SYDNEY – Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013, the Bureau of Meteorology said Friday, enduring the longest heat wave ever recorded Down Under, as well as destructive bush fires.
“2013 was Australia’s warmest year since records began in 1910,” the bureau said in its annual climate statement.
“Mean temperatures across Australia have generally been well above average since September 2012. Long periods of warmer-than-average days have been common, with a distinct lack of cold weather.”
The bureau said Australia’s 2012-2013 summer was the warmest on record, and included a prolonged national heat wave that ended on Jan. 19, 2013 — the first day since Dec. 31, 2012, that it did not reach 45 degrees Celsius somewhere in the nation.
Spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third-warmest. Overall, the annual national mean temperature was 1.2 degrees above average.
The bureau pointed to destructive fires in the island state of Tasmania in early 2013, then later in the year, a record warm and dry winter and an early spring that culminated in “the most destructive fires in the Sydney region since at least 1968.”
The weather authority, which last year introduced new colors on its temperature scale to prepare for more extreme highs, said the Australian warming was very similar to that seen on the global scale.
Roger Jones, a research fellow at Victoria University in Melbourne and a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report to be released this year, said, “While the increases in average temperatures may seem to be benign, heat waves are increasing faster than those averages.”
University of Melbourne climate scientist David Karoly said the record high average temperature was remarkable because it did not occur in an El Nino year, when conditions in Australia are usually drier and warmer.
He said that in climate-modelling experiments, it is not possible to reach such a temperature record due to natural climate variations alone.
“Hence, this record could not occur due to natural variability alone and is only possible due to the combination of greenhouse climate change and natural variability on Australian average temperature,” he said.
Ian Lowe, emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Queensland’s Griffith University and president of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the report confirmed expectations. “2013 was the hottest year on record for Australia, showing that there is no rational basis for the claim that warming has slowed in recent years.”