Global warming made sea levels FALL in 2010 and 2011
For an 18-month period beginning in 2010, the oceans mysteriously dropped by about seven millimeters.
Using a combination of satellite instruments and other tools, the new study finds that the picture in 2010-11 was uniquely complex.
In addition to La Nina, a rare combination of two other semi-cyclic climate modes came together. They drove such large amounts of rain over Australia that the continent received almost one foot (300 millimeters) of rain more than average.
The initial effects of La Niña were to cool surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean and push moisture to the west.
A climate pattern known as the Southern Annular Mode then coaxed the moisture into Australia's interior, causing widespread flooding across the continent.
Later in the event, high levels of moisture from the Indian Ocean driven by what's known as the Indian Ocean Dipole collided with La Niña-borne moisture in the Pacific, pushing even more moisture into the continent's interior.
These influences spurred one of the wettest periods in Australia's recorded history.
The quintessential Australian climatic pattern of intense droughts and flooding rains will still be with us in the future. But the added risks associated with climate change make it even more important that we plan and act on a careful analysis of the risks that climate variability and climate change together bring.
The magnitude of these risks ultimately depends on the effectiveness of global emission reduction efforts, including by Australia. The transition to a clean energy economy, which is gathering speed in many parts of the world, gives us great hope that we can minimise these potential risks.