“Catastrophic” Heat Wave Burning Up Australia

The Australian prime minister warns of more extreme weather to come.

Mother Jones, By James West, January 8

Every Australian knows well the smell of burning eucalyptus. As a kid, I remember filling bathtubs and hosing the house as embers flew overhead and the lawn turned grey with ash. The family photo albums practically lived for one month each summer in the back of the car.

So regular are fires across this big, dry place (the driest inhabited continent on earth) that they are given a season unto themselves—”bushfire season”—which kicks off in late December and continues through the height of summer, with predictable emergency broadcasts, panicked residents fleeing in cars, and the endless debate about evacuation plans and controlled burning.

It’s an old story, but one that scientists warn will become ever more common because of climate change.

Australia’s bushfire season hit with force last week, fueled by a record coast-to-coast heat wave that will continue unabated across the next few days. A new record was set Monday in Australia when the average maximum temperature reached 40.33 degrees Celsius (about 104.6 degrees Fahrenheit), beating the previous record set in 1972*: Yes, that’s an average maximum.

The Telegraph: Australia: fires rage and temperatures soar on day of ‘catastrophic’ danger.
More than 100 wildfires have broken out across Australia’s east coast and forced thousands to flee their homes as the nation faces a day of “catastrophic” fire danger.

FairFax NZ News: Coping with Australia’s heatwave

Not to mention, Slate: It’s Official: 2012 Was the Hottest Year on Record in Continental U.S. by a Full Degree, and NYT: Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S..

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  • Australia links ‘angry summer’ to climate change – at last

    Government advisers unequivocally link the country’s extreme weather and global warming, and say the worst is yet to come.

    The Guardian’s Environment Blog, By Jessica Aldred, March 7

    The hottest summer on record. The hottest January on record. The hottest day on record for Australia as a whole. Bushfires in every state and territory. Daily rainfall records and major flooding. Over a period of 90 days, these were some of the 123 extreme weather records broken during Australia’s “angry summer”.

    Despite the dramatic headlines and “flame-seared images” that documented extreme weather over the summer, the Australian media largely failed to make the link to climate change. Of 800 articles published on the heatwave over a period of five days in January, fewer than 10 also discussed global warming. In the US and the UK, by comparison, the relationship between global warming and extreme weather events such as hurricane Sandy and the UK’s second wettest year on record became a major talking – and election – point.

    But a report by Australian government advisers this week unequivocally and directly links the summer’s extreme weather to climate change, and should make the link harder to ignore in future. Climate scientists have been historically reluctant to link the two – particularly in a country like Australia which has naturally occurring cycles of drought and floods and is naturally a land of weather extremes.

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