Australia’s land and oceans have continued to warm in response to rising CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
This is the headline finding in the State of the Climate 2012, an updated summary of Australia’s long term climate trends released by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology today (14 March 2012).
CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Megan Clark, said the latest analysis painted a clear decade-to-decade picture of Australia’s climate, while at the same time noting its highly variable nature from one year to the next.
“Much of Australia may have lurched from drought to floods since the previous State of the Climate, but this has occurred against a backdrop of steadily increasing air and ocean temperatures and rising sea levels. What’s more, the rate of change is increasing.
“The fundamental physical and chemical processes leading to climate change are well understood, and CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology observations demonstrate that change is occurring now,” said Dr Clark.
Bureau of Meteorology Acting Director, Dr Rob Vertessy, said this updated summary was based on improved understanding drawn from detailed analysis of our national climate record, which goes back more than a hundred years.
“Ground, ocean and satellite based observations are giving us highly consistent observations of this warming trend. State of the Climate 2012 confirms that each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s, with an increase in the number of warm nights, and more monthly maximum temperature records being broken.
“CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will continue to provide observations, projections, research, and analysis so that Australia’s responses to the challenges of a changing climate are underpinned by robust scientific evidence of the highest quality,” said Dr Vertessy.
State of the Climate 2012 showed a general trend toward increased spring and summer monsoonal rainfall across Australia’s north, and a decline in late autumn and winter rainfall across southern Australia.
Sea-levels had risen around Australia at rates equal to or greater than the global average, and sea-surface temperatures in the region had increased faster than the global average.
State of the Climate 2012 documents the annual growth in global fossil-fuel CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases. The CO2 concentration of the atmosphere had risen to around 390 parts per million in 2011, a level unprecedented in the past 800,000 years. During the past decade it has risen at more than 3% per year, which is projected to cause significant further global warming.
- Each decade has been warmer than the previous decade since the 1950s.
- Australian annual-average daily maximum temperatures have increased by 0.75 °C since 1910.
- Australian annual-average daily mean temperatures have increased by 0.9 °C since 1910.
- Australian annual-average overnight minimum temperatures have warmed by more than 1.1 °C since 1910.
- 2010 and 2011 were Australia’s coolest years recorded since 2001 due to two consecutive La Niña events
- Southwest Western Australia has experienced long-term reductions in rainfall during the winter half of the year.
- There has been a trend over recent decades towards increased spring and summer monsoonal rainfall across Australia’s north, higher than normal rainfall across the centre, and decreased late autumn and winter rainfall across the south.
- Global-average mean sea level for 2011 was 210 mm above the level in 1880.
- Global-average mean sea level rose faster between 1993 and 2011 than during the 20th century as a whole.
- The heat content of the world’s oceans has increased during recent decades, increasing the volume of ocean waters and contributing to sea-level rise.
- Sea-surface temperatures around Australia have increased faster than the global average.
- Sea-surface temperatures in the Australian region in 2010 were the highest on record.
- Sea-surface temperatures have increased by about 0.8 °C since 1910.
- Fossil-fuel CO2 emissions increased by more than 3 per cent per year from 2000 to 2010.
- The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2011 was 390 parts per million – higher than at any time for the past 800,000 years.
- The main cause of the observed increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the combustion of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.
Understanding global warming
- Both natural and human influences affected climate over the past 100 years.
- It is very likely that most of the surface global warming observed since the mid 20th century is due to anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases.
- Human activities also have influenced ocean warming, sea-level rise, and temperature extremes.
- The warming around Australia is consistent with the global pattern and cannot be explained by natural variability alone.
- There is evidence of changes in extreme temperatures globally.
- No significant trends in the total numbers of tropical cyclones or in the occurrence of the most intense tropical cyclones have been found in the Australian region
- Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 1.0 to 5.0 °C by 2070 when compared with the climate of recent decades.
· An increase in the number of droughts is expected in southern Australia but it also is likely that there will be an increase in intense rainfall events in many areas.