On Tuesday January 8 Australia’s Bureau of Meterology released the 7-day projection for the continent shown below (top panel) for Monday January 14. The purple patch, about 250×350 km, is above 50°C. It has since been superseded by slightly lower projected temperatures, but the heat wave is continuing, being one of the longest and hottest on record.
The bottom panel is to put this in perspective. So far we have had about 0.8°C of global warming since 1900. I can say the climate projections are for 4-6°C of warming, but perhaps the picture brings it home rather more directly than words.
The all-time record temperature in Australia is 50.7°C at Oodnadatta in northern South Australia – just where the big purple patch is. If the record is not broken next week, it may still be broken this summer, the way it’s shaping up.
January 8th was the hottest continental average on record: 40.33°C. It was a filthy “Catastrophic” fire-danger day in much of the south-east (40-45°C across wide areas, with winds 0f 60-80 km/hr). Conditions like these prevailed during the infamous Black Saturday fires of 2009, and in 2003 when 500 houses were lost in Canberra, in the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983,and in 1939’s infamous Black Friday. There was some destruction but we are lucky, apparently no fatalities.
We have had two cooler days, but more heat is coming. Slightly less dangerous conditions than Tuesday’s are forecast for the next two days (11-12 Jan). But not all of the hundreds of fires still burning from Tuesday are out, so there is still a lot of potential for destruction. And the weather cycle may well keep this up every 4-5 days until the pattern breaks. And will each build on the previous?
Also, the US had its hottest year ever in 2012: 55.3°F, fully 1°F above the previous record. A lot of US forest burnt in the West, where milder winters have let bark beetles proliferate, which are killing coniferous forests over wide areas, which then burn readily.
The frequency and destructiveness of fires increases dramatically with each extra degree of temperature. So what if Australia was another degree warmer? The purple patch in the map would be normal for much of the summer. The effect of another 4°C is hard to imagine.
Note regarding climate “skepticism”. My views are under the AGW tab. I will no longer tolerate “debate” on this site.
Climate science, like all science, has a well-developed bullshit filter. It’s not perfect, but it gets rid of most of the nonsense. Not only does climate skepticism not have such a filter, it has a plentiful supply of non-scientist bullshitters, and they are fed by a professional disinformation industry that generates copious amounts of bullshit. One of the biggest pieces of bullshit is that there is a scientific conspiracy to exaggerate the threat. The balance of scientific opinion was recently estimated to be about 99.7% for, 0.3% against, the proposition that we are causing global warming. So, no more bullshit here.
PS, 11 Jan: I exaggerated the extent of skepticism: it’s 0.17%. See my updated AGW page (soon).