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Climate and weather warming together

Ben Domensino, Wednesday March 8, 2017 - 12:32 EDT

The magnitude of eastern Australia's record-breaking hot summer has been thrown back into the spotlight this week.

A report issued by the Climate Council of Australia today identifies more than 200 records that were broken during summer around Australia. If you don't want to read the whole report, these are the key findings:

1. The "Angry Summer" of 2016/17 was characterised by intense heatwaves, hot days and bushfires in central and eastern Australia, while heavy rainfall and flooding affected the west of the country
2. Climate change is driving hotter, longer lasting and more frequent heatwaves
3. Escalating extreme weather is putting Australia's ageing energy system under intense pressure
4. The costs of the extreme heat are clear with reduced work productivity, increasing risk of bushfires and escalating damage to the Great Barrier Reef

Today's Climate Council report is the latest publication in a growing effort to attribute today's weather events to global climate change.

Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Melbourne, UNSW and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute published an article aimed at determining whether or not a link exists between the record-breaking February heatwave in New South Wales and climate change.

This publication reported that the state's record hot summer of 2016/17 was 50 times more likely to occur today because of climate change, according to two separate methods of analysis. However, when considering a single heatwave at Sydney alone, it was more difficult to find a link to climate change.

There is still truth in the old adage "climate is what you expect, weather is what you get." However, these recent publications reiterate something that meteorologists take into account every day when producing forecasts. That is, a warmer background climate is having a noticeable impact on the day-to-day weather we live through.

The report Angry Summer 2016/17: Climate Change Super-charging Extreme Weather by Professor Will Steffen, Andrew Stock, Dr David Alexander and Dr Martin Rice can be found at: https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/angry-summer-report

The article Climate change's signature was writ large on Australia's crazy summer of 2017 by Andrew King, David Karoly, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, Matthew Hale and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick can be found at: https://theconversation.com/climate-changes-signature-was-writ-large-on-australias-crazy-summer-of-2017-73854

- Weatherzone

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