Warning on climate extremes

MORE frequent heavy rain events and longer fire seasons are just two of the issues farmers will be facing in the future, according to the latest State of the Climate Report.

Released this week, by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, the biennial report paints a grim picture when it comes to major climate shifts and how they will impact Australia.

The report has found changes to weather and climate extremes are happening at an increased pace across Australia.

Drawing on the latest climate monitoring, science and projection information, the report details Australia’s changing climate now and into the future and says there will be an increase in extreme heat events, intense heavy rainfall.

The Director of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre, Jaci Brown, said concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are at the highest levels in at least two million years.

“The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are continuing to rise, and this is causing Australia’s climate to warm,” Dr Brown said.

He said the report documents the continuing acidification of the oceans around Australia, which have also warmed by more than one degree since 1900.

“The warming of our oceans is contributing to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves, and this trend is expected to continue into the future,” Dr Brown said.

“We’re seeing mass coral bleaching events more often and this year, for the first time, we’ve seen a mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef during a La Niña year.

“The rate of sea level rise varies around Australia’s coastlines, but the north and southeast have experienced the most significant increases.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Manager of Climate Environmental Prediction Services, Karl Braganza, said the report projected increases in air temperatures, more heat extremes and fewer cold extremes in coming decades.

“Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.47 degrees since 1910,” Dr Braganza said.

“We’ve seen contrasting rainfall trends across the north and the south of the country.”

Overall, there has been a decline in rainfall between April and October across southern Australia in recent decades, but in northern Australia, rainfall has increased across the region since the 1970s.

During La Niña events in 2021- 2022, eastern Australia experienced one of its most significant flood periods ever observed.

Parts of Tasmania have also seen damaging rainfall events, major flooding and damage to many crops in recent months due to record wet weather.

The report shows heavy rainfall events are becoming more intense and the number of short-duration heavy rainfall events is expected to increase in the future.

Dr Braganza said the length of fire seasons has increased across the country in recent decades.

“We’re expecting to see longer fire seasons in the future for the south and east, and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days,” he said.

State of the Climate 2022 is the seventh overall climate report from the BOM and CSIRO.

It says sea surface temperatures have increased by an average of 1.05 degrees since 1900.

This has led to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events over land and sea.

The report says there has also been a decline of around 15 per cent in April to October rainfall in the southwest of Australia since 1970.

Across the same region, May to July rainfall has seen the largest decrease, by around 19 per cent since 1970.

In the southeast of Australia, there has been a decrease of around 10 per cent in April to October rainfall since the late 1990s.

There has been a decrease in streamflow at most gauges across Australia since 1975 and there has also been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of the country since the 1950s.

Snow depth, snow cover and number of snow days have decreased in alpine regions since the late 1950s.

Oceans around Australia are acidifying and have warmed by more than one degree since 1900, contributing to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves.

The world’s oceans, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, have taken up 91 per cent of the extra heat stored by the planet as a result of enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations.