Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – quick links

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On Friday Jan 3, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology released its Annual climate statement 2013. The headline statements include:

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally.

  • Summer 2012–13 was the warmest on record nationally, spring was also the warmest on record and winter the third warmest
  • Overall, 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record: annual national mean temperature was +1.20°C above average
  • All States and the Northern Territory ranked in the four warmest years on record
  • Nationally-averaged rainfall was slightly below average for the year, with 428 mm (1961–1990 average 465 mm)
  • Rainfall was mostly below average for the inland east and centre, and above average for the east coast, northern Tasmania and parts of Western Australia

The statement was widely reported – two good summaries by the BoM crew and Lewis and Karoly can be found on The Conversation. One of the biggest talking points was that 2013 was a normal year meteorologically – no El Niño in sight – but the temperature was still a record. Much of the reporting in Australia pointed out the disjuncture between observations and current government policy. The Australian Science Media Centre also had a rapid round-up that included some words from me.

 “The Bureau of Meteorology’s annual climate statement contains a number of observations that should be of concern to all Australians. While the increases in average temperatures may seem to be benign – heat waves are increasing faster than those averages. Why heat waves are longer and hotter than anticipated is not yet clear, but they are contributing to greater fire danger and heat stress than projected by climate impact studies, affecting animals, plants and humans.

The consistently high sea surface temperatures around Australia mean that hotter conditions will continue. They will also contribute to a vigorous hydrological cycle, which can often manifest in greater extremes of rainfall, particularly in northern Australia. This vigour was reflected in a number of flooding events around the nation. Short-term conditions in the Indian Ocean and in the Southern Annular Mode led to good rainfalls in coastal southern Australia during winter and spring. However, in the southern mainland, where I am at the moment, the locals are heralding a return to drought conditions and hoping those conditions do not last. High winds during spring and early summer that caused a great deal of crop damage throughout southern Australia were associated with strong frontal systems. These are hopefully temporary, but are affecting growers still recovering from recent droughts and floods.

While many climate extremes cannot be directly attributed to a changing climate, the burden of extremes Australia is experiencing is a product of climate change and requires a coordinated national response.”

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the last comment was reported widely. Because it’s true – we do need a coordinated national response that includes both adaptation and mitigation.

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