After making it through its second-hottest November on record, Australians are really feeling the heat as the country faces its overall hottest spring on record. And with over 100 years on the books, that’s saying a lot.
“Really, it was only 2010 that had a cool spring in the past 10 years or so. Nine out of the warmest springs on record have occurred since 2002,” said Karl Braganza, Bureau of Meteorology climate monitoring manager.
The country’s standard seasonal temperature is measured by averaging the temperature data from weather stations, which date back to 1910. The resulting number is then compared with the long-term average temperature, which ranges the years from 1961 to 1990.
According to Dr. Braganza, spring 2014’s average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius (75.2 degrees Fahrenheit) exceeded the mean by 1.5C (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
“That departure, averaged over a whole three-month period, is actually really large. That means it was, on average, over 1.5C warmer, and that’s the largest seasonal departure that we’ve ever recorded,” he said.
Heatwaves in New South Wales and Queensland were major factors in the result, Dr Braganza said, making reference to the recent 13-day stretch of heat that exceeded 40C in Longreach.
“This is similar to what we’ve seen in the past couple of years, when these high summer temperatures started to get going late in spring or early in December, which is about a month earlier than typical,” Dr. Braganza said.
Low rainfall was linked to warmer-than-average temperatures in Australia and around the world.
“Rainfall on the soil acts like an evaporative cooler over the continent,” Dr. Braganza said.
“Drought has been quite persistent in Queensland, stretching over the border to South Australia and New South Wales, and now in western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia, you’ve got re-emerging drought conditions as well,” he added.
In addition to the decline of rain, the overall extended spell of warm weather around the world is consistent with warmer global temperatures associated with climate change.
“So, when you look at that, you’re not so surprised that you’ll get record temperatures for spring as well,” Dr. Braganza said.
As to how the persistent increase of heat will affect everyday life and tourism in the nation is still up in the air, with some pointing at health risks – like dehydration – and a decrease in the economy due to more people staying indoors.