Monday, March 4, 2013

Australia's Angry Summer

MobyT | 10:24 PM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment

The Climate on Steroids

From Ten News (of all places!)

The report from the Climate Commission

Here is a link to the Climate Commission report, "The Angry Summer".

Key facts: 

  1. The Australian summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding. Extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the Angry Summer were made worse by climate change. 
  2. All weather, including extreme weather events is influenced by climate change. All extreme weather events are now occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago. This influences the nature, impact and intensity of extreme weather events. 
  3. Australia’s Angry Summer shows that climate change is already adversely affecting Australians. The significant impacts of extreme weather on people, property, communities and the environment highlight the serious consequences of failing to adequately address climate change. 
  4. It is highly likely that extreme hot weather will become even more frequent and severe in Australia and around the globe, over the coming decades. The decisions we make this decade will largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren. 
  5. It is critical that we are aware of the influence of climate change on many types of extreme weather so that communities, emergency services and governments prepare for the risk of increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather.
Let's repeat one critical sentence:
The decisions we make this decade will largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren. 

This is The Critical Decade!

I believe it's fair to say that this decade has seen more record-breaking  and more extreme heat, fires, drought and floods than any similar length period in the past century in Australia, with accompanying loss of life, property, distress and chaos.  If we combine all this century's events, it would come close to the devastation wreaked by weather in the whole of the last century combined.  The Canberra fires; the Black Saturday fires; the Lockyer Valley floods; many places experienced two or more 100 year floods in a single year; the big drought and more.  And this is just the beginning.

The reaction by some people is dismissive.  Some will even point to a single event 70 years ago.  "What about the 1939 heatwave?", asks Ronsterm on HotCopper.  The answer is that the 39 heatwave wasn't part of the overall hotter temperatures we're seeing today.  These days we keep seeing records tumble year after year.  Look at a temperature chart for Australia over time - the answer's in the mean temperature for Australia from the Bureau (click here for other trends, such as the trend in maximums) (click image for larger version)

Here again is an animation of part of the Big Aussie Heatwave (click image for larger version):

Others like HotCopper's Watso make inane comments like: "it's colder in the northern hemisphere".  Does he think the arctic ice is melting so dramatically because it is colder? Did the USA just have its hottest year on record because it's colder?  Did upwards of 50,000 people die in the 2003 European heat wave, or 15,000 or more in the recent Russian heatwave because it was so cold?  (Watso could be simply referring to the fact that it's winter in the northern hemisphere while it's summer in Australia - now that would be inane!)

A Shift in the Climate

No - what's happening is that climates are shifting and we are experiencing the effects in day to day weather.

Deniers resort to picking random one-off weather events going back decades to match any one of the destructive weather events that have become more and more frequent in the past thirty years so and are commonplace this century.  

Disaster Fatigue

It's not just that we are experiencing heat, fires, floods and droughts it's that they are no longer one off events.  They are becoming so common that they no longer get the news coverage they used to get in times gone by eg the latest massive floods in Queensland and NSW.  The news outlets figure people down south are suffering flood fatigue.  Imagine what the poor people living in places like Gympie feel.
“I don’t think any other place in Queensland has had five floods in two years, four in 12 months, and two of those back-to-back in the last four weeks,” 


  1. That was on Channel Ten? Geeez somebody might be looking for a new job if Reinhart or Murdoch see it.

    The science is irrefutable. The evidence is conclusive and occurring quicker than I had imagined. With the real effects before our eyes like this maybe the more apathetic public will make an effort to understand lag times and tipping points.

    I often wonder why science spokesman don’t just debate and expose these revered deniers like Monkton, Bolt, Watts, or whomever on tv. I got an email from getup which helps explain their thoughts on this…..


    1. Cliff, agree mostly, but not about debates. Debating fake skeptics is like grabbing jelly. They have no concept of facts and as soon as you prove one thing they say wrong, they ignore you and jump to another lie. Just sharing their platform can be viewed as denoting legitimacy. IMO they should never be debated directly. Better to just point out their idiocy and lies.

      Example: I read that Jo Nova is arguing BoM should have left out most of the continent when working out the average summer temperatures. She probably thinks BoM should have only included the fringe of land around the east coast of the mainland, preferably only Sydney itself(but not including Sydney's hottest day on record which she'd no doubt put down to a sudden jump in UHI). And then BoM should have compared Sydney summer temps it to the entire continent in other years!

      I expect she also wants this summer's floods and fires deleted from the record.

      People like Nova oscillate between nutter conspiracies and plain dishonesty. Pointless trying to debate a fruitcake. Just gobble it up :D

    2. I misread your comment re debates, Cliff. That's terrific link - thanks.

      Will Steffen's response to 'why not debate 'skeptics'':

      Because there isn't actually a debate in the scientific community! (and more)

    3. Thanks for the link Cliff. Yes, the reason there are no "serious" tv debates is that the science is complex and involved, and this does not translate well into the 1 hour TV debate format. It can take days or weeks to research and collate the information to answer a single question. The debate is best conducted in peer reviewed literature, and as the commissioner said - there is no debate amongst the scientific community any more.

  2. Hi Sou,

    Yeh I see your point on debating. It is just frustrating the imbalance of reporting on the issue. The whole science world completely agrees but the right media propagate anti AGW. Many of the public are apathetic and the media sows the seeds of doubt in their minds.

    A flight of fancy but what about a ‘debate’ where the deniers aren’t welcome! It’s just some science spokespeople explaining the facts and dispelling the myths in a viewable and ratings winnings way. Even the commercial stations would divert temporarily from their agendas if it meant making a buck. Or invite the deniers to a debate and have a team of fact finders diligently researching statements made by each side and after each ad break the results are presented on a big Bullshitometer.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.