Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Australia hardest hit by climate change?

The reports of impacts of climate change have really been coming in recently.

We saw in India, as featured in a recent post here, of the alarming sinking of an inhabited island near the mainland. In Canada, as Can’t See The Forest covers, we are seeing breaking arctic ice shelves and the tragi-comic possibility that endangered polar bears may have to learn how to swim. [See clarification from BlueBear in comments]

Here in Australia, the oldest continent geologically and one of the driest landmasses overall, a new study has been making headlines about how Australia is warming up at a greater rate to that of the rising global average.

This report puts forward that Australia has warmed 0.9 degrees during the century, compared with 0.7 to 0.8 degrees for the world in general. Certainly, rising temps are but one facet of climate change but it does not at all bode well for what we can further expect, which will have differential, but nevertheless global, effects. As Curt at CSTF has quipped, the climes, they are a’changing — where are the greenie songwriters btw, we need them right now.

Related coverage in the BBC and Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) — the latter focuses upon Australia.

The Bureau of Meteorology report identifies highly unusual weather in Australia in 2006. (File photo)

The Bureau of Meteorology report identifies highly unusual weather in Australia in 2006. (File photo) (ABC TV)

Aust hardest hit by climate change: report

ABC News | Wednesday, January 3, 2007. 11:16pm (AEDT)

Australia is suffering more from the impacts of global warming than any other country.

That is the view of the Bureau of Meteorology, which today published its climate statement for 2006 – a summary of last year’s weather conditions.

It reveals an unprecedented series of extreme weather events which the experts say is a sign of things to come.

The report describes last year’s weather conditions as “highly unusual and unprecedented in many areas”.

The weather bureau’s Neil Plummer says there is nothing similar in recorded weather history.

“Some of the climatic conditions we’ve seen in Australia were unprecedented in the records we’ve got. We’ve got records that go back to 1900,” he said.

Rainfall in some parts of the tropical north was the highest on record, while in the south many areas got their lowest, as the drought continued to worsen.

Former head of the CSIRO’s climate modelling program Barrie Hunt says things used to be the opposite.

“About 1990 to 1950, there was a drying trend in the north-west of Australia and a wetting trend in the south-east,” he said.

“About 1950, that changed.”

But the real concern is about how much warmer Australia’s weather is getting.

The year 2005 was the hottest year on record, and last year was not far behind.

“So what we had in 2006 was the 11th warmest year and is consistent with a warming trend we had in Australia but in many other parts of the globe,” Mr Plummer said.

But where global temperatures have risen by between 0.7 and 0.8 of a degree Celsius over the century or so, Australia’s has risen by 0.9 of a degree.

“In fact if we look at the 10 hottest years for Australia, 15 of those have occurred since 1980 and only two of those hottest years have occurred before 1950,” Mr Plummer said.

“There is a suggestion that there is an enhanced greenhouse effect on those temperatures.”

But Mr Hunt says while Australia’s climate is getting warmer, extreme variations in rainfall – cyclones in the north, drought in the south – are not permanent.

Weather conditions around the country today are an example of what is happening.

Cyclone Isobel crossed the northern coast of Western Australia bringing massive amounts of rain – while in Adelaide, level three water restrictions were announced.

And there was more extreme weather in south-east Queensland, with extensive rain causing local flooding and very unseasonal fog shrouding much of the state’s capital.

5 comments on “Australia hardest hit by climate change?

  1. Bluebear2
    5 January, 2007

    Actually the polar bears are good swimmers, the problem is they have a hard time catching their prey in the water. With the shrinking ice fields the bears have been losing weight and the infant mortality is way up. It doesn’t look good for them to be able to maintain under these conditions.

  2. peoplesgeography
    5 January, 2007

    Clarification much appreciated, BB. I saw a funny-sad cartoon the other day that I’ve left on my work PC – the shrinking ice fields were reduced to an ice cube in someone’s champagne flute. Must post, as we know good cartoons are often more effective in conveying important and urgent messages.

  3. servant
    6 January, 2007

    The mild January is not unusual in Washingtonistan. We’re lucky if we get a good cover of snow that lasts a week or two. A “normal” January is usually in the 30-40 F range with a few really cold days if the Canadians send us a good breeze. Every 3 or 4 years in February we get buried in a blizzard that ends civilization as we know it.

    It’s been in the 50’s most of this week. Today, Friday, we had a high of 63F Tomorrow we’re going to 70F.

  4. JollyRoger
    7 January, 2007

    I visited the Upper Peninsula in the State of Michigan in December.

    The Upper Peninsula has Lake Superior to the north, Lake Michigan to the south, and Lake Huron to the east. It is traditionally an unbevably cold and snowy place in the wintertime, as the weather is dramatically affected by the three huge cold bodies of water that surround it.

    In December, the temps were hovering between 4 and 7 degrees Celsius in the daytime, and between 0 and -5 degrees at night. This is absolutely unheard of in the region this time of year.

  5. peoplesgeography
    7 January, 2007

    Quite a dramatic shift in temps by the sounds of it, it really is unusual or wild weather in a lot of places and the unseasonality is very worrying. Here in Australia we had raging bushfires in one state followed by snow in the same place only a week later — in summer! Appreciate the comment Jolly Roger and have bookmarked your site.

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This entry was posted on 5 January, 2007 by in Australia, Canada, Climate Change, Ecology, Energy and Resources, Europe, India, Industrial Relations, Middle East.

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