2014 was Australia’s third warmest year on record

By AAP with AG staff 7 January 2015
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Seven of the last 10 years rank as the warmest on record

UNPRECEDENTED SUMMER HEATWAVES and unseasonal warm spells resulted in Australia’s third warmest year on record in 2014, a Bureau of Meteorology climatologist says.

But the near-record warmth in 2014 is fast becoming the norm, climate statistics suggest. The record for the warmest year was set only in 2013.

Seven of the warmest 10 years in Australia, since reliable records began in 1910, occurred in the past 12 years, and 29 out of the past 35 years have been warmer than average.

As bushfires raged around Adelaide, the BoM’s released its annual climate statement, showing the 2014 annual average temperature – minimum and maximum temperatures combined – was 0.91°C above the long-term average (set from 1961 to 1990).

Maximum and minimum temperatures were 1.16°C and 0.66°C above the long-term average, respectively.

Annual av. temperature anomalies, Australia, since 1910. The black dots shows that seven out of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002. (BOM)

2014 in top four warmest years on record

Last year ranked among the top four warmest years on record in Australia, except for the Northern Territory.

BoM climate monitoring manager Karl Braganza said a relative lack of prolonged cold weather and six heat events affected the result for 2014. These included a savage mid-January heatwave in the southeast and the warmest spring on record across the continent.

“Over the last three years, in fact, we’ve seen a sequence of rolling heatwaves throughout the year and a lack of cold weather,”  Karl said.

Prolonged drought, which allows more sunshine to heat the land, and a rise in global temperatures of about 1°C in the past 100 years added to the warmth, he said.

However, heavy rain in WA helped balance the drought. The national average rainfall in 2014 was 478mm, 13mm higher than the overall average.

Humans propel climate change

Karl said climate scientists believe human-induced climate change is occurring.

“It’s a combination of natural variability and the background trend, an increase of about 1°C in global temperatures in the past century, and that’s due to human-induced global warming.

“Typically, when you start to go close to records or break records, that’s telling us the global warming signal and natural variability are pushing in the same direction, so that’s why we’re not surprised (by the 2014 climate data).”

Preliminary data from January to November 2014 collated by the World Meteorological Organisation suggests 2014 may also be the world’s hottest year since consistent meteorological records began in 1880.