The land of “droughts and flooding rains” lived up to its reputation in a big way this summer. The hottest summer on record – with 44 weather stations recording all-time maximum temperatures – was accompanied by major bushfires in Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.
On the east coast, rain came as a relief initially, but then it wouldn’t stop, causing flooding in Queensland and New South Wales. Meanwhile, parched Victoria and South Australia baked through the driest summer on record.
Climate change is almost certainly to blame, according to The Angry Summer, a new report by the Climate Commission.
“Statistically, there is a one in 500 chance that we are talking about natural variation causing all these new records,” Will Steffen, the report's lead author and director of the Australian National University's Climate Change Institute, told The Sydney Morning Herald. “Not too many people would want to put their life savings on a 500-to-1 horse.”
Australia was already a land of extremes, and climate change is making those extremes worse, the report says. In the coming decades, extreme heat and rainfall events are likely to become more frequent. All we can do is try to limit the extent of climate change.
“In Australia and around the world we need to urgently invest in clean energy and take other measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases,” the report says. “This is the critical decade to get on with the job.”
By: Simon Webster
First published: March 2013