Too Hot for Tennis Downunder
January 16, 2014
Nothing to see here, move along.
Was global warming a conspirator in causing Canadian player Frank Dancevic to hallucinate a cartoon dog shortly before collapsing on court six?
As the Australian Open continues in Melbourne, so does the heat wave and the scorching temperatures of 41C and over.
Today will likely be the third day straight that the Olympic Park thermometer gets above 41C. The forecast today for Melbourne is a ball-dropping 44C.
Dancevic said it was “inhumane” to ask players to continue in the relentless heat. British star Andy Murray commented it was a bad look for the sport to have ball boys and girls, players and spectators collapsing.
Blair Trewin, a senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology’s National Climate Centre, told me that over the long term, Melbourne experiences 1.3 days above 40C every year.
But he says that between 2001 and 2013, the average across all those years was 1.9 days above 40C.
“Despite what people would have you believe, 40-degree days in Melbourne are not particularly common, and the city has gone as long as five years (1968 to 1973) without having any,” he told me by email.
He says that when it comes to “single day extremes” there is a clear increase for the south east of the country, although it is much harder to see any trends in heat waves.
Dr Sarah Perkins is a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales and specialises in studying heat waves.
I asked her if human-caused climate change was contributing to charred bums and Snoopy sightings at the tennis.
“It’s contributing,” she says. “In Melbourne we are seeing an increase in the amount of extreme heat – there’s a disproportionate change when compared to the 1C increase we’ve seen in the average temperature forAustralia.
“We are also seeing an increase in heat waves not just in Melbourne, but across Australia.
“Of course, summer is naturally hot and extreme temperature events will occur at this time of year. But we’re now seeing much more of these events, that last longer, and are hotter. It’s this trend that’s concerning.
“Because of the background warming that’s already there, there is a greater risk now of us seeing these events happen – so in that respect, it’s game, set and match.