A record-breaking start to autumn has smashed temperature records all over Australia, our new report has found.
Australia has sweltered through sleepless nights and sweaty days as summer temperatures continued well into March with exceptionally long warm spells recorded throughout much of the country.
1) Exceptionally long and hot warm spells in early March in southeastern Australia smashed records, contributing to the escalating number of heat records in Australia and globally as the climate warms rapidly.
- Over the period from 1 to 4 March, maximum temperatures were 4°C or more above average over much of Australia and were 8-12°C above average over most of southeastern Australia.
- Perth has had more 40°C days in the 2015/2016 summer than ever before.
- Sydney experienced a record breaking 39 consecutive days over 26°C, smashing the previous record of 19 days.
- Records are also being broken globally. January and February 2016 were significantly hotter than any other January and February on record.
- Climate change is driving off-the-chart temperature records globally, particularly in the northern high latitudes.
2) These off-the-charts temperatures are driving dramatic and unprecedented climate impacts
- Record warm sea surface temperatures are threatening the Great Barrier Reef with widespread coral bleaching.
- Arctic sea ice extent is at its lowest on record for this time of year. A rapid decline in sea ice extent is of major concern for both the Arctic and the global climate system.
- Prolonged hot temperatures have contributed to a major algae bloom in the Murray River.
- Hot and dry conditions over the 2015-16 summer contributed to devastating fires in Tasmania.
3) As Australians continue to suffer from more frequent and worsening extreme heat events, the path to tackling climate change is becoming more urgent: no new coal mines can be built, existing coal mines and coal-fired power stations must be phased out and renewable energy must be scaled up rapidly.
- The US has declared a moratorium on new coal mines on federal land and the electricity industry’s use of coal fell to record lows in 2015 as renewable energy boomed.
- China has pledged to shut 1000 coal mines this year and their emissions may have already peaked, well ahead of schedule.
- In contrast, Australia’s fossil fuel emissions have begun to rise again, particularly in the electricity sector, with electricity emissions increasing by 3% in 2014-2015.