Severe heatwaves and sweltering temperatures contributed to another record-breaking ”angry summer” that will likely get worse, according to a Climate Council report.
Across the country, major cities battled with scorching heat and raging bushfires as Melbourne melted through its hottest 24-hour period, Sydney had its driest summer in 27 years and Canberra experienced 20 days of at least 35 degrees.
Perth had its second-hottest summer on record, while Adelaide had a record 11 days of at least 42 degrees. ”The climate is really heating up,” said Professor Will Steffen, an earth system scientist and one of the co-authors of the Angry Summer report. ”And we can see that from the last 15 years, where we have experienced eight of the hottest summers.
”Since the middle of the last century, heatwaves are getting longer, they are occurring more often and they are starting earlier.”
Over the 90 days of summer more than 156 temperature records were broken, according to the report, released on Monday.
The hottest daily maximum temperature recorded during summer was 49.1 degrees in Walgett, NSW. The warmest night on record was 31.5 degrees at Brunette Downs, in the Northern Territory’s north-east. There were also severe blazes across country Victoria, Perth and South Australia as fire danger increased due to the frequency of heatwaves, the report said.
Over the coming decades, it will be ”virtually certain” that extreme weather will continue to be even more frequent and severe in Australia and other parts of the world, it said.
Professor Steffen said the findings were troubling, and likely to be caused by the average temperature rising by 0.9 degrees in the past 65 years. ”What is worrying is that apparent ‘modest increase’ is leading to quite extreme weather.”
The only way to stabilise the climate is to slow down greenhouse gas emissions, including fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil, Professor Steffen said.
The report, in its second year, concluded urgent action was needed to address the extreme weather.
Opposition environment spokesman Mark Butler agreed that immediate action was needed to fight climate change.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the Coalition would reduce Australia’s emissions by 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020.