The Climate Council says Australia experienced “another angry summer” this year, with more than 150 temperature records broken.
The environmental group’s report Angry Summer was released today by Professor Tim Flannery, who said Australia witnessed substantial heat records, heatwaves and extreme weather events over the season.
Perth had its second hottest summer and its hottest ever night, and Adelaide suffered through a record 11 days of 42 degrees or more.
Meanwhile, towns from Tamworth to Mount Gambia to Roma all broke records for the daily maximum temperature.
The report states this will be the “critical decade” in which to stop climate change: “The decisions we make this decade will largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren.”
Professor Flannery said the scorching summer was part of an overall trend of more extreme weather events in Australia, and called for action on cutting carbon emissions.
“The latest summer was an another example of climate change tearing through the record books,” he said in a statement.
“If we want to stop them getting worse this is the critical decade for action.”
Future forecast: hot
The report states many of Australia’s largest population centres stand out as being at increased risk from extreme weather events, including heatwaves, drought and bushfires.
Australia has experienced eight of the hottest summers on record occurring in the last fifteen years.
“Over the coming decades, it is virtually certain that extreme hot weather will continue to become even more frequent and severe in Australia and other parts of the world,” the report states.
“Despite the promising developments in low carbon technologies and energy efficiency measures, Australians have not yet reached a consensus on the need to decarbonize our economy and on the development of policies that will turn investments towards a decarbonized future.”
Angry summer, hottest year
In 2013 it wasn’t just the summer that was angry, it was the hottest year on record.
The Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Blair Trewin said the hotter temperatures were associated with a number of factors including a long-term warming trend as well as year-to-year variability.
Australia also recorded its hottest spring, January, September, hottest week, hottest summer day and warmest winter day on record.
Mr Trewin said this record-breaking trend was likely to continue.
“With long term warming trends one of the things you see is an increase in record highs and decrease in record lows, over the last decade record highs have outnumbered record lows by 3 to 1 and we’d expect that ratio to increase further over the coming decades.”
Mr Trewin said the increased levels of greenhouse gases were a major contributor to the long term warming.
“The Australian region warming is very similar to that seen at the global scale, and the past year emphasises that the warming trend continues,” the report said.
“As summarised in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, recent warming trends have been dominated by the influence of increasing greenhouse gases and the enhanced greenhouse effect.”
The report noted dry conditions across much of the country over summer, particularly inland regions in the east of the continent which was hit by drought.
“Northeastern New South Wales and southeastern Queensland experienced serious rainfall deficits, and Sydney had its driest summer in almost thirty years,” it stated.
“Other smaller areas of Victoria, Tasmania and southwest Western Australia were also affected by serious rainfall deficits.”
In the tropics however, rainfall was above average in many regions..
The report describes “intense and prolonged heatwaves” that affected several capital cities and nearby regions during summer which in turned increased the odds of severe bushfire conditions.
“Fires burnt near Perth in mid-January 2014, destroying property and costing an early-figure estimate of $15 million (ICA 2014).
“More hot days and the increasing intensity, duration and frequency of heatwaves mean that the chance of very high fire danger weather – and in turn bushfires – is increasing.”
The report stated significant increases in fire danger weather has been observed in the southeast of Australia since the 1970s.