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Climate drivers indicate wet in the north but neutral elsewhere
The BoM issued its weekly Tropical Climate Note and fortnightly Enso Wrap-Up and Climate Model Summary on Tuesday. These are regular reviews of the major drivers of Australian climate that give an indication of general weather conditions over coming weeks. Although the Madden–Julian Oscillation (MJO) signal over northern Australia remains weak, the Bureau's models suggest the current monsoonal activity over the NT will continue for another week. A low operating over the Kimberley region of WA is being watched but is given a low chance of developing into cyclone strength. El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) remains neutral and the Indian Ocean Dipole has little or no effect over Australia in summer.
If you thought the climate debate has been ugly, you haven’t seen anything yet
So begins an examination of where climate politics stand in Australia at present in The Conversation earlier this week. This "Guide for the Perplexed" runs through how we got where we are at present (i.e. in a mess), what can actually be achieved, and the political shenanigans that can be expected. Odd coalitions are forming, such as big business and the Greens, and events in the United States, with a newly installed President Trump, will play a large wildcard directly affecting Australia. Even Al Gore is releasing a sequel to An Inconvenient Truth during the year that should produce some interesting reactions. The article's conclusion? "This is going to be bloody."
While in this general area, two articles on ABC Rural are worth a read. The first looks at accusations the federal government is suffering "policy paralysis while uncertainty reigns over renewable energy targets" while the second examines the global challenges posed by climate change in transitioning electricity sectors from coal to green power via.....what? We have built the longest piece of network infrastructure in the world to create our electricity grid and have the nearly unique problem of being unable to source electricity from any other country. How do we move from that to wind and solar generation, and get it all to work while we make the changes?
You've heard of the global warming hiatus? New study confirms it didn't happen
You will have seen on many graphs and heard frequent mention that global warming slowed, stopped or even reversed for a period during the first decade of this millennium. Critics of the concept of global warming, especially anthropogenic global warming, have jumped on this as evidence that AGW is not scientifically proven.
So when various studies began to debunk the methodology behind the data showing a pause, and especially when NOAA published its own revised data and pushed up temperatures during the 2000s, critics loudly complained that it was cooking the books to support the Obama regime's climate change policies.
Now a completely independent team from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of New York have published a complete review of the figures, going back to, and reinterpreting, raw data from multiple sources. Their findings, published yesterday in Science Advances, show that warming has continued unabated. Says Zeke Hausfather, leader of the team at University of California, “The bottom line is that NOAA got it right. They were not manipulating the data for any political purpose. Warming has continued.” Or, as the review's abstract concludes, "the rate of warming during the first 15 years of the 21st century is at least as great as the last half of the 20th century. These results do not support the notion of a 'slowdown' in the increase of global surface temperature."
For a good history of the "hiatus" and its debunking, go to Public Broadcasting Service NewsHour where there's also an interview with Hausfather. The Sydney Morning Herald (limited paywall) also covers their methodology and the likely political impact of the findings, and carries a 4 minute interview with SMH Environment Editor Peter Hannam. If you want to wade into the full Science Advances paper, it is here*.
Hot and wet: Bureau issues Annual Climate Statement for 2016
Updated 5/1/17 15.15 with Sydney data
Updated 5/1/17 17.15 last paragraph information on state and city Annual Climate Statements
The BoM has issued its Annual Climate Statement for last year in record time, showing that Australia as a whole had its fourth hottest year, with record high sea surface temperatures around the country and the wettest May to September on record pushing the annual average rainfall to 17% above average. The year was also one of extreme weather events across the country.
BoM Assistant Director Climate Information Services, Neil Plummer, said
“The year started off very warm and dry, with bushfires in Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, and a nation-wide heatwave from late February to mid-March. We had our warmest autumn on record partly due to a very strong 2015–16 El Niño.
“In May the El Niño broke down and the dry start was followed by record wet from May to September as a negative Indian Ocean Dipole developed, with ocean waters warming to the northwest of Australia.
