Welcome to the new normal with stinking hot summers, as heatwaves hover over and amplify the urban heat island effect in cities like Melbourne bringing the heat from central Australia. Most of Victoria is feeling the heat, which has come despite ENSO being in a neutral phase. So far the State Government lead by Premier Denis Napthine has made only Token efforts in managing heatwaves despite predictions by climate scientists that heatwaves increasing faster than average temperatures and becoming more frequent and intense. At least my local council, the City of Moreland is taking heatwaves seriously investigating what it can do and calling for greater heatwave emergency planning by the state government.
Much of south east Australia is again suffering a heatwave this week. The temperature reached 41.2C in Melbourne on Tuesdayand is forecast to rise again over this weekend. Inland towns get no such reprieve from the heat, with the Bureau of Meteorology having a heatwave forecast in place.
Professor David Karoly and Post-doctoral researcher Sophie lewis have been undertaking analysis on the temperature record for Australia in 2013. Their article published at The Conversation - Australia’s hottest year was no freak event: humans caused it - is an attribution of risk study of the extreme Australian heat in 2013 involving statistical probability analysis.
Flying Foxes are dropping to earth and dying in their thousands from heat exhaustion. The extreme heat in Queensland from the 29 December to 5 January has taken a massive toll of flying fox colonies, warns a wildlife conservation organisation. It is estimated that perhaps hundreds of thousands of native flying foxes have died as a direct result of the record setting high temperatures in the heatwave event across Queensland and north western NSW.
Last year Australia suffered it's hottest year on record, with scientists claiming that extensive fractional risk attribution modelling of 2013 temperatures that this was clearly caused by human greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
With substantial heat in the continental centre, the first days of 2014 saw temperatures climb towards 50C in western Queensland, western NSW, South Australia and parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
A new study just published looked at the way Urban Heat Island effect interacts with heatwaves. It is not a simple addition of the heatwave increase in temperature added to the urban heat island temperature: heatwaves exacerbate and amplify the Urban Heat Island Effect so that the impact is magnified. This is a major energy use and health concern for people living in cities, particularly the poor and vulnerable.
"Not only do heat waves increase the ambient temperatures, but they also intensify the difference between urban and rural temperatures. As a result, the added heat stress in cities will be even higher than the sum of the background urban heat island effect and the heat wave effect." say the researchers, Dan Li and Elie Bou-Zeid, both from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University
The IPCC chairperson is visiting Australia and commented that the Extreme heatwave and catastrophic bushfires that Australia is experiencing is an 'unmistakeable' part of a global trend of an increase in the frequency and intensity of heatwaves and other extreme weather events. Indeed, researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) have just released a new study - Global increase in record-breaking monthly-mean temperatures - which clearly shows the present Australian heatwave records being broken and the US recording it's hottest year in 2012, are both part of this global trend.
On Tuesday January 8 the Bureau of Meteorology released an interim special climate statement on the Extreme January heat Australia is currently experiencing (Updated on January 14). Record temperatures both day-time maximum and night-time minimums continue to be broken as of 13 January. The extraordinary heatwave has also been the scene for catastrophic fires, especially in Tasmania.
On Monday the Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard visited the bushfire devastated town of Dunalley in Tasmania and expressed her support for the residents of the town, many of whom lost everything, and outlined emergency assistance measures being taken by both the Federal and Tasmanian Government.
She also said, very briefly, that bushfires were part of Australian life in a hot and dry country. But then she went a step further. She acknowledged that climate change contributes to the frequency and intensity of bushfires through more extreme weather events like the current extreme Heatwave.
Jan 4: Hobart recorded it's highest recorded minimum temperature Thursday night and highest recorded daytime temperature on Friday. Bushfires are currently raging in Tasmania destroying houses and forcing evacuations (see below).
Jan 3: Elevated temperatures in an extreme heatwave are occuring across a brought sweep of Australia, with the heatwave expected to last at least a week. It is very unusual that a heat wave covers such a large area of the continent at one time, according to Karl Braganza, manager of climate monitoring at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Australia's weather has switched to hot and dry after one of the wettest two year periods in Australia's history influenced by an extremely strong La Nina event.
Related: Scientists outline health limits of heat stress with Climate Change (May 2010) | Flooding rains now burning plains - Bushfire risk and climate change (Oct 2011) | Logging of Victorian mountain ash forests increases bushfire risk (Oct 2011) | Intact native Forests mitigate bushfire in a warming climate (Nov 2011) | CSIRO - Climate change impacts on fire weather