Australia Just Experienced Its Second-Hottest Summer on Record, With Temperatures Almost 2 C Hotter Than Average

The 2019/20 fire season was Australia's second-hottest summer on record, the country's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has said.

According to Australian Associated Press, national mean temperatures were 1.88 C above the yearly average. The maximum temperature was 2.11 C higher than usual and the minimum temperature exceeded the norm by 1.64 C.

This follows concerns the country is experiencing summers a month longer than they were in the past, and twice as long as the average winter.

"Australia warms slightly more than the global average," Karl Braganza, Manager of Climate Monitoring at BOM, told audiences at a Senate estimates committee in the country's capital, Canberra, on Monday.

The rest of the world has warmed, on average, 1.1 C or so above pre-industrial levels. Meanwhile, average temperatures in Australia have soared by some 1.4 C.

If the world experiences a 3.4 C warming by 2100—the high-end projection given in a UN report published last year—temperatures in Australia will increase by 4 C, said Braganza.

The BOM's warnings come as the Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program published findings showing Australian summers are drastically longer than they used to be. At the same time, the nation's winters are shrinking.

The team behind the report compared summers and winters between 1999 and 2018 to the mid-twentieth century benchmark. In just decades, the summer season has increased by 31 days. The winter season has lost 23.

But in some areas, the change is even more extreme. Summers of Port Macquarie in New South Wales are now seven weeks longer than they were fifty-odd years ago.

"Temperatures which were considered a regular three-month summer in the 1950s, now span from early to mid-November all the way to mid-March," Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Program Director at the Australia Institute, said in a statement.

"Our findings are not a projection of what we may see in the future. It's happening right now."

Experts warn changes like these can have devastating consequences—as we saw this year during the bushfire season.

Scientists described it as a "fiery wake-up call for climate science," saying it was more severe than what can be simulated on current models.

Hundreds of millions of animals perished and dozens of people died during the 2019/20 fire season, which has seen thousands of homes burn to the ground and around a fifth of Australia's forests scorched.

Researchers of a paper published in Nature found "there is no doubt" that record temperatures over the last year could not have occurred without human influence, "and that under a scenario where emissions continue to grow, such a year would be average by 2040 and exceptionally cool by 2060."

"As summers get longer and the opportunity for fires to ignite expands, the window to enforce bush management strategies (i.e. winter) gets narrower," said Merzian. As warming continues, the problem is only expected to get worse.

"Australia is currently experiencing an average of 1 degree of global warming and Summers have extended by around a month," said Merzian.

"The Australian Government's current emission reduction targets are aligned with 3 to 4 degrees of warming, which leaves young Australians facing ever-lengthening summers with significant consequences."

Sydney skyline
Smoke haze from bushfires shrouds the Opera House and city skyline in Sydney on December 19, 2019. The 2019-20 fire season took place during the second hottest summer on record. WENDELL TEODORO/AFP/Getty