Climate Detectives Track Down The Culprit Of The Recent Stinking Hot Weather In Australia

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 23: A general view of Bondi Beach on May 23, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is experiencing it’s hottest May on record, already recording it’s hottest week for this time of year in over 150 years. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013, along with the accompanying droughts, heat waves and record-breaking seasons, was impossible without the influence of human-caused global warming, scientists say.

Research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, published in five different papers in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, has highlighted the powerful influence of global warming on Australia’s climate.

“We often talk about the fingerprint of human-caused climate change when we look at extreme weather patterns,” says Professor David Karoly of the University of Melbourne.

“If we were climate detectives then Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013 wasn’t just a smudged fingerprint at the scene of the crime, it was a clear and unequivocal handprint showing the impact of human caused global warming.”

In 2013, Australia had its hottest day, hottest month, hottest summer, hottest spring and then rounded it off with the hottest year on record.

According to the research, the impact of climate change significantly increased the chances of record heat events in 2013.

Looking back over the records, the researchers found global warming over Australia:

  • doubled the chance of the most intense heat waves
  • tripled the likelihood of heatwave events
  • made extreme summer temperature across Australia five times more likely
  • increased the chance of hot dry drought-like conditions seven times
  • made hot spring temperatures across Australia 30 times more likely.

Australian National University researcher Dr Sophie Lewis says human-caused climate change is no longer a prime suspect, it is the guilty party.

“Too often we talk about climate change impacts as if they are far in the future,” she says. “This research shows they are here, now.”

The extreme year of 2013 is just the latest peak in a trend which has seen increasing bushfire days, the record-breaking warming of oceans around Australia, the movement of tropical species into temperate zones and the shifting of rain bearing storm tracks further south and away from some of the most important agricultural zones.

Dr Sarah Perkins, of the University of New South Wales, says the most striking aspect of the extreme heat of 2013 is that this is only at the very beginning of the time when we are expected to experience the first impact of human-caused climate change.

“If we continue to put carbon into our atmosphere at the currently accelerating rate, years like 2013 will quickly be considered normal and the impacts of future extremes will be well beyond anything modern society has experienced,” she says.

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