How hot is Australia? Only the koala know for sure.

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong….


[Click photo for full pic.]

A reader sends a note with a wonderful series of pictures attached:

Since you’ve been focusing on Australia a lot lately, these images might make some good symbols of what’s going on there. A koala invaded a home to get some water (very rare for koalas to anywhere near people), during this most recent heat wave.

The reader was himself forwarding an email about Australia’s worst heatwave on record, which read:

It has been so hot in SA for over a week … 40+ degrees Celsius everyday, and very dry.

A guy at work lives at Maude. His wife sent him these photos of a little Koala which just walked into the back porch looking for a bit of heat relief. She filled up a bucket and this is what happened!


Okay, this isn’t a jumpbuck. Then again, it’s not a billabong either, since those are all running dry (see “Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in”). And if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply and soon, they’ll all be irreversibly dry for 1000 years.”


And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me.”

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39 Responses to How hot is Australia? Only the koala know for sure.

  1. Stuart says:

    Ok, that is sad and ridiculously cute at the same time.

    Although I have heard koalas are actually mean little cusses.

    I wish I could send them some of our snow.

  2. hapa says:

    they have a very low-key existence.

    Do koalas get ‘drunk’ on eucalyptus leaves?

    No. Contrary to popular belief, eucalyptus leaves do not make koalas drunk. Koalas appear drunk or lazy because they have developed a low-energy lifestyle to compensate for their extremely low-energy diet. The 600 to 800 grams of eucalyptus leaves that koalas eat each day provides them with as much energy as one serving of breakfast cereal does for us (Phillip Island Nature Park 1998).

    “so… are you… using this water?”

  3. Kojiro Vance says:

    So when people make fun of the “Gore Effect”, that is just normal weather and has nothing to do with global warming, but Koalas and droughts in China AREN’T normal weather and prove – something?

    You can’t have it both ways. Perhaps we should send Al Gore to Australia to bring some cold weather with him.

    [JR: Huh? You are comparing an occasional cold day during winter with an all-record-breaking 12-year drought and 3-day 110+ heatwave in Australia?]

  4. Adrian says:

    This is especially scary/touching if you note that koalas normally get all of their water from eucalyptus leaves and do not drink water unless in cases of extreme draught. The name “koala” apparently means “no drink”, so we can see that they’re being pushed hard already. There was an article in an Australian newspaper about some of these changes last summer:,22606,22971870-5006301,00.html

  5. Aaron d says:


    It’s worth pointing out that while global warming deniers like to look at local weather patterns and conclude that the earth is not warming because the US is having a cold winter. In another part of the world they’re having record breaking heating. So in an effect all those ‘cold snaps’ balance out with heat waves in other parts of the world. In addition, this particular heat wave as Joe replied, is not just that which has been highlighted in the past week, but instead a current 12 year drought.

  6. Mike D says:

    Best. Post. Ever.

  7. Joe says:

    Animal pictures get them every time.

    My dad used to say that a photo of an animal of the cover of the newspaper would guarantee the edition sold out.

  8. Jim Eaton says:

    From what I’ve gathered this week about weather (which may or may not reflect climate):

    A relative in Chile reports that it is the hottest summer there in 60 years.
    Argentina is suffering from a major drought.
    Parts of China are having the driest time in 50 years,
    Northern Queensland had major flooding from several cyclones which have sent crocodiles and snakes into the cities.
    Southern Australia has broken numerous high temperature records (many that were set last March).
    Seven of the eight highest temperatures ever recorded in Tasmania were set this year.

    While these are weather observations, I think we just might seeing the future that will be “normal” with global warming.

  9. Kojiro Vance says:

    So there were no long droughts before the industrial revolution? And if the drought and heat wave end in a year or two then that must prove that there isn’t anything to this global warming thing.

    A couple of cold days during an Al Gore visit or 10 years of weather in Australia – in geologic time they are pretty much the same amount of time.

    Look at this chart and I don’t really see much of a trend. Overall the data shows that average rainfall in Australia in the 20th century is just slightly higher than the 19th century.

    I read the summary report that the Australian Gov’t prepared. They expect slightly less rainfall, but there is some uncertainty in the models and there could even be more rain.

  10. Ronald says:

    Could be used as evidence that Koala’s can adapt to warmer temps.

  11. Nick says:

    Kojiro, delve a little deeper at the Australian BOM site, and you will see significant regional trends masked by that coarse resolution, all of continent metric you cite. Australia is a big country. Rainfall has increased in the north and north-west with more intense falls during the southern monsoon, while the south and south-east are getting drier over the last quarter century,particularly in autumn.

