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2013: Australia’s Warmest Year on Record

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:46 PM GMT on January 06, 2014

2013: Australia’s Warmest Year on Record

As the most intense cold wave to envelop a large portion of the U.S. since 1996 unfolds, record warmth has been the story for much of the rest of the world, including California, but especially in Australia where 2013 has been determined to be the continent’s warmest calendar year on record. This year has begun with yet more records. Here are some details.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology issued a special statement on January 3rd confirming that 2013 was the nation’s warmest year on record (since 1910) so far as annual average temperature. The average was 21.8°C (71.2°F) which surpassed the previous warmest year of 21.63°C (70.9°F) set in 2005. 2013 was 1.2°C (2.2°F) above the long-term normal.



Every state averaged above normal in 2013 with at least portions of every state observing their warmest year on record with the exception of Tasmania. Map courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.



The daily national temperature anomalies for Australia as a whole in 2013. September was the most anomalous month every recorded on the continent (see list of superlatives below). Table from Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Last January (2013) started the ball rolling with an extreme heat wave, one of the worst in Australian history. The peak of the heat wave occurred January 2-8, which was Australia’s hottest week on record with January 7th being the single hottest day (nation-wide) ever observed. The entire month of January also became the single warmest month in Australian records. The point maximum temperature was 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Moomba, South Australia on January 12th, the warmest reading measured anywhere in the country since 1998 and the 6th hottest officially observed at any site in Australian for any month. Interestingly, this month (January 2014) is starting off with similar extremes. Just last week on January 2nd, Moomba hit 49.3°C (120.7°F). Even more remarkable was the 49.1°C (120.4F) observed at Walgett in New South Wales on January 3rd (2014). This was the 2nd hottest temperature ever measured in the state falling short of the all-time record of 49.7°C (121.5°F) set at Menindee Post Office on January 10, 1939.

Here is a brief list of some of the 2013 temperature anomaly highlights:


Above list prepared by Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


One of the reasons for the unusual warmth in 2013 was very high sea surface temperatures (SST), the third warmest on record according to preliminary data. See map below:



More alarming is the long-term trend of the SST’s over Australia’s period of record since 1910 that have roughly followed the temperature trend as well:





All above maps and graphics by Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The unusual heat contributed to a number of destructive wild fires (or bush fires as they are called in Australia). One of the worst, in terms of damage, was that which scorched southeastern Tasmania during the early January heat wave of 2013. A total of 25,500 hectares (62,000 acres) burned with 193 homes destroyed along with an additional 186 other buildings. Even larger and more destructive wild fires occurred during the early spring heat waves of September and October when 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) were scorched and 193 homes lost in the Blue Mountain area west of Sydney.

It will be interesting to see how Australia fares in 2014, having once more started off with some anomalous heat.

KUDOS: Australian Bureau of Meteorology for all of the above graphics and Blair Trewin for bringing this to my attention.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Heat

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

Dead flying foxes have been falling from the sky in droves because of the heatwave sweeping south-east Queensland.

Hundreds of thousands of the large bats may have died as temperatures soared to 43 degrees over the weekend, Bat Conservation and Rescue Queensland (BCRQ) says.

In Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, more than 1000 dead flying foxes had to be cleared from a single park on Saturday.


Read more: Link
Just in - neighbouring NZ comes in second warmest for 2013 - http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1401/S00004/2013- second-warmest-year-on-record-for-new-zealand-regi on.htm
If this is the warmest year then winter will be very strict. Then you will need home heating appliances to keep warms.
Also interesting in that the long term traces show several individual periods where the warming appeared to level off, and then resumed. Maybe you should promulgate to those looking at why there appears to have been little change over the past ten years or so...
Mr. Burt - You know we are all waiting here with bated breath for your write up on the U.S. cold snap, right?
Give him a day or two to collect the data :)
I know it is not really a historic cold snap compared to those in the 19th c. and the first half of 20th c., but I am still interested in his views.
Quoting 5. weatherdogg:
Mr. Burt - You know we are all waiting here with bated breath for your write up on the U.S. cold snap, right?


Thanks for this but my desktop work computer (which has my database of weather records and everything I need to write my blogs) has lost its screen. Hard drive OK, but just a black screen. Looks like it will take about a week to replace the screen. I can still access emails on my antique laptop but no way can I write blogs. So I'm out of action until early next week at best. Sorry...

Jeff summarized briefly my thoughts about the cold wave in his blog Wednesday. In short, one of the most over-hyped 'extreme weather events' in recent media history. NO cold records of any significance were broken. Now its warming up fast in the areas affected. End of story. However, looks like another shot of cold air might invade the eastern half of the country next week. Meanwhile, the real weather story: the unprecedented dry weather and warmth in California continues. Record high temps forecast for next week.
Quoting 8. weatherhistorian:


Meanwhile, the real weather story: the unprecedented dry weather and warmth in California continues. Record high temps forecast for next week.


Dry, indeed in California:Link
Quoting 8. weatherhistorian:


Thanks for this but my desktop work computer (which has my database of weather records and everything I need to write my blogs) has lost its screen. Hard drive OK, but just a black screen. Looks like it will take about a week to replace the screen. I can still access emails on my antique laptop but no way can I write blogs. So I'm out of action until early next week at best. Sorry...

Jeff summarized briefly my thoughts about the cold wave in his blog Wednesday. In short, one of the most over-hyped 'extreme weather events' in recent media history. NO cold records of any significance were broken. Now its warming up fast in the areas affected. End of story. However, looks like another shot of cold air might invade the eastern half of the country next week. Meanwhile, the real weather story: the unprecedented dry weather and warmth in California continues. Record high temps forecast for next week.



I tried to parody the hype with my statement

PRECEDENTED, OFTEN BEFORE SEEN cold here at College Park MD (5F at my house)

But why was it so hyped?
Quoting 7. weatherdogg:
I know it is not really a historic cold snap compared to those in the 19th c. and the first half of 20th c., but I am still interested in his views.


I've often pointed out that the 80s were notable for Mid Atlantic and Florida arctic outbreaks compared with other decades of the 20'th and 21'st century. But I don't know why?
The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) says heat building over recent days in Western Australia will migrate east through the weekend.

Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and western Sydney will all feel the heat, with temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s for at least four to five days.

The extreme heat has been building this week in parts of the Pilbara region, where temperatures eight to 10 degrees above the January average have been recorded.

Onslow airport recorded 48.7 degrees Celsius on Wednesday and 48.2 on Thursday.

The heat is spreading south to Perth, where the forecast maximum on Saturday is 44 degrees - which is 13 degrees above average - and 41 degrees on Sunday.

Link
Severe Tropical Cyclone Ian now Category 5, approaching Tongan islands

Link
"Meanwhile, the real weather story: the unprecedented dry weather and warmth in California continues. Record high temps forecast for next week."

Being worse than the 1975-1977 drought is really something. I was in the Bay Area during that period and remember how horrible it was.
Quoting 15. weatherdogg:
"Meanwhile, the real weather story: the unprecedented dry weather and warmth in California continues. Record high temps forecast for next week."

Being worse than the 1975-1977 drought is really something. I was in the Bay Area during that period and remember how horrible it was.
The CPC agrees that things will be toasty in the Golden State:cpc

...while the snow situation in the Sierras looks pretty dire:

cpc
Quoting 16. BaltimoreBrian:
Perth Australia sweats through hottest night on record


And this is rotating East toward the real population centers. A rest test of the grid this week for these folks.
Quoting 16. BaltimoreBrian:
Perth Australia sweats through hottest night on record


Yes. 85.5°F (29.7°C). That is a hot night.
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