Quantifying the impact of climate change on extreme heat in Australia

1. Climate change is making Australia hotter. Hot days are happening more often while heatwaves are becoming hotter, longer and more frequent.

  • The annual number of record hot days across Australia has doubled since 1960. Over the past 10 years the number of record hot days has occurred three times more frequently than the number of record cold days.
  • The annual occurrence of very hot days across Australia has increased strongly since 1950 and particularly sharply in the last 20 years.
  • Over the 1950-2013 period many characteristics of heatwaves have changed across Australia. They are becoming hotter, lasting longer, occurring more often and starting earlier.
  • All extreme heat events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is significantly hotter than it was 50 years ago

2. While it has been clear for many years that climate change is a major factor in intensifying heat, recent scientific advances now allow us to understand the extent of the impact on individual extreme events. Climate change has significantly worsened recent extreme heat events in Australia.

  • The record hot year of 2013 in Australia was virtually impossible without climate change.
  • Climate change tripled the odds that the heatwaves of the 2012/2013 Australian summer would occur as frequently as they did.
  • Climate change doubled the odds that the 2012/2013 heatwaves would be as intense as they were.
Suggested citation or credit:
Quantifying the impact of climate change on extreme heat in Australia
by Will Steffen (Climate Council of Australia).

Source: Climate Council of Australia

Publication Date: February 2015

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