Australia Government Blames Deadly Heat Wave on Climate Change

The worst heat wave to strike Australia in a century is due to climate change. That was the blunt message from their government this week as the country struggled to cope with the heat-related chaos, including buckling rail lines, numerous heat related deaths and sweeping power blackouts.

“Eleven of the hottest years in history have been in the last twelve, and we also note, particularly in the southern part of Australia, we’re seeing less rainfall,” said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. “All of this is consistent with climate change, and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen.”

The searing heat has topped 43 degrees Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) in Melbourne for the third straight day – and the first time in recorded history.

Over 500,000 homes and businesses were left without power as the demands from air conditioners overwhelmed the electrical grid and exploded an electrical substation in the city. The blackout shut down the entire train service in Melbourne, trapping people in elevators, blocking roads as traffic lights failed, and forcing hospitals to turn away patients.

The Australian Open Tennis match had to suspend games due to heat. The government was passing out water bottles of commuters and urging the elderly to stay indoors. Over 20 heat related deaths have occurred in the country so far. Residents at one nursing home started putting their clothes in the freezer to cope with the scorching temperatures.

All of this is a sign of things to come according to scientists. Most of the south of the country is gripped by unprecedented 12-year drought. The Australian Alps have had their driest three years ever, and the water from the vast Murray-Darling river system now fails to reach the sea 40 per cent of the time. Harvests have fallen sharply.

It will get worse as global warming increases. Even modest temperature rises, now seen as unavoidable, are expected to increase drought by 70 per cent in New South Wales, cut Melbourne’s water supplies by more than a third, and dry up the Murray-Darling system by another 25 per cent.

Professor David Karoly of the University of Melbourne said last week: “The heat is unusual, but it will become much more like the normal experience in 10 to 20 years.”

“It is clear that the current public transport system is not able to cope and it is also clear that the water supply system is stretched,” said Karoly. “The health services and the road system are also obviously stretched to their limits. The system can’t cope now, and it is just going to get much worse.”

The weird weather is not limited to Australia. California is facing the worst drought in its history. Over a million were left without power in US due the worst ice storm in Kentucky’s history. Millions face food shortages in Africa due to climate change-related drought.

Looks like we’re in for nasty weather…

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrew Weaver’s new book Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World.

Go here to find out more details about DeSmogBlog’s monthly book give-away.



The Australian government will move ahead to establish, in partnership with the private sector, a company that will build and operate a fibre-to-the-home national broadband network. Australia have taken a huge step forward technologically.  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced that they will create a huge broadband infrastructure from shore to shore, from Melbourne to Bondi which will no doubt have some people running for payday cash advance loans for computers.  Many will now be able to stream and download at incredible speed, and watch ARL and Bledisloe Cup matches live on the computer.  (Broadband – something to rub in to the Kiwis!) You have to get payday cash advance loans to get broadband in places other than Australia.

cannot be blamed on AGW. The heatwave in Oz, the early snow in Blighty are just weather. We can only blame AGW with confidence when we start getting a persistent trend.

Watch the summer ice in the Arctic, that’s where will will see the trend emerging.

Is there a logout function on the page somewhere?

Funny you should mention the ice.  At the moment the area of sea ice in the arctic is neck & neck with the record low recorded in 2007 with just anoth month to go …

A complete lack of any particular warming on land would have been odd and made me change my opinion (possibly to “global oceanic acidification and thermal expansion”), but we know this is a complex picture.

I still think the likelihood that some of the northern hemisphere will experience overall cooling is very high.

In a telephone conversation with UCI Prof. Charlie Zender last summer, he informed me that he was absolutely amazzed of the amount of brown amd black carbon he saw on the snow on a recent field trip to the Arctic. It does not matter much if the snow and ice melts in the Arctic because there will always be freeze up after the sun drops below the horizon in late fall.

In fact there can never be any appreciable warming of the earth. This is due to the tilt of the earth’s axis of rotation and its orbit around the sun. While one hemisphere is warming, the other is cooling down and vice versa.  And nothing ain’t ever going to change tjhat.

