Angry Summer Downunder Sparks Disinformation and Spin
March 4, 2013
Climate Commission chief Professor Tim Flannery says that while Australia may have always been a land of drought and flooding rains, the nation is now experiencing a “climate on steroids”.
“I think one of the best ways of thinking about it is imagining that the baseline has shifted,” he said.
“If an athlete takes steroids for example… their baseline shifts, they’ll do fewer slow times and many more record-breaking fast times.
“The same thing is happening with our climate system. As it warms up, we’re getting fewer cold days and cold events and many more record hot events. In effect, it’s a climate on steroids.”
..the summer was remarkable in almost every respect, as the Australian continent smashed records for heat intensity, geographic scope, and duration. Moreover, the heat continued a recent trend toward much warmer summers in Australia, and climate models show that, depending on global emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases, Australia’s summer of 2012-2013 could be the norm by the 2040s, the BOM said.
The record warm summer adding another data point to a spate of recent extreme heat events that some scientists say are becoming more common as a result of manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.
A 2012 study by NASA scientist James Hansen and others found that a new category of extremely hot summers, such as events that occurred in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011, has become far more common than would ever have happened without global warming.
Here are some of the sizzling data points:
- The average summer temperature for Australia was 83.5°F (28.6°C), which was about 2°F (1.1°C) above average. That exceeded the previous record, set during the summer of 1997-98, by about 0.2°F.
- A new national daytime maximum temperature record was set at 96.3°F (35.7°C).
- The highest temperature recorded during the January heatwave was at Moomba, in South Australia, with a high of 121°F (49.6°C). All-time record high temperatures were also set in Sydney and Hobart. The temperature in Sydney climbed to a stifling 114.4°F on Jan. 18.
- A record was set for the number of consecutive days when the average daily high temperature for Australia exceeded 102°F (about 39°C), with seven such days between January 2-8. The previous record was four days in 1973, according to BOM data.
- January was Australia’s hottest month since recordkeeping began in 1910.
- At one point during the January heat wave, meteorologists had to add a new color to the weather map as temperatures climbed off the standard charts.
The summer heat wasn’t confined to the Australian continent, either. Southern Hemisphere land areas had their hottest months of December and January on record, as parts of Africa and South America also saw above-average temperatures.
Naturally, Aussie climate deniers have gone on the offensive, once again, against reality.
AUSTRALIA’S summer may have been the hottest on record but it’s the long-term trends that matter, not figures for one season, opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt says.
After all, over the same period Russia, China and the United States shivered through their coldest weather on record, he says.
OPPOSITION spokesperson on climate change Greg Hunt has been quoted across the news wires today as saying that while Australia has experienced its hottest summer on record, it’s been unusually cold elsewhere.
The story is based on an interview with ABC Radio, where Mr Hunt is commenting on a new report – The Angry Summer – from Australia’s Climate Commission. The report points out the role that climate change is playing in heatwaves, bushfires and floods.
The report comes just a week after the Bureau of Meteorology declared that Australia’s summer of 2012/2013 was the hottest on record. January 2013 was also Australia’s hottest month on record.
If you listen to the interview, Mr Hunt makes a point of saying that when considering global warming, we need to look at the long term trends rather than pick single events. Quite right.
To demonstrate this, he said that “we have had record cold temperatures in Russia, parts of the United States and China” over a similar period to Australia’s hottest summer on record.
Even in a warming world, you’ll still get record cold events – it’s just that the hot ones are outnumbering the cold ones. In Australia, for example, for every record cold temperature there’s three record hot ones. In the US, a 2009 study found record high temperatures were outstripping record colds by two to one.
I had a quick look at this unusually cold US winter which Greg Hunt alludes to. The government’s National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration has all the figures. Incidentally, January 2013 is the 335th consecutive month where global average temperatures have been above average.
Final rankings for the US winter are not expected to be out for a week or so yet but, so far, the chilly winter turns out not to have been that chilly after all. In fact, the period November 2012 to January 2013 ranks 109th (with a rank of 1 indicating the coldest and 118 the warmest) in a record going back 118 years.
So there you go. As Mr Hunt says, best to check with the experts.