Australia’s summer doesn’t start until December, but the country is still baking in a record-breaking spring heat wave.
On Saturday, Australia’s average high temperature of 97.5°F broke the record for the hottest October day since record-keeping began in 1910. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, this weekend’s heat wave set records for daily high temperatures at 20 stations throughout the country. The town of St. George reached a high of 108.6°F on Sunday, and the suburbs surrounding Ipswich and Brisbane hit 106°F.
A spokesman from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology told the Sydney Morning Herald that the heat wave was significant not just for its high temperatures, but for its duration. Wanaaring, Australia set a record of eight days of 95°F temperatures, a stretch of time that beats the town’s previous record of seven days in 1997. Broken Hill, Australia also experienced a longer stretch of October heat than usual: five days of 95°F or higher weather, up from the town’s previous October record of three days in a row.
“These are all occurring generally about a week early and the extent is longer than observed before,” he said.
Rob Sharpe, a meteorologist at Weatherzone, told the Herald that this heat wave was the “first big heat event of the warming season.” But Australia has been no stranger to heat waves in recent years. Last year was Australia’s hottest ever recorded, with an average annual temperature of 73.4°F — 2.16°F higher than the average for 1961-1990. The country also started 2014 with extreme temperatures, in a heatwave that began in 2013 and continued into the new year: in early January, parts of Australia reached 122°F, with some reports of temperatures as high as 129°F. This year, southeastern Australia also endured a record-breaking fall heat wave, with May temperatures up to 9°F higher than usual.
Australia’s Climate Council, a privately-funded group that works to quantify the impacts climate change is already having in the country, issued a report this year that found that eight of the country’s hottest summers in history have occurred in the past 15 years. That heat has helped make the country’s bushfire season longer and more intense — an effect similar to climate change’s impact on the U.S.’s wildfire season.
CREDIT: Climate Council
Despite this extreme heat, however, Australia’s federal leadership has done little to address the threat of climate change. Instead, the country has cut funding for key climate groups and initiatives since Prime Minister Tony Abbott took office in 2013. Abbott’s administration eliminated Australia’s Climate Commission, an independent panel of experts which used to receive government funding to study the impacts of climate change (the group got enough private funding to come back as the Climate Council, and continues to publish). This month, Abbott’s administration also proposed to cut the country’s renewable energy target, a cut that the BBC reports is likely to hit Australia’s renewable energy companies.