Record heatwaves, droughts and bushfires highlighted in Climate Council’s ‘Angry Summer’ report

Record heatwaves, droughts and bushfires highlighted in Climate Council’s ‘Angry Summer’ report

10 March 2014

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Australia — The Climate Council’s latest ‘Angry Summer’ report has painted a picture of a severely sunburnt country, with more than 150 weather records broken across Australia during the recent summer.

The report analysed climate data from across the nation and is being released today in Adelaide, which the council says bore the brunt of the heat with 11 days above 42 degrees Celsius.

While South Australia was described as the summer’s ‘ground zero’, it was also the driest summer on record for 38 spots in New South Wales and 45 in Queensland, while Sydney had its driest summer in 27 years.

Melbourne had its hottest 24-hour period, with an average temperature of 35.5C, and Perth had its hottest-ever night and its second-hottest summer on record.

The council’s Lesley Hughes says the extreme heat and drier weather conditions are heightening the risks of bushfires.

“Bushfires, if they’re started, are able to carry and spread faster and more seriously and more intensely, the hotter and drier the conditions,” she said.

“So if we have really hot days, dry weather that’s dried out the fuel, those are the conditions that are conducive to bushfires spreading and causing really serious impacts.”

Victoria’s February fires burnt 280,000 hectares of land.

The report found climate change “is already increasing the intensity and frequency of many extreme weather events” and major towns and cities are at greater risk from heatwaves and droughts.

“This summer’s heatwaves were particularly significant because of their record-breaking duration in major population centres in southeast Australia,” the report found.

“Since 1960, the annual number of record hot days in Australia has doubled and over the past decade, record hot days have occurred three times more often than record cold days.

“Since 2001, the number of extreme heat records has been almost three times greater than the number of cold records for daytime temperatures, and almost five times greater for night-time temperatures.”

The council says the nature of heatwaves is changing, and they are now tending to start earlier, last longer and occur more frequently.

Some of the records were for above average rain which fell over parts of Cape York Peninsula, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and along South Australia’s coast.

The report called for “urgent and deep reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases” to stabilise the climate.

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