We’ve pulled out five of the top things to know about the state of Australia’s climate, all from the State of the Climate 2020 report.
The State of the Climate 2020 report draws on Australia’s latest climate research.
We recently released the State of the Climate 2020 report with the Bureau of Meteorology. It’s a synthesis of our combined understanding of the changing nature of Australia’s climate. It draws on the considerable monitoring, observations, and projection information from our organisations, as well as other peer-reviewed climate science.
As the sixth report in the series, it marks 10 years of reporting. And with interest from government, industry and the community continuing to grow, it is a testament to the high calibre of climate science that both organisations undertake, and the value of the information being reported. With Australia already experiencing climate change, and impacts being felt across our communities, industry, and economy, there aren’t many areas of our research that aren’t being affected. With that in mind, we’ve pulled out five of the top things to know about the state of Australia’s climate.
The warming trend outlined in the previous State of the Climate reports continues. Australia has warmed by about 1.44 degrees since national records began in 1910, and about 1 degree since 1960. Australia has also warmed since the last State of the Climate report, largely due to the record-breaking temperatures of 2019 (the warmest year on record). The frequency of extreme heat events is also increasing. The 2019 annual temperature for Australia is similar to what we might expect in an average year if the world reaches +1.5 degrees warming.
We have seen a reduction of cool-season rainfall. There is less rainfall from the cold fronts and cut-off lows that bring the rainfall to southern Australia. It’s resulted in below average rainfall during April to October since the 1990s in southeastern Australia and the 1970s in southwest WA. These changes lead to over 60 per cent reduction in streamflow, so there are significant impacts for hydrology too. In contrast, during the warmer months, we’re seeing more rainfall over northern Australia.
We are now seeing a longer fire weather season and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days across Australia. This has repercussions for the fuel reduction period and has brought an earlier start to the fire weather season.
Global sea levels have risen 25 cm since 1880. Half of that has occurred since 1970. The rate of sea-level rise, globally, is increasing decade-by-decade and is now up to 3.5cm per decade. This is partly due to melting ice and glaciers, and thermal expansion (as the ocean warms, it expands and rises). The rate of sea level rise varies around Australia, but it is in line with global trends.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
As of 2019, we’re now sitting at 410 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere globally. Using air extracted from Antarctic ice, we know these CO2 concentrations are higher than they’ve been in the last two million years.
Here’s what our experts had to say
Dr Michael Battaglia – Research Director, Agriculture and Food
“Australian agriculture has already faced significant challenges and disruption from climate change, seen through record droughts, heatwaves and rising temperatures. The effects of these are widespread, impacting food production, supply chains, regional communities and consumer prices. Our farmers are resilient and capable, but climate change exposes them to significant risks,” Michael said.
“At CSIRO, we are working on technologies and building system-wide capability to support Australian farmers in navigating climate risks, while at the same time helping mitigate agriculture’s contribution to climate change, and even capture opportunities in a greenhouse gas constrained economy.”
Dr Marita Niemelae – Director, Energy
“The energy sector in Australia is navigating a major transition towards net zero emissions by 2050. Through smart energy networks, increased share of clean energy sources and integrated new storage solutions. Despite the growing complexity, this shift needs to be affordable, reliable and sustainable,” Marita said.
“Our role at CSIRO is to accelerate this decarbonisation of electricity, industry and transport sectors by delivering transformational science, technologies and solutions. Our clean energy systems will have profound impacts on sustained prosperity of Australia and on the way we live.”
Dr Dan Metcalfe – Deputy Director, Land and Water
“The increase in dangerous fire weather frequency in Australia is clear in State of the Climate. Our improved understanding and predictions of bushfire timing, behaviour and spread is critical to minimise risks and potential damage in the future,” Dan said.
“Under increasingly dangerous fire weather conditions as described in the Report, where and how we live and how we develop our infrastructure, will play an important part in responding to bushfire threats.”
How climate change will affect you
In the coming decades, Australia will continue to experience changes to its climate. While every part of Australia will continue to experience increases in average temperature and extreme heat events, climate change will vary across different regions, from place to place, and year to year including sea-level rise and rainfall. We have developed a resource that unpacks what these projections will mean for different regions of the country. Find out what to expect in terms of rainfall, average temperatures hot days, sea level and fire weather in your area by heading to the Regional Climate Explorer tool (part of the Climate Change in Australia website). All of the projections are assigned a level of confidence based on a comprehensive assessment of multiple lines of evidence.
Get across the facts
Read the State of the Climate 2020 to delve deeper and help raise awareness of this important resource for Australia and the rest of the world.