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Australia Forecasts Increase in Extreme Weather; More Bushfires and Droughts Expected

Australia Forecasts Increase in Extreme Weather; More Bushfires and Droughts Expected

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has warned of an increase in extreme fire weather and length of the fire season, declining rainfall in the southeast and southwest of the continent, and rising sea levels in their latest report. 

Australia Forecasts Increase in Extreme Weather; More Bushfires and Droughts Expected

The biennial report provides a comprehensive and scientifically rigorous analysis of Australia’s changing climate, today and into the future.

“Our science clearly shows that, due to increasing greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, Australia’s climate is continuing to warm, and the frequency of extreme events such as bushfires, droughts, and marine heatwaves is growing,” Director of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre, Dr Jaci Brown, said.

Bushfire season has increasingly started earlier in recent years. “In the southwest and southeast of Australia we are seeing drier conditions, particularly in the cool season months of April to October. In southwest Australia, for example, cool season rainfall has decreased by around 16 per cent since 1970. These trends are projected to lead to more time spent in drought in the coming decades,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s Manager of Climate Environmental Prediction Services, Dr Karl Braganza.

The report accounted for a 1.44 degrees Celsius increase in average temperature since 1910 and this will result in more wild fires, droughts, and marine heat waves, the report said.

Australia’s changing rainfall pattern is another key observation documented in the report, with contrasting trends being observed across the north and south of Australia.

The largest coral reef system in the world, it is far bigger that Britain, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined. Higher water temperatures are very likely to have devastating consequences for the reef, as will increasing acidifcation of the oceans.  Photo credit: Annie Griffiths Belt/ Getty Images

The oceans around Australia are also being affected by climate change, leading to significant impacts on marine ecosystems. Surface waters are acidifying, and the frequency, intensity and duration of marine heatwaves has increased.

“These trends, which are projected to continue in the coming decades, are already posing a significant threat to the long-term health and resilience of the coral reef ecosystems around Australia’s coast,” Dr Brown said.

Key Climate Observations for Australia

  • Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 (± 0.24) degrees since 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
  • There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of the country since the 1950s, especially in southern Australia.
  • Global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the atmosphere reached 410 parts per million (ppm) in 2019 and the CO2-equivalent of all greenhouse gas reached 508 ppm. The rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere has increased with every passing decade since atmospheric measurements began.
  • Emissions from fossil fuels are the main contributor to the observed growth in atmospheric CO2. Around 85 per cent of global CO2 emissions in the decade from 2009 to 2018 were from fossil fuel sources.
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