Australia has just experienced its warmest 12 months since climate records began.
Data monitoring by the Bureau of Meteorology shows the average temperature throughout Australia in the year to August 31 was 1.11 degrees above the long-term average.
The nation’s fourth-warmest spring on record morphed into the hottest summer on record. And now the seventh-warmest autumn has been followed by the third-warmest winter Australians have ever experienced.
In Victoria, it was the warmest winter on record, just pipping the winter of 2005.
In New South Wales, it was the second warmest, eclipsed only by the winter of 2009.
And across the nation, winter was 1.29 degrees warmer than the long-term average – defined as the years from 1961 to 1990 (which were themselves warmer than the first half of their century).
From September 2012 to August 2013, El Nino conditions superimposed on the long-term pattern of global warming saw the average temperature, day and night, across the continent, hit 22.9 degrees, compared with a long-term average of 21.8. The previous 12-month record was in the year to January 2006, when average temperatures were 1.08 degrees higher than before.
Australia’s record warming comes towards the end of an election campaign from which global warming has gone missing. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott never mentions it, although in every speech he promises to repeal the carbon price intended as Australia’s contribution to the fight against it.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who once called climate change the greatest moral issue of our time, rarely mentions it on the campaign trail, leaving the Greens as the only party to raise it as an election issue.
The bureau says that so far in 2013 Australians have already experienced the hottest day, month and season. Now the year of records has culminated in the hottest 12-month period.
Melbourne and Sydney joined Canberra and Brisbane with winters near or above previous records for warmth – and rain.
”We just didn’t get strong cold fronts” that break up the mild conditions, said the bureau’s director of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza.
”The lack of consistent cold weather is the real story across the whole of the south-east.”
While natural variability always plays a role, scientists have said repeatedly the background warming trend associated with human-induced climate change is making it more likely record temperatures will tumble.
A preponderance of westerly winds, which typically bring rain to exposed southern coastal regions, saw abnormally heavy rainfall in August in western Victoria and western Tasmania.
Melbourne, too, has been wet, with the city recording its biggest winter rainfalls since 1991 – 230 millimetres. Victoria had its wettest winter since 1996, just before the so-called Millennium Drought set in.
But dry conditions stretched well up the coast into Queensland where about half the state is drought-declared.
Melbourne’s winter saw the maximum temperature average about 16 degrees, a new high in more than 150 years of records, and well clear of the long-term average of 14.2 degrees.
Minimums would exceed the anomaly by even more, averaging out at about 8.5 degrees, 2 degrees above the long-term norm, Weatherzone’s Rob Sharpe said.
Operators of ski resorts are among those finding little joy in the warm conditions and outlook.
After several decent snowfalls in August, conditions are likely to turn slushy with temperatures set to remain above zero for much of the coming fortnight, including multiple days of 10 degrees or warmer for resorts such as Mount Buller.
Read article at the Sydney Morning Herald