50 deg C days in store for Sydney, Melbourne

An out-of-control bushfire in Western Australia early last year. The increase in Australian summer temperatures indicates that other major cities in the country should also be prepared for unprecedented future extreme heat, said climate scientist Sop
An out-of-control bushfire in Western Australia early last year. The increase in Australian summer temperatures indicates that other major cities in the country should also be prepared for unprecedented future extreme heat, said climate scientist Sophie Lewis of the Australian National University.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SYDNEY • Sydney and Melbourne could regularly face 50 deg C days within 25 years even if Australia meets its Paris global warming targets, a study warned yesterday.

Other areas across the country should also prepare for extreme heat, said the research led by the Australian National University (ANU) and supported by the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, a global consortium.

The study assessed the potential magnitude of future extreme temperatures under the 196-nation Paris Agreement, which targets curbing rises in global temperatures to between 1.5 deg C and 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels.

"Major Australian cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, may experience unprecedented temperatures of 50 deg C under 2.0 deg C of global warming," said lead author and ANU climate scientist Sophie Lewis, adding that this could occur by the 2040s.

"The increase in Australian summer temperatures indicates that other major cities should also be prepared for unprecedented future extreme heat," she said.

The study's climate modelling projected daily temperatures of up to 3.8 deg C above existing records in Victoria and New South Wales, despite efforts to curb warming.

In ratifying the Paris agreement last year, Australia set an ambitious target to reduce emissions to 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030.

  • >200

    Weather records were broken during the past summer, with intense heatwaves, bushfires and flooding plaguing the period from last December to this February.

This would represent a 50-52 per cent reduction in emissions per capita between 2005 and 2030.

With its heavy use of coal-fired power and relatively small population of 24 million, Australia is considered one of the world's worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters.

Dr Lewis said dealing with such heat in cities would need proper planning, with hospitals equipped to cope with more admissions.

Australia has just experienced its hottest winter on record amid a long-term warming trend largely attributed to climate change. More than 200 weather records were broken during the past summer, with intense heatwaves, bushfires and flooding plaguing the period from last December to this February.

Data from the weather bureau and national science body Csiro shows Australia has warmed by approximately 1 deg C since 1910.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, said only immediate climate action internationally could prevent record extreme seasons year after year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2017, with the headline '50 deg C days in store for Sydney, Melbourne'. Print Edition | Subscribe