The CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology today released the State of the Climate 2012 report, an updated summary of Australia's long term climate trends.
The major finding of the report is that generally we're getting warmer. In Australia, both the land mass and oceans have continued to warm in response to rising carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. Since Australia contributes about 1.3% of the world's CO2 emissions, what does that mean for the rest of the world?
The report shows that we've been warming up---both nationally and globally---for a long time. Despite 2010 and 2011 being the coolest years recorded in Australia since 2001, each decade has in fact grown steadily warmer than the last, all the way back to the 1950s. 2011 was the world's 11th warmest year and the warmest year on record during a La Niña event. Significantly, the world's 13 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 15 years.
Sea-surface temperatures have increased in the oceans around Australia faster than the global average. Swinburne's own Centre for Ocean Engineering, Science and Technology has been looking at global trends in wind speed and wave height over the past two decades, and found that there has been a consistent trend toward increasing wind speeds at the same time that the oceans are warming.
So what can we expect from the weather in the future? CSIRO and Bureau experts predict an increase in the number of hot days and warm nights. Climate models suggest long-term drying over southern areas during winter and over southern and eastern areas during spring. And Melbourne's infamously changeable weather patterns look to continue: droughts are expected to become more frequent in southern Australia but periods of heavy rainfall are still likely to occur. So even though it has been raining enough to flood in many parts of eastern Australia, we're still looking at more drought in the future.
Rob Vertessy from the Bureau of Meteorology and Megan Clark from CSIRO discuss the report in an article in The Conversation. They were also interviewed on ABC News Breakfast this morning. CSIRO provides a list of the peer-reviewed references underpinning the report on their website---the findings are bound to be controversial.Image credit: flickr/nasa goddard photo and video