Australian Heat Rising - Climate Council
16 January 2014 at 9:47 am
Climate change is making heatwaves more frequent and severe in Australia, according to researchers from the Not for Profit Climate Council.
The claim comes in the Climate Council’s interim findings as part of its new report Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often, and as heatwaves hit Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide.
“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,” report author Professor Will Steffen said.
“Australia has always had hot weather. However, climate change is loading the dice toward more extreme hot weather.
“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.”
The report was written by Prof Steffen, Dr Sarah Perkins and Prof Lesley Hughes and is set to be released in late February.
Interim findings include:
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.
The number of hot days across Australia has more than doubled. Over the period 1971-2008 both the duration and frequency of heatwaves has increased, and the hottest days during heatwaves have become even hotter.
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.
The Not for Profit Climate Council was formed after the newly elected Abbott Government shutdown the Climate Commission – part of a widespread abolishment of the former Labor Government’s climate change initiatives.
The Climate Commission was established by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Government in 2011, under the leadership of Professor Flannery (scientist, explorer and conservationist, and winner of Australian of the Year in 2007), to provide independent information on the science of climate change, international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the economics of a carbon price.
Sacked Climate Commissioners, including former Climate Commission chief, Tim Flannery, now head the Climate Council.