Harold Pierce said: “In fact there can never be any appreciable warming of the earth. This is due to the tilt of the earth’s axis of rotation and its orbit around the sun. While one hemisphere is warming, the other is cooling down and vice versa.  And nothing ain’t ever going to change tjhat (sic)”.

That is some of the most ludicrous rubbish you have ever posted on this blog. The greenhouse effect works no matter where in its orbit the earth is. It works day and night, summer and winter. In fact the increased greenhouse effect caused by higher concentrations of green house gases is more noticeable during the winter and during the night, which is of course the exact opposite of what would be found if it was increased solar radiation which was causing the warming.

I hope you were the only person affected by your failure to properly stopper the solvent bottles in your lab. You have been breathing brain-destroying chemicals for far too long.

but I can’t help but note that Richard C has not shown his face since.

Even an ignorant but useful idiot knows when to slink away so that they can resurface somewhere else, with any luck amid a more unsuspecting audience. It’s our job to make sure that they are not lucky.

And keep in mind that it’s the audience we aim to persuade, not the useful idiot.

That’s something anyone who wants to be active in this cause needs to be aware of and remind themselves occasionally - you will not change the mind of a Denier. They *know* they are right, and evidence, facts, science and rational discourse will not sway them from it.

In ~3 years of doing my little part to expose the Denial Industry, I’ve encountered one person who admitted that he had been fooled by the propaganda. Just one out of thousands of Deniers that have read the scientific counters to their idiocy.

It’s fascinating, in a ‘car crash’ kind of a way to see how people can become so deluded and detached from reality when they’re told something that they really do not want to be true.

for Jim, he single-handedly fought off the evil, dastardly denier, and banished him to the distant howling wastes of cyberspace.

Except, … well, he didn’t. I’m still here. And I’m not and never have been a denier.

In Jan 2008 I made a bet with a former colleague that the Arctic would be essentially free of late summer sea ice within ten years. Granted Jim couldn’t know that.

Then there is my web space, I really only use it as a place to put links, but occasionally I get off of my arse and address deniers arguments, , but again Jim wouldn’t know that.

He could have searched DeSmogBlog for “Richard C”, but that probably would have been too much effort. Or, and I know this is a radical argument, he could have read what I wrote, instead of what he wanted to read, i.e.

A single event cannot be blamed on AGW”, and “Watch the summer ice in the Arctic, that’s where (we) will will see the trend emerging”. So, it would seem I do expect warming, and I’m even suggesting where to look.

DeSmogBlog recently had a no comments policy. It was put in place to prevent the sort of flame war that Jim is apparently attempting to ignite. And I confess I was one of the offenders that caused the policy to be implemented. Just from one “ignorant idiot” to another, I would suggest that if Jim would like to engage in one on one “debate” with deniers that is a good place to start.

Then we have Jim’s graph. As you will have seen from my website I usually use the Cryosphere satellite record. Jim has used the NSIDC graph with data that predates the satellites. From the NSIDC site,

Sea ice in the 1930s and 1940s was probably lower than it was during the 1950s. However, analysis of limited sea ice records from Russian ice charts indicates that while sea ice conditions were low, they were likely not as low as they have been during the 2000s.”

If that was included on the graph, it would no longer be “crystal”.

Then there is the issue of uncertainty and confidence levels, not shown on the graph, and the reason I prefer the satellite dataset, where I would expect confidence levels to be consistent even if not shown. The NSIDC graph “derived from the Hadley data set”, we can track that back to, and from there to this paper,

From which we get;

This subsection details the data originally derived from hand-drawn charts. In some cases these charts were simply ice extents”,

which includes the Walsh Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Concentration Charts, “These are end-of-month sea ice concentration fields for the Northern Hemisphere for 1901–1995, covering the Arctic Ocean and peripheral seas”,

This section goes on to say;

Because directly observed sea ice concentrations were not available and only the ice extent could be deduced from the sources”,


As there were no data at all for September–March 1901–1956”.

I see no reason to distrust the actions of professional scientists in the course of their work, but numerical and statistical analysis should be presented with confidence levels or levels of uncertainty. I would like to know how murky the crystal really is.

Clearly I misread the intent of your post and clearly my comment got under your skin. For that I apologize.
No, I was not familiar with your name, since some time ago I found the DeSmogBlog comments simply unreadable due to the reasons that you mentioned, so I stopped visiting the site until recently.

