Hot times in Australia

As I mentioned briefly before, I have just returned from Australia and as you could imagine, the heatwaves and wildfires were a hot topic(how funny am I?).

So the death toll is expected to exceed 200 people. Southern Australia has been experiencing extreme drought for many years now, so the whole place is a tinder box. Increased risk of wildfires is an anticipated, and probably already observed, consequence of global warming.

You are never on solid ground when attributing a particular extreme event to such a slow moving change in the average of all events, which is what climate change is, but....

"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".

The above is a quote from a researcher at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) who has released a detailed analysis of the 2009 heat wave. Go to Brave New Climate for details, links and graphics.

Thanks to MT for bringing that to my attention, he adds:
"Eventually things get too weird. Eventually you don't have to say "the sort of thing that is more likely to happen under climate change". Eventually you have to say, my God, this is unnatural."

More like this

Droughts in Australia may not be attributable to Climate Change, but combined with droughts in Africa, China and Argentina there just might be a trend.
Oh, and throw in record high temps in NZ, even if it's a miserable 11°C with cold southerly rain in Christchurch at the moment. You want wacky weather?

That article is mostly about "apocalyptic predictions" so is not much of a rebuttal. It is also mostly an argument about PR tactics.

There does come a time when it is reasonable to say that a particular event probably could not have happened absent slow, long term changes in averages. Can you agree with that?

This extreme state of drought in much of Australia is a very good candidate. The record breaking loses of arctic sea ice are another (this dubious comment from your article aside:

"The record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer ice increasing again over the next few years," [Dr Vicky Pope] says.


Do you think the global average temperature reached in 1998 would have happened absent human GHG emissions?

I think all three of those examples are on very firm ground, much more so that any particular hurricane, or indeed any particular hurricane season and definitely more so than any record breaking hot day.

Hi Coby,

Australia has bushfires on a regular basis if we dont most trees would not be able to germinate seeds, it is a natural cycle.

The last big fires we had was in 1983 when 3 states were up in blaze. After that the governments of the day introduced strict fire control procedures, these included controlled burns to reduce fuel loads on a regular basis and the construction and maintenance of fire breaks.

Both these measures helped control fires after 1983, in recent years (mid to late 1990's) the political party know as the Greens along with a massive environmental movement forced the government to stop controlled burns and all the fire breaks were not maintained under the premise that we should let nature be.

The fires of 2009 were not bigger than 1983 in size but were in intensity, yes this was partly due to very dry conditions as the El nino weather patterns that have besieged Australia for many years cause this.

Essentially the fires were caused for two reasons the first by the insane policies by the greenies which caused the fuel loads to reach unbelievable levels which enabled the fires to travel at 90 Kilometers per hour and kill near on 200 people.

The second by the insane morons that lit two fires which burned alive a majority of the people.

If you wish to promote global warming then do so by all means except one, do not promote it on the back of human suffering.


To Crakar14,

this is a win win situation for the skeptics. They ridicule the dire predictions by climate scientists, which have yet to become true, in effect asking for dead bodies.

If one points to evidence such as this, one gets accused to promote an agenda on the back of human suffering. The implication of course is that we are happy about this, even are wishing for it. This certainly is a method to close ranks on the skeptic side. Project the worst upon your enemy you could think of: Being glad about human misery.

I think this has method and is exploited by the PR front groups of fossil fuel interests, AKA think tanks. Watch for any large scale catastrophe to happen (e.g. the Indonesian tsunami), within hours you will find climate skeptics being outraged about environmentalists who misuse that catastrophe for their agenda.


Thanks Franz, I wanted to make that point too, but decided against the trouble. Since you have said it, I would like to add the ironic observation that in the same breath Crakar uses to express his false outrage about "alarmists" exploiting tragedy, he has used the same tactic himself in blaming the "insane policies of the greenies".

That's what I envy about the skeptic side of this debate, you can have it both ways on any issue any time you want! "It's not warming" and "the warming is natural" and "it won't continue" and "it will be good for us", all in the same op-ed!

To Franz and Coby,

Several large bushfires fuelled by idiotic green policies,25197,25038717-5018722,00……,25197,25031389-7583,00.html

Now the comments by these people are much more relavent and accurate than your own but i expect you will simple do what you always do and "Reject this reality and substitute it with your own".

Coby you said.

"That's what I envy about the skeptic side of this debate, you can have it both ways on any issue any time you want! "It's not warming" and "the warming is natural" and "it won't continue" and "it will be good for us", all in the same op-ed!"

Having it both ways. Is this the same as when the Antarctic fails to meet the model predictions global warming now causes global cooling?

Or when you say as C02 rises so will temp because C02 will overide all other forcings, when the temp fails to rise in conjunction with C02 its called "only weather".

Or when the NH shivers through record breaking cold and snow records, is that just weather as well.

Of course drought and bush fires is a reality in Australia and is only weather too but not in your reality.

By the way in answer to your question, How funny am i? The answer is no very.

