Australia started this new year with the worst heat wave they have ever experienced. It is notable not just for its high temperatures, but for its extent — both geographic and temporal. This heat wave affected nearly the entire country, pushing the continent-wide temperature record to a new high of 40.33°C (104.6°F) — and that’s the average for the entire nation. It has also endured longer than previous extremes. As scientists from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) have stated publicly
It is not that common for the Australian-average temperature to exceed 39°C for even two days in a row. A run of three days above 39°C has occurred on only three occasions, and a run of four days just once, in 1972.
The current heat wave has seen a sequence of Australian temperatures above 39°C of seven days, and above 38°C of 11 days straight.
It isn’t just daily high temperatures, but nighttime lows and daily means that have troubled citizens down under:
The sequence of Australian mean temperature has been just as impressive. As things currently stand, the first two weeks of January 2013 now hold the records for the hottest Australian day on record, the hottest two-day period on record, the hottest three-day period, the hottest four-day period and, well, every sequential-days record stretching from one to 14 days for daily mean temperatures.
Australia has often suffered heat waves, but this one is just … different. The reason, according to scientists from the BoM, is man-made global warming:
… the impact of global warming is clearly observed in a distribution shift of daily weather, as well as shifts in monthly and seasonal climate, to higher temperatures. As is now communicated by many climate scientists, the warming planet is loading the climate dice in favour of warmer conditions.
So, while the “cause” of an individual weather event, including heat waves, is always proximally linked to antecedent weather conditions — it is possible to determine the influence of climate change on the frequency of occurrence of such an event. This is expressed by the increased likelihood that these extreme events will occur in comparison with the past, or in comparison with climate modelling scenarios of an unchanging climate
Amid a devastating plague of wildfires and heat that can only be called oppressive, Australians are beginning to see just how bad things are already. Let’s hope this leads them to reject, resoundingly and emphatically, the failed leadership of politicians like Craig Kelly who respond to a deadly problem by denying the problem. Kelly’s reaction was to bellow about how Sydney hadn’t yet broken their all-time daily high temperature record, and to point to a higher reading taken back in 1790. Not only does this ignore that the heat wave did break the all-Australia temperature record, not only does it belittle the seriousness of its wide area coverage and long duration, it was made yet more foolish when, a few days later, the all-time daily high temperature record in Sydney was broken.
Politicians like Craig Kelly, who respond to climate trouble by denying reality, have got to go. Not just in Australia, but in the U.S. too. And Canada, and England, and every nation on earth.
Especially since not only is it bad already, it’s going to get worse. The reason for the trouble we’re already seeing is global warming. And that’s going to continue. As the scientists from the BoM have said:
Future warming of the climate due to greenhouse gas emissions will very likely lead to further increases in the frequency of unusually hot days and nights and continued declines in unusually cold days and nights.
These changes will result in weather events which are increasingly beyond our prior experiences.
It’s not just important to speak truth to power. When those in power deny truth, it’s high time for us to kick their asses the hell out of office.
I suggest Australians start with Craig Kelly. As for Americans, it’s not too soon to begin an all-out assault to remove Senator James Inhofe from office. When it comes to the global warming problem, Inhofe is public enemy #1. He comes up for re-election in 2014, and there is no excuse for allowing such a blatant denier to continue to represent any part of the U.S.A. Inhofe has done everything he could to make our world too hot for the rest of us. Let’s make it too hot for him.