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Recent flooding in South East Queensland and the recent cyclone Yasi means weather in Australia is a hot topic at the moment. Mother nature is a powerful and mystical force.
The Great Barrier Reef Australia is constantly being probed for its secrets and limitless wonders with recent research showing that coral can unlock a history of rainfall in North Queensland that predates recordings from modern instruments.
By examining coral cores on the Great Barrier Reef The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) has been able to gain an insight into Queensland’s rainfall dating back to 1640. This is 3 times as far back as instrumental records go.
“Coral cores can tell us a lot about how climate conditions change over time. Not only can we extract information on rainfall, we can look at global temperature, ocean chemistry and many other physical parameters.” Says AIMS coral scientist Dr Janice Lough.
These photos from Janice Lough show how a Coral Core can be examined.
Corals have bands (similar to tree rings) that record freshwater levels in the ocean. Under ultraviolet light, luminescent lines in coral cores indicate the strength of freshwater discharge from rivers and can tell us which years were wet (white lines) or dry (blue). This short coral core(above), which records a very wet year in 1991, is from Pandora Reef, close to the Palm Islands off Townsville.
This coral core slice (above) from Magnetic Island covers the period 1813 to 1850 (before European settlement of the region) and shows major floods in 1831, 1838, 1840 and a very dry year in 1839.
This amazing research has provided insight into Australia’s variable weather patterns.