Perhaps my misread may have been because the wording of your own post did not make it at all clear what your position was. I took exception the part that said “that’s where we *will* see the trend emerging,” when in fact we have been watching the trend emerge for 30 years by satellite, and much longer if you take into account the declassified US Navy data.

As for you invitation to visit, I’ll pass, thanks. I already participate in discussion on the subject at other public sites, and frankly, it may well be the combativeness one develops there that makes one prone to misread an ambiguous post.

In Collapse, Jared Diamond explains in Chapter 13 the fragility of Australia’s environment and how its over-exploitation has put Australia’s population in jeopardy. Now, with the effects of climate change biting hard, the challenges faced are even greater. Australians are slowly changing their ways. With Howard having been given the boot, it will be easier to go further. The question is, will they be able to do enough in time?

As usual Mitchell you have it wrong. This is especially if you pay any credence to David Karoly.The man is a buffoon.

Australia is NOT experiencing an uprecedented heatwave. Victoria and South Australia have had the hottest two weeks in a century. The rest of the continent (About 75% of it) has not experienced any out of the ordinary start to 2009. In Western Australia where I live, the temperature in January was slightly elevated but has since receded to a normal temperature regime. October and December 2008 were signinficantly below average temperatures.

If you try real hard you can make any weather event look like a global warming disaster. Shades of the 1998 heatwave reporting all over again.

You show two links to run of the mill joe public get em concerned images and expect me to be all aquiver? Get real. Try running a linear model against the data in the second link. And then a loess transform. You might be surprised by the result. You will have to do way better than those two links to get any sort of scientist concerned.

> You will have to do way better than those two links to get any sort of scientist concerned.

You will have to do better than claiming black is white, up is down.  You Deniers can make your detached-from-reality claims until the cows come home, but no one other than your fellow idiots are listening any more.

I ask you to take a poll of scientists. Ask the question: Have you been asked to contribute or vote on your associations policy on Climate Change?

I would suggest your answer would be a resounding NO. I certainly was not asked to vote on my organisations policy on the matter.

Those graphs - for what it’s worth - indicate a slow steady rise in temperature. It would be nice if we could go back another 100 years to get some context, but of course data becomes blurry as you go back in time. Draughts and heatwaves are not unprecedented.  Australia has always been a harsh place climate wise. Thats why most of it has always been an uninhabited and looks to stay that way.

It’s just the truth. Hitting the little negative comment rating thing won’t change the truth.

These charts “indicate a slow steady rise in temperature” surely these reflect the manifestation of climate change. We know it’s not the sun & etc. and it ties in nicely with the increasing levels of GHGs. But for what Barry Brook says: see the link in my post below, He explains how increasing temperatures lead to increased extreme heatwave events. 

It would appear that South Australia is experiencing a very unusual heatwave and it isn’t over yet! It’s too early to say exactly how unusual it really is, only once it’s over will it be possible to place it in context.  

See below for what Professor Barry Brook thinks.

He holds the Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and is Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide. So he probably knows something about the climate!

“The standard scientific answer I would usually give is something like this: ‘Extreme weather has occurred in the past, and it is not possible to definitively attribute any one unusual event to climate change. That said, a higher frequency of intense heatwaves like this is consistent with the expectations of a rising global temperature‘ (see figure showing ‘more record hot weather’). But in the case of Adelaide’s 2009 heatwave, a bit of deeper investigation does indeed suggest that a climate change link is very likely.”

”..,Starting on January 26, we’ve had daily maxima of 36.6C, 43.2C, 45.7C [3rd hottest day ever recorded], 43.4C, 43.1C, 41.1C, 40.6C and 38.8C. This also included the hottest night ever recorded in South Australia, when around midnight on 29th Jan, it dropped to a minimum of 33.9C. For the last 5 days the temperature has not dropped below 25.9C at night. The run of 6 days above 40C equals the record from 101 years ago. The current 5-day forecast is for 38C [update: actual = 36.3C], 38C, 37C, 40C and 34C; if this holds, we’ll have had a string of 12 days above 35C, or perhaps 13 if Saturday nudges up a degree or so over the forecast. The heatwave is hitting more than Adelaide by the way — Melbourne got its 2nd hottest day on record and Tasmania its hottest ever. The town of Kyancutta on the Eyre Peninsula sizzled at 48.2C.

