Australia Just Had A Record Hot Year. This Is Our 'New Normal'.
Australia has just sweltered through the third-hottest year on record, with climate experts warning of "extreme" temperatures and a lengthening fire danger season is the country's "new normal".
The Bureau of Meteorology's latest annual climate statement, released Thursday, revealed 2018 was Australia's third-warmest year on record, with every state and territory recording above average temperatures.
The nation's average temperature last year was 1.14C above the average for 1961-1990, making 2018 slightly warmer than 2017.
Richie Merzian, head of The Australia Institute's climate and energy program, said people are increasingly concerned about the changing climate as the nation enters a "new normal" of hotter temperatures.
"When we look across all of Australia in 2018, we can see that every single state and territory had above average day and night-time temperatures," BOM senior climatologist Lynette Bettio said in a statement.
The bureau also said rainfall totals in Australia in 2018 were the lowest since 2005. Rainfall was 11 percent below the average between 1961 and 1990, with many regions experiencing significantly lower average rainfalls.
Dr Bettio said large areas of southeast Australia had rainfall totals in the lowest 10 percent on record.
NSW had its sixth-driest year on record while the Murray-Darling Basin had its seventh driest.
Nine of the 10 warmest years on record in Australia have occurred since 2005.
The Bureau has warned that "extreme" temperatures and lower rainfall, as well as shifting general climate conditions, are lengthening fire seasons and creating the potential for disaster.
"We're seeing the fire season start earlier in spring and end later in autumn, particularly in the more southern fire-prone districts, where that fire season tends to be in mid-summer," head of climate monitoring Dr Karl Braganza said at a press conference.
"Certainly in 2018 we saw evidence that that trend continued. So, we had significant fire activity in southern New South Wales at the end of March. We had fire activity in August in southern Victoria, around Bega."
"That lengthening fire season was apparent throughout the last 12 months."
Braganza linked the worsening conditions to climate change.
"If you have drought and dry conditions, then obviously you dry out the vegetation, fuel for the fire," he said.
"But the shift in the seasonalities and the severity of the fire weather is largely driven by increases in surface temperature, and that, in turn, is related to global warming."
Richie Merzian, head of The Australia Institute's climate and energy program, said people are increasingly concerned about the changing climate as the nation enters this "new normal" of hotter temperatures.
"It is unbelievable and disheartening that as the country cooks, the Morrison government is rushing to use taxpayer dollars to fund new coal-fired power stations," Merzian, from the Australia Institute, said on Thursday.
The bureau's statement follows a run of exceptionally high temperatures around the nation late last month, along with a prolonged heatwave in Queensland in late November and early December.
Globally, 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change Service assessment, released on Tuesday.
The past four years have seen the highest average temperatures globally since records began in the 19th century.