Press Release: Interim Findings on Heatwaves

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The Climate Council has released interim findings from our new report, Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often.

New Report: Australian Heatwaves Becoming Hotter and Longer.

The Climate Council will today release interim findings from its new report, Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often.

The report finds that heatwaves in Australia are becoming more frequent, they are lasting longer, and the hottest days are becoming even hotter.

Report author Professor Will Steffen said, “It is clear that climate change is making heatwaves more frequent and severe. Heatwaves have become hotter and longer, and they are starting earlier in the season.”

“Australia has always had hot weather. However, climate change is loading the dice toward more extreme hot weather.”

The interim findings come as southern Australia swelters through an intense heatwave with temperatures in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide passing 40 degrees and Canberra heading towards the upper 30s.

“The current conditions that Australians are experiencing are becoming more common. The current heatwave follows on from a year of extreme heat, the hottest summer on record and the hottest year on record.”

“Heatwaves have significant impacts on our health, our infrastructure, our agriculture and our ecosystems. It is essential that we understand the influence of climate change on heatwaves to ensure that health services, transport providers, farmers and the community are prepared for what is happening now and what will happen increasingly in the future.”


Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often.

Full report release date: late February 2014.
Authors: Professor Will Steffen, Dr. Sarah Perkins and Professor Lesley Hughes.

1. Hot days, hot nights and heatwaves are one of the most direct consequences of climate change.

As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, more heat is trapped in the lower atmosphere. This increases the likelihood that hot weather will occur and that heatwaves will become longer and more intense.

2. Heatwaves have increased across Australia.

There will still be record cold events, but hot records are now happening three times more often than cold records.

3. Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. This highlights the need to take rapid, effective action on climate change.

It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health and medical services and other authorities prepare for the increases that are already occurring in the severity and frequency of many types of extreme weather. The southeast of Australia, including many of our largest population centres, stands out as being at increased risk from many extreme weather events – including heatwaves.

4. Record hot days and heatwaves are expected to increase in the future.

As for the global level, record hot days and warm nights are expected to increase across Australia over the coming decades. The number of heatwaves is also projected to increase significantly.