against evidence both temporally (eg. why was the Millennium Drought different to previous droughts?) and spatially (eg. why did rainfall-runoff relationships shift in some catchments but not in others?). The results point to the unprecedented length of the drought as the primary climatic driver, paired with interrelated groundwater processes, including: declines in groundwater storage, reduced recharge associated with vadose zone expansion, and reduced connection between subsurface and surface water processes. Other causes include increased evaporative demand and interception of runoff by small private dams. Finally, we discuss the need for long-term field monitoring, particularly targeting internal catchment processes and subsurface dynamics. We recommend continued investment in understanding of hydrological shifts, particularly given their relevance to water planning under climate variability and change.
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    Many Commonly Used Rainfall‐Runoff Models Lack Long, Slow Dynamics: Implications for Runoff Projections
    Fowler, K ; Knoben, W ; Peel, M ; Peterson, T ; Ryu, D ; Saft, M ; Seo, K ; Western, A (American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2020-05)
    Evidence suggests that catchment state variables such as groundwater can exhibit multiyear trends. This means that their state may reflect not only recent climatic conditions but also climatic conditions in past years or even decades. Here we demonstrate that five commonly used conceptual “bucket” rainfall‐runoff models are unable to replicate multiyear trends exhibited by natural systems during the “Millennium Drought” in south‐east Australia. This causes an inability to extrapolate to different climatic conditions, leading to poor performance in split sample tests. Simulations are examined from five models applied in 38 catchments, then compared with groundwater data from 19 bores and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data for two geographic regions. Whereas the groundwater and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment data decrease from high to low values gradually over the duration of the 13‐year drought, the model storages go from high to low values in a typical seasonal cycle. This is particularly the case in the drier, flatter catchments. Once the drought begins, there is little room for decline in the simulated storage, because the model “buckets” are already “emptying” on a seasonal basis. Since the effects of sustained dry conditions cannot accumulate within these models, we argue that they should not be used for runoff projections in a drying climate. Further research is required to (a) improve conceptual rainfall‐runoff models, (b) better understand circumstances in which multiyear trends in state variables occur, and (c) investigate links between these multiyear trends and changes in rainfall‐runoff relationships in the context of a changing climate.