Latest research: Records topple in 2017 heat

Data released today from the Bureau of Meteorology has revealed that 2017 toppled weather records nationwide as climate change drove up global temperatures. 2017 was the third hottest year on record in Australia and seven of Australia’s ten hottest years have occurred since 2005.

Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen said the exceptionally warm year included some of the worst impacts of climate change seen in Australia to date, including severe heatwaves and devastating coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

“Another year has passed and we have another set of records driven by intensifying climate change,” he said.

“In recent days Australians have felt the impact of a disruptive climate, with a severe heatwave across the southeast. Parts of the Hume Highway melted in the heat and on Sunday the temperature at Penrith hit 47.3 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest place on Earth during that 24-hour period.”

“Despite this stark warning on the need to take urgent action on climate change, once again, Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution levels increased in 2017, despite the United States and Europe continuing a decade-long decline.”

In another hit, ocean temperatures were well above average for the year across Australia, with prolonged high sea surface temperatures driving mass bleaching of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

Seasonal and geographical heat records tumbled in 2017. In addition to the warmest winter on record, with temperatures nearly 2 degrees above average, many parts of Australia saw extreme heat over the summer.

Key findings from the report

  • Sydney and Brisbane experienced their hottest summer on record.
  • The Northern Territory experienced the warmest daytime temperature on record during the May-September dry season.
  • Hobart experienced its highest annual mean daily maximum temperature on record.
  • South Australia experienced extreme heat in January and February.
  • Exceptional warmth during the last week of September saw records set in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
  • Severe tropical cyclone Debbie caused widespread wind damage in late March, and flooding in Queensland and northeastern New South Wales, which continued into early April in some rivers.

Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said that the Bureau of Meteorology data shows why the Federal government must prioritise serious action to tackle climate change in 2018.

“Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution has been rising year on year since March 2015. This pollution is contributing to more frequent and more severe extreme weather, yet we are still left in limbo when it comes to effective federal climate and energy policy,” she said.

“Australia’s record heat comes as the southern US experiences extreme cold as air masses from the Arctic are pushed south with changing climatic conditions. Climate change is exacerbating extreme weather of all kinds underlining how critical action is.”


For more information please contact Fiona Ivits on 0432 368 714, or at [email protected]

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation. We provide authoritative, expert and evidence-based advice on climate change to journalists, policymakers, and the wider Australian community.