The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) this week released its Annual Climate Statement, showing 2018 was Australia’s third hottest year on record, while rainfall totals were the lowest since 2005.
The BOM’s official summary of temperature, rainfall and significant weather in 2018 confirmed that Australia’s mean temperature was the third highest on record (1.14°C above average) and mean maximum temperature was the second highest on record (1.55°C above average).
It comes amid an outcry over the mass fish death in the Darling River system at Menindee in New South Wales which has put an international spotlight on river management in Australia, with both government and the cotton industry pointing to drought for blame.
(See also this graphic report from the Sydney Morning Herald on the toll on wildlife from this summer’s extreme heat and drought, with shocking images of kangaroos and sheep stuck in the all-but dried up channels between the lakes and the nearby Darling River.”
The BOM report immediately prompted calls for the Australian Government to “take a good hard look” at its greenhouse gas pollution levels, with a warning from the Climate Council that “our window to act is closing and the Federal Government’s current efforts are an abject failure”.
“The Federal Government must adopt a credible policy, which deeply and rapidly reduces our greenhouse gas pollution if we are to effectively tackle climate change,” said acting CEO Dr Martin Rice.
As our opening story at Croakey for 2019 reminded, last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we have approximately 12 years to take meaningful action to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C, to limit climate change catastrophe.
Croakey managing editor Melissa Sweet asked, particularly of those working in health:
Have you and yours made significant changes in the way you live and work as a result of the IPCC deadline?
You can check out the Climate and Health Alliance’s (CAHA) Our Climate Our Health campaign, to learn more or become more involved in bringing positive change re the health impacts of climate change, which calls on for a National Strategy on Climate Health and Well-being.
The health impacts of climate change were raised this week in this article from global online health magazine Stat about providing medical care to a new type of migrant — “the climate migrant”. It noted that the US Fourth National Climate Assessment – quietly published late last year by the Trump Administration – emphasises how climate change is “the great amplifier”.
“(It is) not just pushing our extreme weather to be more extreme, but also making our social inequalities even more unequal. Vulnerable populations, the report noted, are particularly at risk: “Populations including older adults, children, low-income communities, and some communities of color are often disproportionately affected by, and less resilient to, the health impacts of climate change.”
Nine out of 10 warmest years since 2005
Commenting on the BOM’s Annual Climate Statement, Bureau senior climatologist Dr Lynette Bettio said Australia’s average temperature in 2018 was 1.14 °C above the 1961–1990 average, making it slightly warmer than 2017.
“When we look across all of Australia in 2018, we can see that every single state and territory had above-average day and night-time temperatures,” Bettio said in a statement.
“The average maximum temperature for the country as a whole was particularly warm, sitting 1.55 °C above the 1961–1990 average, making 2018 Australia’s second warmest year on record for daily high temperatures.
“Average minimum temperatures for 2018 were 0.73 °C above average, the eleventh-warmest on record.
“The only part of the country to buck the trend for above average temperatures was the Kimberley region, which had cooler than average nights for the year.”
BOM said that the 2018 results mean nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2005.
Nationally, Australia’s 2018 rainfall total was 11 per cent below the 1961–1990 average, but many areas were significantly below average, the report says. It said:
“Large areas of southeastern Australia experienced rainfall totals in the lowest 10 per cent on record, which exacerbated the severe drought conditions. New South Wales had its sixth driest year on record, while the Murray-Darling Basin saw its seventh-driest year on record. Australia’s September rainfall was also the lowest on record.
“It was a tough year for people dealing with the drought, and like the rest of the country, the Bureau hopes 2019 will bring some rain relief for those being impacted by the dry conditions.
BOM said there was respite in the final three months of the year with decent rainfall in the east of the country, particularly in New South Wales in October and November and parts of Queensland in October and December and with above average rainfall in parts of northern Australia and WA.
See below for the BOM’s list of significant weather events, fast facts, and other insights from its annual report.
“Climate system on steroids”
In a statement declaring that Australia in 2018 was “a climate system on steroids”, the Climate Council said the latest data came as no surprise. It said:
“Climate change is intensifying around the world and Australia is no exception, as our climate system continues to set new extreme heat records.”
“Nine of Australia’s hottest 10 years have occurred since 2005, so the extremes in 2018 are part of a long-term trend, being driven by intensifying climate change.”
“December 2018 was Australia’s hottest on record, with record-breaking mean, minimum and maximum temperatures.”
Climate Council acting CEO Dr Martin Rice said the annual report cemented the need for credible policy from the Federal Government which “deeply and rapidly” reduced our greenhouse gas pollution. He said:
“At this point, if all countries were to adopt Australia’s current policies we would be on track for a world that’s at least 3°C warmer than the era prior to mass industrialisation. This would have disastrous consequences for billions of people.”
“Our window to act is closing and the Federal Government’s current efforts are an abject failure.”
Significant weather events to impact Australia in 2018
BOM listed the following significant weather events for 2018:
- Tropical cyclones Joyce, Kelvin, Nora and Marcus brought significant wind, rainfall and flooding to parts of Australia’s north in January, February and March. Broome broke its annual rainfall record only two months into the year. TC Marcus was the strongest cyclone to affect Darwin since Tracy in December 1974.
- Hot, dry and windy conditions led to severe bushfire conditions in southwest Victoria and the south coast of New South Wales in March.
- Tasmania was impacted by a complex low-pressure system in May. This brought exceptional rainfall totals, with many sites recording record May daily rainfall totals, and significant flash flooding in and around Hobart.
- Warm and dry conditions in August and September saw an early start to the bushfire season, with between 80 and 100 active bushfires across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
- Severe thunderstorms affected Queensland in October, including two observed tornadoes at Coolabunia and Tansey.
- A prolonged heatwave in Queensland from late November into early December saw temperatures above 40 °C for much of the state. Many locations broke November temperature records. The conditions also led to extreme bushfire conditions across much of Queensland.
- Significant thunderstorms affected eastern New South Wales in December with many areas including Sydney impacted by giant hail.
- Exceptionally high temperatures affected large areas of Australia in late December. Temperatures remained very high for multiple days.
Annual Climate Report: Fast Facts
- Last year (2018) was Australia’s third-warmest year on record, with the annual national mean temperature 1.14 °C above average.
- Both mean annual maximum and minimum temperatures above-average for all states and the territories.
- The national mean maximum temperature was the second-warmest on record (1.55 °C above average).
- The national mean minimum temperature was the eleventh-warmest on record (0.73 °C above average).
- Widespread warmth was persistent throughout the year; January, February, March, April, July, October, and December were all amongst the ten warmest on record for Australian mean temperature for their respective months.
- Preliminary sea surface temperature figures show 2018 was the tenth-warmest year on record.
- Nationally-averaged rainfall was 11% below average for the year at 413 mm (1961–1990 average 465.2 mm).
- Rainfall was below average for large areas, affecting central and southern Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, eastern South Australia, and the South West Land Division in Western Australia.
- Rainfall above average for northwestern to southeastern Western Australia, and scattered areas elsewhere in northern Australia.
Click below to download video and audio interviews with Dr Lynette Bettio discussing 2018 in review:
Read the Annual Climate Statement and watch the summary video: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/