    Studying “geologic time” has provided a lot of building blocks for understanding the present climate. We can safely assume researchers have given this some thought.

  12. Gail says:

    Not much to be said about this, other than a perfect example of the media explaining to the general public the effects of climate change. oh, wait…

  13. Kojiro Vance says:

    Nick – I think the Gore effect is rather silly but it is a way to have a bit of fun with Mr. Gore – who takes himself WAY too seriously.

    A day or two doesn’t make a global warming sized trend, probably not even a decade or two, perhaps a century.

  14. John McCormick says:

    Published research by Thompson and Solomon point to tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex as a possible explanation for higher temp and lower precip in Southern Australia.

    The following are a few citations you might want to read. Some heavy lifting here but more informative than lifestyle of Koalas, cute as they are.

    Starts with Australian government publication:

    Australian Greenhouse Office, Department of the Environment and Heritage, April 2005



    Thompson and Solomon (2002) have shown that stratospheric ozone depletion over Antarctica in spring and early summer is strengthening the westerly winds blowing around Antarctica. (Stratospheric ozone depletion is caused by industrial chemicals such as CFCs.) The effect is greatest during summer and may persist into autumn.

    Cite to the Thompson, Solomon study published in Science:

    “Interpretation of Recent Southern Hemisphere Climate Change”


    David W. J. Thompson1* and Susan Solomon2

    Climate variability in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere (SH) is dominated by the SH annular mode, a large-scale pattern of variability characterized by fluctuations in the strength of the circumpolar vortex.We present evidence that recent trends in the SH tropospheric circulation can be interpreted as a bias toward the high-index polarity of this pattern, with stronger westerly low encircling the polar cap. It is argued that the largest and most signficant tropospheric trends can be traced to recent trends in the lower stratospheric polar vortex, which are due largely to photochemical ozone losses. During the summer-fall season, the trend toward stronger circumpolar low has contributed substantially to the observed warming over the Antarctic Peninsula and Patagonia and to the cooling over eastern Antarctica and the Antarctic plateau.

    Yes, Virginia, the ozone hole over Antarctica, in 2008, was at a record low and CFCs are not the cause to the degree that compound may have been before the Montreal Protocol. Do some interesting reading and self-education.

    John McCormick

  15. paulm says:

    @Kojiro Vance you are hung up on Gore mate. All major scientific groups recognize AGW. Whats your problem?

    Scientific opinion on climate change

    American Meteorological Society climate change

    Oh, the AMS just given Hansen its top award…

  16. Doug says:

    To those mentioning that the U.S. is having a “cold winter” — that depends on what part of the U.S. you’re in. California has been having record-high temps for the time of year, several times these last few months.

    In the Silicon Valley area where I live, the springtime “greening” of the hills (as the annual grasses sprout) began in *December* this time; normally you don’t see that until Feburary.

  17. K. Nockels says:

    Doom and Gloom we dont want any so we will just not beleive it. UNTIL……
    we are right in it. Then, who can we blame for not telling us this was going to happen.
    It’s time to wake up now and guess what we are in it big time already.

    Climate vs. Weather? can’t happen climate drives weather, enviromental changes drive changes in weather. Weather the daily out the window changes we see in the natural world is created and changed by Climate and enviroment. Everything on this planet Earth is connected to everything on Planet Earth.

  18. Global Warming Has Already Happened. In the mid 19th century, the Mississippi river froze over in the winter so you could drive on it at St. Louis. That’s how St Louis became known as the gateway to the west. Now the Mississippi river is often ice-free at Davenport, Iowa. If you want to drive on the river, you have to go at least as far North as Minnesota. Cattaraugus County New York [Olean, Little Valley] got 450 inches [37.5 feet] of snow per year in the 1950s and 1960s. Now it gets only 96 inches of snow per year. Hurricane season starts in spring now. Hurricane season used to start in the fall. The hurricanes are bigger now than ever before. At Barrow, Alaska, the grave yard washed away because the fast[ened to the land] sea ice melted.
    We humans have caused 1.3 degrees Farenheit of global warming since we started burning coal circa 1750. Global warming started with the steam engine. COAL is still the biggest contributor to CO2 production. If we do not stop producing 70 Million tons per day of CO2 [carbon dioxide], we so-called “humans” will go extinct.

  19. YelenaVee says:

    Sorry, meant to write ‘before the industrial revolution’, not industrial era.

