Australians have just lived through the warmest September since records began, according to the rebadged Climate Council.
The latest record also makes the past 12 months the warmest documented, while 2013 is set to go down as the hottest calendar year in Australia, surpassing 2005.
Climate scientist Will Steffen said: ”We’ve got high sea surface temperatures around Australia and that usually leads to warmer than average weather conditions, so if I was a betting man I would say that we are going to get the calendar record this year.”
September temperatures were almost three degrees above the long-term average, according to a Climate Council report released on Thursday.
Professor Steffen, the report’s author, said the frequency and severity of hot days and heatwaves in Australia was increasing as average global temperatures rose. This exacerbated the risk of bushfires, particularly in south-east Australia.
”Although Australia has always had heatwaves, hot days and bushfires, climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heatwaves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions,” he said. Last summer saw more than 120 extreme weather-related records broken, including the hottest January on record and the hottest day recorded in Australia since reliable record keeping began in 1910.
”Temperature records are broken from time to time in Australia, but it is the sheer number of records being broken that is really unusual,” Professor Steffen said.
The persistent heat has been recorded continent-wide in the past 18 months. The oceans surrounding Australia also registered record warmth.
According to the American space agency NASA, globally the hottest 10 years have all occurred in the past 15 years.
In its latest report released last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found global temperatures were likely to rise by more than 2 degrees by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions remained high.
The Climate Commission, set up by the previous government to raise public awareness on climate science and economics, was axed by the new government. It was reborn as the Climate Council and is now a non-profit organisation funded by public donations. Almost $1 million has been raised from more than 20,000 donors.