“Widespread, drought-breaking rains led to flooding in multiple states. Even northern Australia saw widespread rainfall, during what is usually the dry season, greening regions that had been in drought for several years,” Mr Plummer said.
The Annual Climate Statement includes an excellent 4-minute video that helps to understand how Australia has been at the mercy of those two main climate drivers, El Niño and the Indian Ocean Dipole. Linked to them is the day-to-day weather we have experienced, and linked to that have been the floods, bushfires and other disastrous weather events in this exceptional year.
In a year that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) believes will be the warmest on record globally at 0.85° above the 1961 to 1990 average, many of our capital cities followed suite with Sydney and Darwin having record high maximum and minimum temperatures, Hobart having record warm nights and overall mean temperature, and Brisbane its hottest mean temperature on record. Sydneysiders would have been well aware of one unpleasant distinction. 2016 set a new record for warm and often muggy nights with the thermometer failing to drop below 20° on 70 nights. The average is 26. At the other end of the scale, 151 days reached at least 25° compared to the average of 89, also a record number in the city's 157-year climatic history.
Bucking that trend was Perth which had its coolest year since 2005. That was caused in part by a long period of below normal sea surface temperatures around SW WA between July and November. Elsewhere, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) around the country were mostly above to well above normal through most of the year, as shown on the monthly maps. Overall, SSTs were the highest on record for the year.
The temperature graphs for global annual temperatures since 1880 from WMO and Australian temperatures since 1910 help to put last year's figures into context.
Rainfall was variable across the country and through the year, but still came out at 17% above the annual average placing 2016 in the top 10% of wet years since 1900. The four months from May to September were the wettest nationally in the 117-year record for May to September.
The weather influenced by our main climate drivers caused an exceptionally eventful year, even for a country no stranger to extreme weather. Major events included the huge Tasmanian fires of January that burnt through 1240 square kilometres, mostly of pristine wilderness, much of which has no history of fire and will take years to recover, if at all. Major bushfires also affected the Great Ocean Road area in VIC and parts of SW WA and a lengthy heatwave gripped the nation in early autumn.
There was widespread flooding in winter or early spring across much of inland QLD, NSW and northern and western VIC, while an East Coast Low in June brought major coastal erosion to NSW and flooding to coastal NSW and to VIC and TAS. A tropical low that moved through WA and NT into SA late December brought unprecedented rain to Central Australia with flooding and flash flooding. Destructive thunderstorms in spring produced severe hail in QLD, a tornado outbreak and statewide blackout in SA and an unusual thunderstorm asthma event in VIC.
All in all, a remarkable year, though one which with climate warming is likely to become the new norm. This interview with Dr Karl Braganza, head of Climate Monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology on this morning's ABC AM program, sums up the year and the links between a warming world and the weather and events we get as a result.
Annual Climate Statements are now available for each state and territory as well as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. They describe the year's climate and major events and provide monthly maps and tables of rainfall and temperature as well as listings of extremes. New this year are neat descriptions of notable heat, cold, snow, rainfall, flood, storm, wind, bushfire, tropical cyclone and East Coast Low events affecting each state or territory. The statements are here - look in the Annual section under Climate summaries. Archives are available just below that which go back in various forms to 1996.
Severe weather brings floods to southern Thailand: Heavy rain and flooding have been affecting southern Thailand in the past few days, killing one person and affecting nearly 60,000 others as of this morning. Further heavy rain is expected in the next day.
Strong winds and coastal flooding cause damage and disruption in Denmark and Germany: Strong winds and a storm surge have caused coastal flooding in SE Denmark and NE Germany over the past 24 hours. Several houses have been flooded in each country and there is traffic disruption along the coast. The flood warning has been lifted in Denmark but continues in Germany, where strong winds are also being experienced in the south of the country. Meteoalarm warnings indicate that strong winds were even more widespread yesterday, covering large parts of Germany, Austria, Poland, Sweden and Latvia. Snow and ice have accompanied the wind in many of these areas.