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Our New Normal

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  • The hottest average maximum temperature ever recorded across Australia – 40.33 degrees, was set on Monday surpassing the old record of 40.17 °C set in 1976. (Bureau of Meteorology)
  • The number of consecutive days where the national average maximum daily temperature exceeded 39°C has also been broken this week—seven (7) days (between 2–8 January 2013), almost doubling the previous record of four (4) consecutive days in 1973, (BOM)
  • According to the National Climate Data Centre, nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been since 2000 (the other is 1998).
  • While temperatures vary on a local and regional scale, globally it has now been 27 years since the world experienced a month that was colder than average. "If you're 27 or younger, you've never experienced a colder-than-average month" - Philip Bump, Grist, November 16, 2012.
  • The CSIRO has found Australian annual average daily maximum temperatures have steadily increased in the last hundred years, with most of the warming trend occurring since 1970.
  • The Bushfire CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) says large areas of southern Australia, from the east coast to the west coast, face "above average fire potential" in the summer of 2012-13. According to the Climate Institute extreme fire danger days are expected to rise more than 15 per cent in south-eastern Australia.
  • The last four months of 2012 - globally - were the hottest on record. (British Met Office) and 2012 was the hottest year the continental United States of America has ever recorded.("2012 Was the Hottest Year in U.S. History. And Yes - It's Climate Change", Bryan Walsh, TIME 8 January, 2013).
  • The hot-dry trend is expected to continue, with the Climate Commission predicting large increases in the number of days over 35°C this century.
  • Around the world, 2013 could be the hottest ever recorded by modern instrumentation, according to a recent study by Britain's Met Office. If that turns out to be accurate, 2013 would surpass the previous record, held jointly by 2005 and 2010.
Get used to record-breaking heat: bureau
This article includes perspectives from climate scientists at the Bureau of Meteoroloy on recent hot weather and some international evidence about the changing global climate.

Ben Cubby, Get used to record-breaking heat: bureau, 9 January 2013, The Age.

Australia faces another week of 'catastrophic' heat
This article provides a useful outline of the connection between climate change and the recent heatwave.

Andy Coghlan and Michael Slezak, Australia faces another week of 'catastrophic' heat, 8 January 2012, New Scientist website.

Extreme January heat
This Special climate Statement from the Bureau of Meteorology summarises the weather conditions during the recent heatwave.

Bureau of Meteorology, Extreme January heat, 7 January 2013, Bureau of Meteorology website.

Grim Warning on extreme weather for Australia
This Climate Commission report summarises the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on extreme conditions and disasters and deals with the impact of climate change on heat, rain, drought, fire, cyclones and sea-level rise.

Climate Commission, Grim Warning on extreme weather for Australia Climate Commission website.

The human impact of heatwaves and extreme weather
  • "But the greatest threat to human health, says Liz Hanna of the Australian National University, is the heat itself." "[It] directly causes more deaths than fires, floods and all natural events combined in Australia." When it gets hotter than 35 °C, people have difficulty maintaining normal body temperature, putting strain on the heart. Babies, older people and those with heart conditions are most at risk."

  • This report from the Climate Commission summarises research on the impact of climate change on physical and mental health and communities.

    Climate Institute, The human impact of heatwaves and extreme weather, 9 January 2013, Climate Institute website: media briefs.

    State of the Climate - 2012
    This report jointly produced in 2012 by the CSIRO and Australian Bureau of Meteorology provides an updated summary of observations and trends in Australia's changing climate.

    CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, State of the Climate - 2012 13 March 2012, CSIRO website.

    Stay cool
    Extremely hot temperatures stress our bodies. In a heatwave if we don't take measures to cool down eventually our bodies won't be able to sustain that stress which can lead to heat strokes or more serious consequences. Here are some simple guidelines to make sure you and your loved ones can look after yourself in a heatwave.
    • Do your best to stay out of the sun and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day.
    • If you do go out in the sun make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat to protect your face and head and sunglasses.
    • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
    • Drink lots of water even if you don't feel thirsty. Your body needs water to keep cool and will need at least 2-3 litres per day.
    • Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine and fizzy drinks. They can cause dehydration.
    • Avoid large meals and salty food as they accelerate dehydration.
    • Try and create a cool room in your house during the day by closing curtains and blinds to reduce the amount of heat entering the house. At night when the air temperature is cooler open windows to let the breeze in.
    Also, keep an eye on older, sick and frail people who will find it harder to deal with the heat. Things to look out for in determing whether someone is suffering from heat stress include: increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and feeling faint, confusion, headaches, muscle cramps and weakness and urinating less often.

    Stay safe
    Most summers the Australian landscape is impacted by bushfires. As the planet heats due to human greenhouse gas emissions the risk, severity and frequency of bushfires is very likely to increase. So it is really important that we prepare our homes and work with our local community and follow the fire services plan of Prepare - Act - Survive. On the links below you will find your local fire services information on how to best prepare and respond to a bushfire. We'd also recommend following your local fire service social media pages so you can stay up to date with the most current information on fires and what to do.

    Victoria - Country Fire Authority (CFA)
    http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cfavic
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfa_updates

    New South Wales - Rural Fire Service
    http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/dsp_content.cfm?cat_id=2709
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nswrfs
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nswrfs

    Queensland - Rural Fire Service
    http://www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/Fire%20Safety%20and%20You/Prepare.Act.Survive/
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/QldFireandRescueService
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/QldFire

    Western Australia - Department of Fire and Emergency Services
    http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/safetyinformation/fire/bushfire/Pages/default.aspx
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dfes_wa

    ACT- Emergency Services Agency
    http://esa.act.gov.au/community-information/bushfires/
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/actemergencyservicesagency
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ACT_ESA

    South Australia - Country Fire Service
    http://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/prepare_act_survive_2012/be_bushfire_ready.jsp
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/countryfireservice
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CFSAlerts

    Tasmania - Tasmania Fire Service
    http://www.fire.tas.gov.au/Show?pageId=colpreparePlan
    Like on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TasmaniaFireService
    Follow on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TasFireService

    Northern Territory - The Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service doesn't appear to have a simple online Prepare-Act-Survive guide so we recommend you refer to one of the above, but you can visit their website here: http://www.pfes.nt.gov.au/Fire-and-Rescue.aspx

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