Historical records from the Bureau of Meteorology show that there have been 6 previous ‘heatwave events’ (here defined as >35C) that lasted 8 days, many more of 7 days, more still of 6, and so on. This is useful information for analysis, because it turns out that the return time of any given string of hot days is logarithmically related to it’s length (see below for how I know this). From Bureau records, we can infer that if the current heatwave does last for 12 days, such an extreme outlier should only occur, by chance (i.e. if the climate is not trending), once every 400 years or so. If it goes for 13 days, then that’s roughly a 1 in 1000 year event — such is the nature of a logarithmic relationship! Statistically speaking, there is always a danger in extrapolating beyond the bounds of your data, but in the case of rarely (or never) observed events, there is little other empirical recourse (a mechanistic simulation such as a general circulation model would also give useful inference on this matter)….,”

“So, in Adelaide we have two freakishly rare extreme events happening with a 10 month period. How likely is that? Well, if the events are totally independent, we’d expect the joint likelihood of two such heatwaves (of 0.25% probability per year [the 2009 event] and 0.033% per year [2008 event], respectively), occurring within the same 12 month period, to happen about once every 1,200,000 years. Is that unlikely enough for you? But if there is ‘autocorrelation’ (dependencies between the two events due to a linked cause — such as climate change), this calculated probability is not valid.”

The problem with relying on probabilistic arguments is that whilst the probability is once every 1,200,000 years, the actual event may occur tomorrow or yesterday or in a million years time, but it will occur. So what is not to say that the event in Adelaide is just that occurrence?

thats just it. Real climate change is just too slow, so weather and trends of a few years or decades are  cited as evidence of permanent dramatic climate change. It’s a mistake to do that. It’s what Drudge is doing right now with a headline that says 90% of the US will freeze tonight including Florida - Just another useless weather story that is meaningless as far as climate trends go.

Whether that event was or was not AGW related is largely irrelevent, it doesn’t disprove AGW. There is so much objective evidence supporting AGW that it would require another mountain of objective evidence that disagreed in order to undermine it. And at the rate new objective evidence is accumulating, that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

Personally, I wish AGW would go away, but the science says it isn’t going to for a very long time, while humans burn fossil fuels, put more fossil CO2 into the atmosphere and while that excess CO2 remains resident.

Confusing weather with climate is a standard denialist argument. One-off extreme events are weather, but climate is in-effect averaged weather, and if extreme events become increasingly commonplace, that idicates that the climate is changing.

Climate Crim,

You managed to say in 3 paragraphs what I basically said in a few lines. My posting on Marble Bar is to emphasise that weather is not climate change as this thread is supposed to imply. It was not meant to be evidence against global warming, climate change or any other climate theory. Just a reminder to people that making sensationalist remarks about weather events is just a load of BS.

As you know full well, that isn’t exactly true.

Your posts on this topic have a distinctly denialist flavour.

The article by Mitchell is correct AFAICT and the recent heat wave is consistent with the objective science and when combined with the 2008 event is considered vastly more likely to be related to AGW than a chaotic fluctuation of the weather system.

Australia is suffering greatly from what is believed to be AGW related climate change.

Since we will inevitably have to limit fossil-fuel use due to peak-oil, peak-gas and peak-coal, we might as well embrace energy efficiency ASAP, and go carbon-free at the earliest opportunity.

The fact that the best science available says that the planet is warming and that the only explanation that has been discovered is that it is due to an enhanced GH effect and that it is 95% PROBABLE that we are responsible. 

Seeing as we only have one planet, and we can’t turn down the sun [which is at a minimum], then we had better stop putting fossil CO2 into the atmos. [What happens if solar output starts increasing?]

What’s so difficult about that?

Well, apart from the fact that our economy is addicted to fossil-fuel and all carbon free energy sources have various limitations imposed by various factors inherent to the technology. So energy ultra-efficiency, ultra-low energy manufacture and doing almost everything differently from how we do things now are going to be really essential parts of a sustainable future economy.

