Cetacean strandings elicit much community and scientific interest, but few quantitative analyses have successfully identified environmental correlates to these phenomena. Data spanning 1920–2002, involving a total of 639 stranding events and 39 taxa groups from southeast Australia, were found to demonstrate a clear 11–13- year periodicity in the number of events through time. These data positively correlated with the regional persistence of both zonal (westerly) and meridional (southerly) winds, reflecting general long-term and large-scale shifts in sea-level pressure gradients. Periods of persistent zonal and meridional winds result in colder and presumably nutrient-rich waters being driven closer to southern Australia, resulting in increased biological activity in the water column during the spring months. These observations suggest that large-scale climatic events provide a powerful distal influence on the propensity for whales to strand in this region. These patterns provide a powerful quantitative framework for testing hypotheses regarding environmental links to strandings and provide managers with a potential predictive tool to prepare for years of peak stranding activity.