  20. YelenaVee says:

    Kojiro Vance, the massive climate problems we’re experiencing here in Australia are MUCH MUCH more than just a ‘hot day or two’. The country has been gripped by record droughts for several years now, with indications that these will be a permanent feature of our climate. (

    The North has faced unprecedented, record-breaking flooding, whilst at the same time the South East’s fortnight-long heat waves have already beaten last year’s records, themselves unprecedented. Many lives have been lost over the last two weeks alone. Train tracks buckled in the heat, train services came to complete standstill, and over half a million homes lost power. The sick and the elderly were dying in their homes from unprecedented 56 plus degree temperatures. (Celsius) Crops have been burnt to useless crisps, and nightmarish, record breaking bushfires have killed several people and razed townships to the ground.

    And yes, Kojiro Vance, Australia had heat waves and bushfires before the industrial revolution too.

    But not like this. Not like this.

    If you bothered to look at the actual numbers and records you would discover not isolated incidents, but a very serious and unmistakable trend of more numerous, more widespread, and more intense climate disasters which are becoming the norm rather than the exception.

  21. Brewster says:

    Now northern Australia (Queensland) is drowning – major Monsoons have flooded 60% of the state – an area the size of Spain!

    Hell and High Water indeed!

  22. Tatiana from Brazil says:

    I’m from the city of João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil.On the west of my state is very dry too, many poor people are suffering without water.God bless Australia and the Northwest of Brazil, because we need WATER and less heat!

  23. jonas says:

    The trends point to something significant here and we would do well to observe these changes closely. It appears there is a polarisation occurring with extremes on each of the sides of the plates.

    It would be errant stupidity to treat this lightly

  24. tim says:

    From what I’ve read, change won’t keep the world from suffering the effects of global warming. Or, to be more precise, the effects of change won’t be observable for one or two thousand years or so. I live in the Pacific Northwest in America, and I’m looking forward to those Mediterranean climes they say are coming. Well, maybe my grandkids kids will enjoy the nicer weather.

  25. jonas says:

    Why do people thing it is about the climate becoming hotter. It is also about the rain and the melting of the polar ice caps

  26. KristjanS says:

    It’s all about the averages. There will always be both extremities, cold and hot, but alone they don’t mean much.

  27. Simple says:

    just watched the burnt koala on TV, my god i didn’t know australia is so hot country….

  28. meh says:

    you know there have been unpredicted droughts throughout history. in my town for as long as i can remember (can’t really remember what happened out in the world corresponding with it) there have been several years of drought and winter heat a few rainy years, a flood or at least some attempt, few more rainy years, drought. yep there were a few little floods two years ago and now its time for the drought just as planned no problems here. but allasudden the people who knew it was just nature earlier are running around preaching certain doom, when a few years ago they were commenting on how happy they were that we had a mostly temperate winter now they’re taking to the streets and starting riots.
    what ever happened to el nino? thats what i wanna know. that name just disappeared and suddenly global warming is causing the heightened hurricanes and funny weather.
    honestly, people will fall for anything

  29. sophie says:

    i have been hearing lots of fake comments about these things

  30. YelenaVee says:

    oops, “unprecedented 46 degree plus temperatures”, not 56 degrees. Sorry.

  31. Michael Poore says:

    After working in a coal mine which uses it coal stricktly as a coking coal, i thought that we were doing a good job by using the methane gas from the coal seam and using it to pump electricity back into the grid.
    However a right wing greenpeace activist has just told me that by burning methane gas or leting methane gas into the atmosphere is speeding up the greenhouse effect creating an increase in our mean temperature.
    This is absolute bullshit.
    If you think about it, add every living thing and all their farts. its nature to blame for speeding up this process.

  32. ryan staples says:

    its so cute

  33. matty says:

    its awsome he is so cool and he rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. ass hole says:


  35. I wonder if it is a juvenile?

    1. arguably ‘naive’ behaviour around humans? Fortunate in this case. We apparently hunted these in millions early 19C fur trade.

    2. young are more easily heat stressed given body surface area to volume ratio is smaller, and thus harder job thermo-regulating gains and losses of heat because less buffer from the environment to the constant core. (Just like human children actually – always first to get cold and heat stress which is a grim foretelling.)

  36. Byron Smith says:

    Kojiro, delve a little deeper at the Australian BOM site, and you will see significant regional trends masked by that coarse resolution, all of continent metric you cite. Australia is a big country. Rainfall has increased in the north and north-west with more intense falls during the southern monsoon, while the south and south-east are getting drier over the last quarter century,particularly in autumn.

    NB The vast majority of the Australian population lives in the south-east, where it is getting drier, on what is already the driest continent.

    Oh, and “koalas”, not “koala” is the plural, so the heading could be corrected.

    Keep up the good work as I really appreciate your blog!