Hottest January on record

01 Feb, 2013 06:33 AM
Almost certainly there'll be a hotter, longer, more extreme spell (in Feb) than we'll get next week

AUSTRALIA'S year of extreme weather has collected a fresh record with January posting the hottest average temperatures for the month on record.

With just a day's data to be collected, the average of maximum and minimum temperatures for the month was 29.7 degrees. That tally was 1.79 degrees above the long-term average.

Short of a remarkably frigid final few hours for the month, January was all but certain to beat the previous record set in 1932, the weather bureau said.

The monthly result means the September-January period was also the hottest on record, beating the previous three highest in 2002-03, 2006-07 and 2009-10.

Those earlier years “were all El Nino and drought years, whereas that hasn't been a factor this time,” said Blair Trewin, senior climatologist with the bureau's national climate centre. “That makes it even more remarkable.”

Dr Trewin said that while Australia had a variable climate, the recent heat spell should be seen against the backdrop of longer-term warming.

“If you do super-impose your normal variability on a warming background trend, you are going to see more warm extremes and fewer cold extremes,” he said.

While the bureau rounds off the monthly temperature numbers to 9am on the first day of the following month, its rainfall levels are counted until 9am on the last day of each month.

The rainfall tallies show a mixed picture, with some regions along the east coast reporting well-above average rain, thanks mostly to the remnants of tropical cyclone Oswald, which dumped record rain on many parts of Queensland and NSW.

By contrast, parts of Victoria posted record low rainfall for the month, particularly in the south west, Dr Trewin said.

Melbourne's tally of 8 millimetres - about one-sixth of the city's average - placed it within the driest 10 per cent of annual records dating back to 1855.

Sydney's Observatory Hill collected 138 millimetres of rain in January - most of it falling in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning - or about one-third more than the average for the month, said Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist at Weatherzone.


The massive heatwave in the first half of the month prompted the bureau to add extra colours to its heat charts in case temperatures climbed above 50 degrees.

While the new colour scheme of purples and pinks for 50-52 and 52-54 degrees has yet to be used, the country did smash previous records dating back to 1910 for days in a row of average maximums above 39 degrees (seven) and the hottest area-average mean temperature at 32.36 degrees.

One of the month's more notable records was Alice Springs, which notched up 17 days in a row over 40 degrees. In 1972-73, the previous time Australia experienced such a broad-based heatwave, the town managed 17 days straight over 39.5 degrees, Dr Trewin said.

While the big wet brought cooler temperatures in some east coast regions towards the end of the month, unusual wind patterns triggered hotter-than-usual weather to north Queensland. Cairns, for instance, saw the mercury climb to 38.6 degrees on Tuesday, its hottest day since 1995.

February hot spells

Perth and regions to its north are heating up, pointing to a return of heat for south-eastern Australia later next week, Weatherzone's Dr Dutschke said.

Wednesday and Thursday "are likely to be the danger days" for fire crews in areas where there has been little rain, he said.

Weather models, though, point to a bigger blast of heat ahead in mid- to late-February.

"Almost certainly there'll be a hotter, longer, more extreme spell than we'll get next week," said Dr Dutschke, with temperatures in the 40s along parts of the coast and higher temperatures inland.

"It could be another month before we get decent rainfalls'' in south-eastern Australia, he said.

Rainfall will be less welcomed in other parts of the country, such as in Queensland where communities continue to assess the damage for record river heights in some catchments.

Gladstone received 840 millimetres of rain for January - the great bulk of it in three days - or five times the average for the month. Rockhampton received four times its typical rainfall for the month at 556 millimetres.

A continent away in the wheatbelt of WA, Kellerberrin received eight times its average rainfall for January - 104 millimetres rather the meagre 13 millimetres it receives on average.

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Ian Mott
1/02/2013 10:48:34 AM

Of course, the BoM would never stoop to a blatant cherry pick, would they? So this January only just pipped January 1932. So what was the atmospheric CO2 level in 1932? And how come it took so much extra CO2 (more than 100ppm extra) to just pip an 80 year old record? Clearly, all that CO2 hasn't done much at all so what is all the fuss about?
1/02/2013 12:08:24 PM

More inconvenient records for you Ian. Interesting that you accuse BoM of cherry picking. If you want to avoid being accused of that, answer your question by comparing the 20 years from 1913 to 1932 with the years from 1994 to 2013. Should give a much more accurate comparison than one year against another. I guess BoM didn't do that because the article is not about global warming, just reporting the new records set.
1/02/2013 12:48:17 PM

Hottest on record. ? 150 years is a spit in the ocean. Means little to nothing.
2/02/2013 9:18:03 AM

What is all the fuss about, asks Pott, raising his head and looking around, apparently for the first time. The fuss is because human civilisation has developed over a short geological era of stable temperatures. This stability is now threatened, because of human activity, adding CO2 to the atmosphere and thus increasing global temperatures. The graph is not uniform - its zigs and zags - but the trend is unmistakeably upwards. That's what all the fuss is about. See: s/hadcrut4/data/versions/HadCRUT.
Bill Pounder
2/02/2013 11:06:02 PM

"Funny weather we're having these past few years... Researchers found that av max day temperatures over the last 35 years have been between 2deg. (F) to 4deg. lower than in aprevious period. This looks a very exciting discovery until the scientists point out that a couple of degrees hardly matter a jot. On a warm day, try to pick the difference between 79deg. and 81deg. and you will see the point." From The West Australian,18 Aug 1953. rticle/49227350?searchTerm=greenl and%20melting&searchLimits=
Bill Pounder
3/02/2013 10:48:49 PM

Heat waves are purple, right? What's with the blue? ANIM/sfctmpmer_01a.fnl.30.gif
Dirty Redneck
4/02/2013 8:19:07 AM

I again ask Nico or anyone else who can answer using empirical scientific evidence, how much of the 0.8deg c temp rise in the last 150 years is of human origin and how much is of natural origin ???
4/02/2013 9:40:51 AM

I can see you know little about human history Nico. The climate has been far more unstable in the past than it is now. Human emissions of co2 have not threatened that stability .
4/02/2013 10:15:02 AM

Interesting reference supplied by Mounder, from an article in the West Australian, August 1953, which he seems not to have read - though at least he goes to the trouble of actually seeking evidence. Quote: "Johns Hopkins University experts suggest that the carbon dioxide gas sent into the atmosphere by the coal and oil we burn forms a gas envelope round the earth and prevents the heat waves that come from the sun from bouncing back again." Quite.
Bill Pounder
4/02/2013 2:34:18 PM

That's what they suggested, nico. However the dustbin of history is littered with CO2 non-events, such as: "To the consternation of global warming proponents, the Late Ordovician Period was also an Ice Age while at the same time CO2 concentrations then were nearly 12 times higher than today– 4400 ppm. According to greenhouse theory, Earth should have been exceedingly hot." /Carboniferous_climate.html
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Pleased that common sense has prevailed. Being close to the policy makers cannot be underestimated
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Spot on X. Let the Chinese buy as long as we can buy freely in China