Expert: unprecedented heatwave ‘responding to the background warming trend’
Fires burning in Southwest Tasmania on January 7th. Image taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Photo by: NASA.
Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend.
For six days, from January 2nd-7th, the nation’s average high has been above 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit). Noted meteorologist, Jeff Masters, writes at his blog that this is “the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910 [in Australia].”
The extreme heat has prompted Australia Bureau of Meteorology’s to add a new color to their maps—dark purple—to mark temperatures between 50 and 54 degrees Celsius (122-129.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, warned: “Whilst you would not put any one event down to climate change, weather doesn’t work like that, we do know over time that as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events and conditions.”
Gillard’s comments were buoyed—and even strengthened—by experts.
“The current heatwave—in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent—is now unprecedented in our records,” David Jones with the Bureau of Meteorology told The Age. “Clearly, the climate system is responding to the background warming trend. Everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.”
Last year, Australia introduced its first carbon tax, which targets the nation’s 300 largest pollutions with a $24 price on every metric ton of carbon. The tax was vociferously opposed by the opposition government, the Centre-right coalition, which has pledged to overturn the tax.
As Australia suffers from brutalizing heat, the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), announced yesterday that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the continental U.S.
“An estimated 99.1 million people experienced 10 or more days of summer temperatures greater than 100°F, nearly one-third of the nation’s population,” the NOAA stated.
Climate scientists have long warned that extreme weather, such as droughts and heatwaves, will rise both in frequency and severity as the world continues to warm.
(01/08/2013) 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
(12/05/2012) A new analysis finds that 21 wealthy countries spent five-times more on subsidizing fossil fuels in 2011 than they have on providing funds for poor nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The analysis, by Oil Change International, comes in the midst of the current UN Climate Summit held in Doha, Qatar; progress at the talks has been stymied due to the gulf between poor and rich nations, including on the issue of climate financing.
(12/03/2012) Marine snails, also known as sea butterflies, are dissolving in the Southern Seas due to anthropogenic carbon emissions, according to a new study in Nature GeoScience. Scientists have discovered that the snail’s shells are being corroded away as pH levels in the ocean drop due to carbon emissions, a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. The snails in question, Limacina helicina antarctica, play a vital role in the food chain, as prey for plankton, fish, birds, and even whales.
(12/03/2012) Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources are set to hit a new record high this year according to a new analysis by Global Carbon Project. The analysis in Nature Climate Changes predicts that CO2 emissions will rise another 2.6 percent, hitting 35.6 billion tonnes. The scientists warn that such steep climbs in global emissions year-after-year means that the door is rapidly closing on a global agreement to keep temperatures from rising 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
(12/03/2012) A massive team of scientists have used multiple methods to provide the best assessment yet of ice loss at the world’s poles, including Greenland and a number of Antarctic ice sheets. Their findings—that all major ice sheets are shrinking but one; that ice loss is speeding up; and that this is contributing to the rise in sea levels—add more evidence to the real-time impacts from global climate change. Melting ice sheets at the poles have raised sea levels 11.1 millimeters, or about 20 percent of observed sea level rise, in the past twenty years, according to the landmark study in Science.
(11/28/2012) Arctic snowfall accumulation plays a critical role in ringed seal breeding, but may be at risk due to climate change, according to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters. Sea ice, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, provides a crucial platform for the deep snow seals need to reproduce. Ringed seals (Phoca hispida) require snow depths of at least 20 centimeters (8 inches): deep enough to form drifts that seals use as birth chambers.
(11/28/2012) Sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated, according to a new study in the open access Environmental Research Letters. In addition to imperiling coastal regions and islands, global sea level rise is worsening the damage inflicted by extreme weather such as Hurricane Sandy, which recently brought catastrophic flooding to the New Jersey coast and New York City.