Population reduction will have to occur too. How? I don’t know, but we’ll have to solve it somehow, because fewer people reduces the strain on the planet, and there is no doubt that a finite planet can only support a finite [limited] human population, and it is clear that we are running out of planet. Fewer human beings reduces the total impact and increases the available per capita resources and potential living standard. If I remember correctly, a sustainable human population is ~ I billion, but don’t quote me on this.

So one thing is certain, we can’t keep on doing things the way we are now, so we have to change our ways, or suffer the consequences. However, because we have already put too much CO2 into the atmos, and we still are increasing the rate at which we do it, EVEN IF WE DID THE IMPOSSIBLE AND STOPPED TODAY, WE WILL STILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT WE HAVE ALREADY DONE, because there seems little current prospect of extracting the excess CO2 from the atmos. 

Australian Bureau of Meteorology


The exceptional January-February 2009 heatwave in south-eastern Australia 

 Issued 4th February 2009  National Climate Centre 

”..,Adelaide also  equalled  its  1908  record  with  six  consecutive  days  above  40°C,  while Melbourne’s  three consecutive days above 40°C was the first time this had occurred since 1959, and the seventh time in history. Hot conditions continue  in Adelaide, which has now had nine consecutive days above 35°C; after never having experienced more  than eight consecutive days above 35°C before March 2008, it has now happened twice within a year.

In most inland areas the number of consecutive days above 40°C has not (yet) reached the levels set in  1939,  although  there  are  exceptions. Nhill’s  six  consecutive  days  above  that  level  set  a  new record, while Bendigo and Rutherglen both experienced five consecutive days above 40°C, setting a record at the former and equalling it at the latter. Nuriootpa (SA) and Sale (Victoria) have also set records for the most consecutive days above 40°C. Records have, however, been set for consecutive days above more extreme  thresholds  at numerous  inland  locations,  including Kerang, Deniliquin, Snowtown  and  Nhill.  A  notable  record  for  prolonged  heat  was  also  set  at  Launceston  Airport, where  there  were  three  consecutive  days  above  37°C  in  a  location  which  had  never  previously experienced consecutive days above 35°C.  

The prolonged nature of the heatwave, and in coastal areas the replacement of a very hot and dry air mass with a warm, humid one, has also led to many records being set or approached for consecutive days with minimum temperatures above thresholds. Melbourne (six consecutive nights above 20°C) equalled  its  record  set  during  the  1908  heatwave, while Adelaide  (six  consecutive  nights  above 25°C) fell just short. At Mildura a record was set with seven consecutive nights above 24°C, while an indication of the depth of the warm air was that Cabramurra in the Snowy Mountains (elevation 1482  m)  remained  above  19°C  for  four  days,  having  never  done  so  for  more  than  two  days previously.  (Cabramurra  also  equalled  its  all-time  record  high with  32.0°C  on  30  January, while further south Mount Baw Baw (1561 m) reached 30°C for  the first  time on record with 30.9°C on the same day)..,”

”..,The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has released a detailed analysis of the 2009 southern Australian heatwave. Some of the figures presented are staggering, with numerous temperature records smashed. Indeed, a colleague at BOM pointed out just how exceptional this event was:

Given that this was the hottest day on record on top of the driest start to a year on record on top of the longest driest drought on record on top of the hottest drought on record the implications are clear... 

It is clear to me that climate change is now becoming such a strong contributor to these hitherto unimaginable events that the language starts to change from one of “climate change increased the chances of an event” to “without climate change this event could not have occured”.

