Climate extremes hit Australia, more intense weather ahead – report


A man paddles his kayak next to a submerged bus on a flooded street in Milton, Australia, on February 28, 2022. Photo: Patrick Hamilton/AFP via Getty Images

Global warming is bringing more extreme weather to Australia, such as the ongoing flooding in the South East – and these extremes are happening at an accelerating rate across the country, according to a new climate report.

Threat level: Australia is facing more extreme heat spells, intense heavy rains, longer fire seasons and rising sea levels, according to the biennial State of the Climate report from CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, released Wednesday.

To note : The report highlights the role of global warming in the catastrophic floods that have hit several parts of Australia this year, including in the southeast where deadly floodwaters continue to threaten communities.

  • The Insurance Council of Australia estimates the cost of insuring this year’s floods in the states of Queensland and New South Wales to be more than 5.56 billion Australian dollars (3.76 billion US dollars) – “making it Australia’s costliest natural disaster,” the ICA said in a report. released Thursday.

The big picture: Heavy rain events are becoming more intense and the number of short-lived heavy rains is expected to increase in the future.

  • Eastern Australia experienced one of its heaviest periods of flooding on record during La Niña events in 2021 and 2022.
  • “We observed contrasting rainfall trends in the north and south of the country,” Karl Braganza, head of climate and environmental forecasting services at the Bureau of Meteorology, said in a statement accompanying the report.
  • There has been an overall decline in rainfall between April and October in southern Australia over the past few decades. But in the north of the country, rainfall has increased since the 1970s.

By the numbers: Australia’s climate has warmed by an average of 1.47 degrees Celsius (2.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since national records began in 1910, the report said.

  • Sea surface temperatures have risen by an average of nearly 1.89°F since 1900, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events over land and sea, the report said.

1 big tip: Concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are at the highest levels seen on Earth in at least 2 million years, according to Jaci Brown, director of CSIRO’s Center for Climate Science.

  • “Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to rise, leading to a warming Australian climate,” Brown said.

What we are looking at: The report predicts higher air temperatures, more extreme heat and less extreme cold over the next few decades, according to Karl Braganza, head of climate and environmental forecasting services at the Bureau of Meteorology.

Meanwhile, the length of bushfire seasons has increased across Australia in recent decades, according to the report.

  • “We expect to see longer fire seasons in the future for the south and east, and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days,” Braganza said.

State of play: Fossil fuel exports have been in high demand in Australia in recent years, although Australians have experienced a series of extreme weather events linked to climate change – from deadly wildfires to recent floods.

The bottom line: “Threats from climate change, including extreme rainfall, droughts, heat waves and bushfires, are already having widespread impacts on Australia’s agriculture industry, affecting food production and supply chains. “, said Michael Robertson, director of CSIRO Agriculture and Food, in a statement.

  • Michael Battaglia, head of Towards Net Zero Mission, a division of CSIRO, noted in the statement that Australia faces “significant challenges in supporting and coordinating changes in infrastructure, regulations, skills, technology, financing and investment necessary for the transition to a low-emissions economy.”

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