Australia's 'angriest summer' breaks records

Temperatures soared to as high as a record 49.5 deg C in Port Augusta in South Australia on Jan 24 and 46.6 deg C the same day in Adelaide (pictured), said a Climate Council report.
Temperatures soared to as high as a record 49.5 deg C in Port Augusta in South Australia on Jan 24 and 46.6 deg C the same day in Adelaide (pictured), said a Climate Council report.PHOTO: AFP

Temperatures spike to new highs as fires and floods ravage country

More than 200 records were broken around Australia during its hottest summer on record, said a study released yesterday.

The three-month summer in 2018-2019, which officially finished at the end of last month, roasted much of the country in a series of crippling heatwaves that triggered blackouts, fuelled conditions ripe for huge bush fires and worsened an already severe drought in the eastern half of the nation.

Temperatures soared to as high as a record 49.5 deg C in Port Augusta, South Australia, on Jan 24 and 46.6 deg C the same day in Adelaide, said the Climate Council report titled The Angriest Summer.

Scores of people were treated for heat-related illnesses.

Many businesses were affected as temperature extremes made work during the day hazardous to health.

"This summer was so hot we witnessed fruit cooking on trees. In Sydney, authorities warned steel train tracks could buckle under the extreme heat," said Ms Amanda McKenzie, CEO of the independent, publicly funded council.

Climate change was cranking up the intensity of extreme weather, and as mankind continues to pump more pollution into the air from burning fossil fuels, those extremes are set to intensify, said the study.

Across the country, heatwaves are becoming more intense and longer lasting. Floods and droughts are also becoming more extreme.

SOARING TEMPERATURES

This summer was so hot we witnessed fruit cooking on trees.

MS AMANDA MCKENZIE, CEO of the independent, publicly funded Climate Council.

In the past summer, every state in Australia experienced serious bush fires, with properties lost in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, the report said.

The Queensland fire season lasted much longer than normal and the Tasmanian fire season started early. New South Wales was hit by serious fires even through autumn and winter. Pristine rainforests in Queensland and Tasmania, previously not prone to bush fires, suffered devastating damage.

 
 
 

While most of Australia endured sweltering conditions, northern Queensland was hit by record rainfall and floods. For example, Townsville in the state's north-east received 1,257mm of rain over 10 days in late January and early February, more than its annual average, triggering floods that caused A$1 billion (S$955 million) in insured losses.

A total of 206 records were broken over 90 days in the country, including the record-highest summer temperature in 87 locations, record-lowest summer total rainfall in 96 locations, and record-high summer rainfall in 15 places.

The Climate Council criticised the government for the lack of leadership on climate change and the lack of credible policy to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

"Right now, the federal government has no credible policy and pollution has gone up and up and up," Ms McKenzie said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2019, with the headline 'Australia's 'angriest summer' breaks records'. Print Edition | Subscribe