Australia’s weather went “on steroids” over a summer that saw an unprecedented heatwave, bushfires and floods, the climate chief said on Monday, warning that global warming would only make things worse.
The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed the three summer months ending February 28 were the hottest season ever recorded in Australia, leading the government’s Climate Commission to label it the “Angry Summer” in a new report.
“The Australian summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding,” the report said.
“Extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the ‘Angry Summer’ were made worse by climate change.”
The agency’s chief commissioner Tim Flannery said the summer had been one of extremes, and was in some ways like an athlete who improves their baseline performance by taking steroids.
“The same thing is happening with our climate system,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “As it warms up we’re getting fewer cold days and cold events and many, many more record hot events. In effect it’s a climate on steroids is what we’re seeing.”
Australia experienced its hottest ever average national maximum temperature on January 7 of 40.3°C (104.5 Fahrenheit), while 44 sites, including Sydney and Hobart, recorded all-time high temperatures in the summer.
The report said there have only been 21 days in 102 years where the average maximum temperature for the whole of Australia has exceeded 39°C and eight of these happened in the summer just gone.