Bureau says despite the lack of El Niño, Queensland and New South Wales experienced their hottest year on record
January 9, 2018 — Queensland and New South Wales experienced their warmest years on record in 2017 as the trend of warmer than average temperatures across Australia continued, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
The bureau’s annual climate statement released on Wednesday revealed 2017 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record, with the annual national mean temperature 0.9°5C above the average.
It meant the 11-year mean temperature between 2007 and 2017 was now the highest on record, and seven of Australia’s 10 warmest years had occurred since 2005.
“Despite the lack of an El Niño – which is normally associated with our hottest years – 2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures,” the agency’s head of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza, said.
The national mean temperature of 22.76°C – or 0.95°C above the long-term average – was the third-highest since records began in 1910.
The bureau said background warming associated with climate change had seen Australian annual mean temperatures increase by about 1.1°C since 1910, and most of that warming had occurred since 1950.
Will Steffen, a climate change expert from the Climate Council, said the exceptionally warm year included “some of the worst impacts of climate change seen in Australia to date”, including severe heatwaves and devastating coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
“Another year has passed and we have another set of records driven by intensifying climate change,” he said.
“In recent days Australians have felt the impact of a disruptive climate, with a severe heatwave across the south-east. Parts of the Hume Highway melted in the heat and on Sunday the temperature at Penrith hit 47.3 degrees Celsius, making it the hottest place on Earth during that 24-hour period.”
Both day and night-time temperatures were warmer than average, with the maximum for the year the second-highest on record. Prolonged high sea surface temperatures led to the first instance of back-to-back years of mass coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef.
“Australia has been looking at an increased frequency of heatwaves and other extremes that have been positively associated with climate change,” Braganza said.
Australia’s above average temperatures coincided with what the bureau called an “exceptionally warm” year globally, part of a continuing trend.
The estimated global mean temperature for 2017 was 0.09°C above the 1961 to 1990 average, and the bureau said it was “likely 2017 will be the second or third-warmest year on record since 1850”.
The warmest two years were 2016 and 2015, records that were assisted by a strong El Niño, making 2017 the hottest year so far without the assistance of the weather pattern.
Global temperatures increased by just over 1°C since the pre-industrial period, and all of the 10 warmest years on record occurred between 1998 and the present.
In the United States, 2017 was typified by climate-related disasters: California’s hottest-ever summer helped contribute to the state’s record wildfire season, while researchers believe global warming helped boost Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall.
But the year was also dominated by climate denial, particularly in the US where the president, Donald Trump, led a dramatic withdrawal from efforts to curb global warming.
In June he announced the US would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, confirming the fears around the world of scientists and politicians about the US’s repositioning on climate change.