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Australia's record 2013 heat 'virtually impossible' without climate change, says report

A graphic showing just a handful of the 123 records broken during Australia's 'Angry Summer' of 2012/2013. Credit: Australia Climate Commission

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, February 10, 2015, 8:52 AM - If you're looking for irrefutable proof of the effects of global warming and climate change, a new report points directly at the record heat Australians suffered through in 2013.

This new report, penned by the Climate Council of Australia, examined the extreme heat waves across Australia during 2013. A report from its predecessor, the (now scrapped) Australian Climate Commission, already labelled the 2012/2013 summer season as the 'Angry Summer', highlighting the 123 records that were broken in just 90 days. The Climate Council's new Quantifying the impact of climate change on extreme heat in Australia report now examines the entire year of 2013, and using 'ground-breaking scientific research' performed last year, it is able to actually quantify how much each broken temperature record or extreme heat wave during that year was influenced by climate change. 

"The evidence on the link between climate change and extreme heat is stronger than ever, and in fact is overwhelming," the report says, going as far as to say that the "record hot year of 2013 in Australia was virtually impossible without climate change."

Australian heat waves during the 1950-1980 period compared with those during the 1980-2011 period. Credit: Australian Climate Council.

The details of the report show that record hot days have increased dramatically, doubling in number since 1960, and that they are happening far more frequently than record cold days. Also, heat waves experienced in Australia these days are occurring more frequently, they're starting earlier than ever before, and reaching greater extremes in both temperatures and duration.

Where this leads to does all this lead? The inescapable conclusion that action is necessary.

"The case for action is just as overwhelming," the report's authors state. "Carbon emissions will need to be reduced rapidly and deeply, with most of the world’s economies essentially decarbonized by the middle of the century, if the climate system is to be stabilized and the worst of extreme heat in the second half of the century is to be avoided."

Although 2013 was the focus of this report, it's quite likely that we'll be seeing similar declarations about 2014. The year already topped the charts of ever major meteorological organization around the world, as the hottest on record (or tied for the hottest on record). Across Australia, summer conditions were - again - particularly brutal, with even more records broken than during the previous 'Angry Summer'.

Credit: Australian Climate Council

Sources: Australian Climate Council, Australian Climate Commission, Australian Climate Council

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