Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013 – SWWA SST

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As a result of the statement I made regarding the BoM Annual Climate Statement 2013, I was asked to do a radio interview on ABC drivetime radio in WA, so had a close look at the WA numbers to provide some local background. Average temperature was 0.98°C warmer than the 1961-90 average, the next highest being +0.93°C in 1998. Maximum temperature was also the warmest at +1.11°C compared to +1.00°C in 1994. Minimum temperature was not quite the warmest on record.

But the big shock I got was when I looked at sea surface temperatures (SSTs) for south-west WA. Have a look at this graph (note that 2013 isn’t up there yet due to a delay in processing):

Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012
Sea Surface Temperature anomalies south-west WA 1900-2012 (Source: BoM)

 The last two years are more than 0.2°C warmer than any previous years. This is a big increase for SST and suggests the Leeuwin current is going gangbusters down the WA coast. Interestingly, this part of the world was one of the first in Australia to warm, when in 1961, similar warming led to an increase in temperatures that affected coastal stations all the way to Cape Otway in Victoria. This is a big worry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if SWWA experiences unprecedented land temperatures over the next few years. SST in other parts of Australia was not exceptional through 2011-12, so it may be that SWWA is the climate canary, and not for the first time.

The other thought, and this is totally speculative, is that these high temperature may have contributed to the recent shark attacks on the WA coast, if food stocks have been disrupted by the high temperatures. Happy to hear from anyone who knows a bit about such things. Colin Barnett’s totally gratuitous policy to cull sharks will no doubt cause great harm to protected species, but are changing sea surface temperatures contributing to the disruption of marine ecosystems? I would like to know more.


One Response

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  1. Have quoted from this blog entry at my article on Australian sea surface temperatures on Indymedia

    takver (@takvera)

    January 8, 2014 at 2:32 am

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