In relation to this article responding to Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie’s claim that heatwaves are “worsening” and “hot days” have doubled in Australia in the last 50 years, a spokesperson for the Climate Council gave the following responses. Questions from The Conversation are in bold.
Could you please provide a source, or sources, to support Ms McKenzie’s statement that heatwaves are “worsening” and hot days have doubled in the last 50 years?
Climate change is making hot days and heatwaves more frequent and more severe. Since 1950 the annual number of record hot days across Australia has more than doubled and the mean temperature has increased by about 1°C from 1910.
Specifically, there has been an increase of 0.2 days/year since 1957 which means, on average, that there are almost 12 more days per year over 35°C.
What did Ms McKenzie mean by the terms “heatwaves” and “hot days”?
Hot days – the number of hot days, defined as days with maximum temperatures greater than 35°C.
Heatwaves – three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that is unusual for that location.
Furthermore, heatwaves have several significant characteristics. These include (i) frequency characteristics, such as the number of heatwave days and the annual number of summer heatwave events; (ii) duration characteristics, such as the length of the longest heatwave in a season; (iii) intensity characteristics, such as the average excess temperature expected during a heatwave and the hottest day of a heatwave; and (iv) timing characteristics, including the occurrence of the first heatwave event in a season.
Is there any other comment you would like us to include in the article?
Climate change – driven largely by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from the burning of coal, oil and gas – is increasing temperatures and cranking up the intensity of extreme weather events globally and in Australia.
The accumulating energy in the atmosphere is affecting all extreme weather events. Climate change is driving global warming at a rate 170 times faster than the baseline rate over the past 7,000 years.
Temperature records tumbled yet again during Australia’s ‘Angry Summer’ of 2016/17. In just 90 days, more than 205 records were broken around Australia.
Heatwaves and hot days scorched the major population centres of Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as the rural and regional heartlands of eastern Australia. The most severe heatwave of this Angry Summer began around January 31 and continued until February 12, with the highest temperatures recorded from February 9-12.
This heatwave was made twice as likely to occur because of climate change, while the extreme heat in New South Wales over the entire summer season was at least 50 times as likely to occur because of climate change.
The severe heatwave of February 2017 that spread across much of Australia’s south, east and interior caused issues for the South Australian and New South Wales energy systems. In New South Wales around 3,000MW of coal and gas capacity was not available when needed in the heatwave (roughly the equivalent of two Hazelwood Power Stations).
In South Australia, 40,000 people were left without power for about half an hour in the early evening while temperatures were over 40°C. This heatwave highlights the vulnerability of our energy systems to extreme weather.
Read the article here.
Authors: Michael Courts, Editor, The Conversation