WMO: Australia’s hot year made worse by climate change

Click on the image to go to the WMO interactive map of extreme climate events.

 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has highlighted Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013 as a key event showing how climate change has impacted extreme events in its annual Status of the Climate Report.

Research carried out by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS) researchers from The University of Melbourne featured prominently in the WMO annual Status of the Climate, which looks at extreme events each year and the development of long terms trends.

“The research used as the key case study in WMO’s report makes a clear link between the impacts of global warming and the extreme temperature events that made 2013 the hottest year on record for Australia,” said ARCCSS chief investigator Prof David Karoly.

“According to our findings, climate change made the record Australian summer of 2012/13 five times more likely.”

The WMO is an internationally recognized authoritative voice on climate and its annual reports are used as sources of information to support adaption responses to an increasingly variable climate.

Major climate events highlighted in the 2013 report included:

  • Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall;
  • The widest tornado ever observed that struck El Reno, Oklahoma, US.
  • Record heat events with Australia having its hottest year on record, Argentina having it second hottest year on record and New Zealand having its third hottest year on record. Worldwide it was the sixth hottest year on record.
  • Severe drought in Angola, Namibia, Botswana, southern China, and Northeastern Brazil.
  • Heavy flooding rains on the India-Nepal border, north-east China, eastern Russian Federation, Sudan, Somalia, Europe’s Alpine region, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Switzerland.

“Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the Australia’s record hot year in 2013 is that it occurred when the El Nino Southern Oscillation was in a neutral phase,” said lead author of the temperature attribution study, Dr Sophie Lewis.

“El Nino events amplify global temperatures and with just such an event looking increasingly likely later this year, 2015 has the potential to be a year of even more extreme temperature events in Australia and worldwide.”

Research is now consistently showing that extreme hot temperature events, considered to be the first clear indicator of climate change impacts, are becoming more frequent.

Heatwaves worldwide are longer, hotter and appear more often. Days with a high fire index have increased in number and more broadly Australia’s fire seasons are growing longer, reducing time for burn-offs and making fires far more destructive.

“As our research and others show, the link between climate change, heatwaves and fire danger has never been clearer,” Prof Karoly said.

 

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