I couldn’t have said it better. With the shifting climate we are rapidly moving into uncharted territory with unknown return times (but surely already well above what the long-term records might lead us to expect)…,”

”..,On the morning of 29 January, an exceptional event also occurred in the northern suburbs of Adelaide around 3 a.m. when strong north-westerly winds mixed hot air aloft to the surface. At RAAF Edinburgh, the temperature rose to 41.7°C at 3.04 a.m. Such an event appears to be without known precedent in southern Australia

The January-February 2009 event has now been responsible for seven of the eight highest temperatures on record in Tasmania; a total of eight sites reached 40°C, a mark which had only been reached on 16 previous occasions in the state’s recorded history

On 7 February (Figure 2), the focus of the most extreme heat, which was accompanied by high winds and very low humidity, was in Victoria. An all-time state record was set at Hopetoun, in the state’s north-west, when the temperature reached 48.8°C, exceeding the old record of 47.2°C, set at Mildura in January 19395 by a considerable margin. Seven other sites, in the Wimmera and in the area immediately west of Melbourne, also exceeded the old record, including Avalon Airport (47.9°C), Horsham (47.6°C), Longerenong (47.6°C) and Laverton (47.5°C). The Hopetoun temperature is also believed to be the highest ever recorded in the world so far south. A total of 14 sites exceeded the previous Victorian February record of 46.7°C

Many all-time site records were also set in Victoria on 7 February, including Melbourne (154 years of record), where the temperature reached 46.4°C, far exceeding it’s previous all-time record of 45.6°C set on Black Friday (13 January) 1939. It was also a full 3.2°C above the previous February record, set in 1983. Three of Melbourne’s five hottest days have now occurred during this event. Geelong (47.4) and Wilsons Promontory (42.0) were among long-term sites which broke all-time records which had been set only the previous week. In total, of the 31 currently open sites in Victoria with 30 years or more of data which reported on 7 February, 21 set all-time records, five set February records, and only five failed to set records at all. 7 Record high temperatures for February were set over 87% of Victoria

Both Adelaide and Melbourne set records for the most consecutive days above 43°C. Adelaide’s temperatures were at this level on each of the four days 27-30 January, and Melbourne’s for three days from 28-30 January, breaking the previous records of two at both locations… Adelaide ultimately had nine consecutive days above 35°C; after never having experienced more than eight consecutive days above 35°C before March 2008, it has now happened twice within twelve months

Melbourne had no measurable rain from 4 January to 7 February, the equal second-longest dry spell on record for the city (35 days). This approaches the record of 40 days set in 1954-55. Melbourne (0.8 mm) had its second-driest January on record, and with only 2.2 mm to 8 February has now experienced its driest start to a year on record…”

Were you right, Richard Steckis? Erm No!

S. Australia swelters in record temperatures, here in the UK we’re shivering. Wouldn’t the theory of Climate Change make more sense if it were the other way round?

No. I strongly suggest you do some reading about the science.

You could do worse than this:

If you read all the links and understand it all, you should be able to hold your own against almost any denier.

In particular:

Spencer Weart’s “Discovery of Global Warming” (American Institute of Physics)

There are a number of books:

The IPCC AR4 Frequently Asked Questions (here) is an excellent start.

All unashamedly lifted from RealCimate [RC].

Then I suggest you start reading the science! Perhaps by looking at the references given in RC posts, some will be behind a paywall, others are free. Many who do that, are left with an enduring respect for the scientists involved, their dedication and the hard work involved in their work. Many will also feel anger at the the baseless, mean-spirited often libellous and defamatory accusations [all complete and utter bullocks of course] typically levelled at the authors of high profile papers. [e.g.: Michael Mann, James Hansen]. 

Yes ‘bullocks’ is nearly what I meant.

As an Aussie living in Melbourne, Australia there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the climate here is changing. As you know, last week we had three consecutive days when the temperature climbed above 40°C. Luckily we had a short reprieve this week. However, today the heatwave continued where it left off and we sweltered through our hottest day ever recorded: 46.4°C! I really don’t know how I managed to make it through the day but I did. It was absolutely horrible with lots of wind. Many of the trees have been scorched and are dropping their leaves.

If you are not familiar with Venezuelan equine encephalitis, it is a viral infection in horses that spreads to people via mosquitoes.  The virus causes encephalitis which is swelling of the brain and it can be fatal.  Treatment is expensive, requiring cash advance loans and a hospital stay.  This is why it’s not amusing that the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases misplaced a few vials of the treatment.  It’s still a dangerous disease, fatal in infants and the elderly, but it is better than an outbreak of Ebola or Anthrax.  Still, they better get some installment loans and figure out where the Venezuelan equine encephalitis samples went.