Why did nobody respond to Crakar's observation that the fires were man-made and exacerbated by the changes in policies? I think that is what really matters here isn't it? Also I'd like to add that if Climate Change were indeed the cause of the fires in Australia (which I doubt), that has nothing to do with whether CO2 was the cause of climate change. If you look through your history books I think you'll find that droughts and periods of famine have occurred all over the world, well before we had CO2 emmissions.

Hi John,

The fact that the fires (some of them) were arson is not an interesting observation, so I did not comment. How they start is not really relevant to how they spread. I don't know if Crakar's claim about the "insane policies of the greenies" is correct, he offers no evidence, so I did not comment on that either.

Any extreme event will be an outcome of many contributing factors and I don't think I implied a single direct causal link. ie saying "it could not have happened without X" is not the same as "X and only X made this happen".

I think we are already on solid ground for a few observations saying these things could not have, or at least very probably would not have, happened without the influence of global warming.

Of course droughts and famines and heat waves happen all over the world now and in the past as well. The evidence is in the local precedents, the statistics, and in the matching of predictions with new observations.

Try this article for the evidence of CO2 causing the warming. I can not make every point in each post!

Thanks for the comment.


I have a post which had the links you are looking for but it has not appeared as yet, (blocked by your site).

Here is another link.……

Just for the record Australia has suffered through many heat waves in the distant past here are the records of past temps in Adelaide South Australia.

Record for the most consecutive days above 40C is 6, this has occurred twice,

Jan 14-19 1908 40.7, 43.1, 41.8, 43.4, 42.8, 43.4
Jan 27-Feb 1 2009 43.2, 45.7, 43.4, 43.1, 41.1, 40.6

Four consecutive days above 40C has occurred 7 times

Feb 1899
Jan 1905
Jan 1906
Jan 1908 (Jan 1908 would have been a killer)
Jan 1912
March 1940
Jan 2006

The hottest day recorded was in 1939


Also weather for melbourne at the time

You will notice here 1908 appears as a record year for hot temps. Also notice whilst Melbourne has recorded little rain this year 1923 and 1955, 56 was worse.

So it would appear that it has been just as hot (if not hotter 100 years ago, by the way the biggest bush fires ever seen in Australia occurred in 1983 (ash Wednesday).

To Crakar14

The lies about Greenies being responsible for the fires, which you repeat here, have been refuted over at Real Climate, see espacially comments 36 and 37. However one thing really shows your state of disinformation:

"Or when the NH shivers through record breaking cold and snow records, is that just weather as well."

As is easily verifyable e.g. January has place 5 or 6 (depending upon the dataset) among the warmest ever. That does not mean it could not snow in London.


Lies, damn lies. If i am being refutted over on RealClimate then that is good enough for me i will cease and desist immediately.

Although i am still intrigued as to why the only bloke that cleared his property (at the cost thousands in fines) is the only one who survived intact.

I live in SE Australia- Melbourne to be precise- so this is kind of topical for me too. I had a look at the WUWT link you provided. I didn't have time to read all the posts- much of the comment there appeared ill-informed and emotive- but this post seemed to be much more balanced:
Arapiles (04:49:39) :
I grew up in the country - my family were pioneers in our area in the mid 1800s - so Iâm sympathetic to the Sheahans as we were always told to clear any burnable material away from houses - but to be blunt if they wanted to live in bare paddocks they shouldnât've bought a forested block. Thereâs lots of bare land in Australia if thatâs what they wanted.
No doubt the denizens of this board would love to be able to blame the âgreeniesâ - whoever they are - for the fires, but the allegations being aired on this board are derived from at best third-hand sources - internet links to a brief media report of a single comment at a community meeting alleging that the council hadnât allowed the person in question to clear trees. There has been no independent evidence offered that Nitmiluk shire did have the alleged policies forbidding tree clearing or that any Green party was responsible for those policies if they did exist. But for a lot of people unsubstantiated allegations seem to be good enough.
And as one expert noted in todayâs Age, given the strength of the firestorm - the ferocity of which I doubt anyone here can even comprehend - even massive clearing wouldnât've helped. There was a property noted in todayâs Age that had 16 hectares of cleared land around it and the owner had proper fire pumps and a full dam, and he still died and the house was still destroyed. The smaller fire that started next door to my parentsâ farm was jumping 200m at a time - so a clearance of 30 m still wouldnât help much.

The real problem in the area north-east of Melbourne is that over the last 20 years lots of people have been allowed to move into very dangerous forested areas and to build substandard, non-fire proof housing in those areas. There have been plenty of warnings about the issue, but succcesive governments have apparently been determined to ignore it in the interests of having cheap housing for people who couldnât afford housing closer to Melbourne. This policy failure was compounded by a âleave early or stay and fightâ policy that just didnât work in this instance because of the extreme conditions. And, it has to be said, a lot of people just didnât take the situation seriously enough: thereâs been lots of comments about TV footage broadcast last Friday of some locals drinking beers while playing a garden hose around their roof - that attitude just wonât cut it in 48 C / 80+ km winds, after 12 years of drought (caused by climate change) and a week of 40+C weather.

By Peter Doidge (not verified) on 20 Feb 2009 #permalink