Australia’s hottest year caused by global warming

Australian weather stations recording temperatures of 45°C or above in January 2013. Image: Squidman18559 via Wikimedia Commons
Australian weather stations recording temperatures of 45°C or above in January 2013.
Image: Squidman18559 via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists are fond of saying that it is difficult to pin the blame for any one climate event on global warming. But they have just made an exception by reporting that many extreme weather events that occurred in Australia in 2013 bore the signature of man-made climate change.

In that one year, Australia recorded its hottest day ever, its hottest month, its hottest summer, its hottest spring, and its hottest year overall.

in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society that examined extreme global events in 2013, a series of papers identified a human influence in the Australian heat waves.

“We often talk about the fingerprint of human-caused climate change when we look at extreme weather patterns,” said David Karoly, professor of meteorology at the University of Melbourne’s School of Earth Sciences. “This research across four different papers goes well beyond that.

“If we were climate detectives, then Australia’s hottest year on records 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.”

That found that global warming doubled the chance of severe heat waves in Australia − making extreme summer temperatures five times more likely, increasing the chance of drought conditions sevenfold, and making hot temperatures in spring 30 times more probable.

And they reckoned that the record hot year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without global warming. At a conservative calculation, the science showed that the heat of 2013 was made 2,000 times more likely by global warming.

Different picture

Paradoxically, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott was one of the world leaders who avoided the recent United Nations climate change summit in New York and in the past has taken a sceptical stance on climate science. Yet research funded by Australian taxpayers has consistently painted a different picture.

“When it comes to what helped cause our hottest year on record, human-caused climate change is no longer a prime suspect − it is the guilty party,” said Sophie Lewis, a paleoecologist at the Australian National University.

And her colleague, Sarah Perkins, a climate scientist at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, warned that 2013 was only the beginning.

She said: “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.” – Climate News Network

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