A record-breaking start to autumn has smashed temperature records all over Australia, a new Climate Council 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.
The ‘Heat Marches On’ report also found climate change is driving extreme heat in Australia and globally:
- Over the period from 1 to 4 March, maximum temperatures were 4°C or more above average over much of the continent and were 8-12°C above average over most of the southeast.
- Sydney had a record warm spell with 39 consecutive days over 26°C, smashing the previous record of 19 days.
- Perth has had more 40°C days in the 2015/2016 summer than ever before.
- Canberra recorded 10 consecutive days in March of 30°C or above
- Melbourne recorded its hottest March night on record, at a peak of 38.6°C in the evening and a minimum of 27.7°C the following morning.
- Echuca and Tocumwal sweltered through eight consecutive days of 38°C or above, breaking records for any month of the year, despite occurring outside of summer.
- Globally, temperature records were also shattered. January and February 2016 were significantly hotter than any other January and February on record.
Professor Tim Flannery said the prolonged summer-like conditions that extended into March in Australia and the record-breaking temperatures globally were ominous signs of a climate on steroids.
“We’ve moved from climate change concern to climate change consequences. Scientists have been voicing their concerns for decades and now we are seeing the consequences,” he said.
“Our internationally renowned Great Barrier Reef is already experiencing widespread coral bleaching due to record sea surface temperatures. Our World Heritage ancient forests in Tasmania have been razed by bushfires sparked by tinderbox conditions driven by climate change.
“And, just weeks after health experts warned of the grave dangers posed to Australians through more frequent and severe heatwaves, we’ve seen an increase in admissions with heat-related illnesses after four consecutive days over 40°C in Perth.
“The window of time we have to act is closing. The world is acting but Australia is so far behind.
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said unseasonably warm spells such as the one in March impacted many Australians.
“They affect cropping and harvesting for farmers and they can extend the bushfire season well into autumn,” she said.
“It’s very clear that these extreme heat events are getting more severe and intense.
“We have not yet seen any substantive policy announcements since the Paris talks to rapidly reduce our fossil fuel emissions and protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events.
“We know what needs to be done to tackle climate change in Australia. We need policies that will create an orderly closure of our ageing and polluting coal-fired power plants to make way for modern, clean and efficient renewables.”
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