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Australia Has its Hottest September as Fire Threat Grows

Winter may just be ending in Australia, but temperatures are already summerlike. September was one for the record books, with hot temperatures that baked the country from the outback to the coasts and made this the hottest September in the country’s 104 years of record-keeping. The warm start to Australia’s spring keeps the country on a path to having its warmest year on record. Following a wet winter, warmer-than-average conditions have also put parts of the country on watch for yet another intense wildfire season.

Nationally, September temperatures averaged nearly 5°F above normal. That beat the previous hottest September, set in 1983, by a full 2°F. This September also happened to be the most anomalously warm month of record, narrowly edging April 2005 by 0.2°F. In other words, Australia has never had a month so freakishly above average.

Parts of Australia experienced temperatures that were nearly 10°F above average this September, which was Australia's hottest on September record.
Credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The unusually warm weather wasn’t isolated to a specific part of the country. Of the eight states and territories in Australia, six experienced record-high average temperatures. However, the two regions where records weren’t set, Tasmania and Western Australia, weren’t far behind. This was Tasmania’s third warmest September and Western Australia’s fourth warmest.

Though September was record-setting, August also had a notable ending. On August 31, the last day of winter, average temperatures reached 85.9°F. That’s the warmest last day of winter recorded in Australia.

The warm weather is part of longer-term hot streak for the "Land Down Under." Temperatures soared so high in January, during the continent's summer season, that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology famously had to add a new color to its temperature map to account for the unrelenting heat.

The summer of 2013 ended up being Australia's hottest on record, and since January, monthly temperatures have stayed above normal. The average temperature for the year-to-date is 2.8°F above normal. If the year ended today, this would be Australia's hottest year-to-date, putting it ahead of 2005 by a full half a degree Fahrenheit.

Warmer-than-average days are projected across much of Australia through the end of the year. That means Australia could be on pace to have its warmest year on record.
Credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

But the year will roll on for three more months, and there’s little relief in site. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting warmer-than-average conditions through year's end for much of the country. A small part of Australia’s interior is forecast to have near normal temperatures, but that’s little consolation given that 85 percent of the country’s population lives within 31 miles of the coast.

More ominous than the warm weather itself is what could come with it. According to the Bushfire Cooperative Research Center, areas along the east and west coasts of Australia are forecast to have an above-normal bushfire season after a wet winter helped build vegetation. The persistently warmer-than-average conditions this spring have helped dry those grasses and build fuel for fires.

The Australian newspaper has already reported large wildfires near Sydney, where an iconic lighthouse was saved by firefighters last week. Earlier in the month, The Guardian also reported on an unusually quick start to the bushfire season after 60 fires broke out on September 10 in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state. Australia had a particularly severe fire season last summer amid record heat and drought conditions.

A wildfire in 2007 burns in the Australian outback.
Credit: fvanrenterghem/flickr

While the hot start to the spring hasn’t been attributed to climate change, the trend is consistent with what one would expect. Will Steffen, a scientist with the Australian Climate Council, told the Sydney Morning Herald that ocean surface temperatures around Australia are up to 5.4°F above normal for this time of year, and that could be one of the drivers behind the high temperatures over land. Such ocean temperatures may be due to a combination of natural climate variability and long-term manmade climate change.

Steffens and the Council, which until recently was funded by the Australian government, also issued a report about the September heat that said, “climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heatwaves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions.” Citing the latest findings from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the report said, “Extreme heat will become an even more common occurrence as the climate continues to warm.”

Related Content
Remarkable Summer in Australia is its Hottest on Record
What's Causing Australia's Heat Wave?
Australia's Hottest Summer on Record Consistent with Global Warming
Epic Heat, Wildfires Are Scorching Australian Landscape
ussie Heat Wave Nears 122°F, Severe Fire Threat Declared
Heat and Threat of Wildfires Blaze on in Australia


By merlin GEIKIE (Lismore)
on October 4th, 2013

Why is Fahrenheit used in this article?
The article switches between Fahrenheit and Celsius without explanation.
My guess is to mislead and confuse and alarm the readership.

Fahrenheit readings give a far higher numerical impact and are likely to further the sort of hysteria which so many climate workers seem to need to foster.

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By Jim Steele (Pacifica Ca 94044)
on October 4th, 2013

Don’t La Nina conditions typical of the cool Pacific Decadal Oscillation cause these warmer than normal conditions in this part of Australia.

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By Slowmoney Green (Brentwood, CA)
on October 4th, 2013

It doesn’t say Celsius anywhere in that article, Merlin. Measurements are in F, because the writers and site owners work out of California and New Jersey, USA.  It seems more likely you’re reading several articles, looking for a chance to troll your conspiracy theory on more people, and you crossed two separate pages.  Please be more careful.

Jim, I’d link to NOAA for ENSO data, but, ...shutdown. =/

We’ve been in Neutral El Nino/La Nina conditions for about a year now.

The SST anomaly in the Nino3.4 region has been in the neutral range lately, through mid-September 2013. For August 2013 the Nino3.4 SST anomaly was -0.28 C, indicative of neutral ENSO conditions, and for May-August it was -0.27 C. The IRI’s definition of El Niño, like NOAA/Climate Prediction Center’s, requires that the SST anomaly in the NINO3.4 region (5S-5N; 170W-120W) exceed 0.5 C. Similarly, for La Niña, the anomaly must be -0.5 C or less. The climatological probabilities for La Niña, neutral, and El Niño conditions vary seasonally, and are shown in a table at the bottom of this page for each 3-month season. The most recent weekly SST anomaly in the NINO3.4 region was 0.0 C, indicating neutral ENSO conditions in the tropical Pacific; this is slightly warmer than the -0.28 C level observed in August.



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By Patrick
on October 4th, 2013

And yet, they hire a right wing nutjob as president.

Murdoch’s propaganda empire is doing harm around the world.

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By Peter Hannam (Sydney, Australia)
on October 5th, 2013

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has since issued a Special Climate Statement ( which really underlines the abnormal nature of the past 12 months or so, but particularly September.  It’s notable that much of the country has seen heatwaves (or warm waves in winter) about every six weeks or so. The result has been extended periods of unusual warmth (rather than temperature spikes, for the most part). While that’s made for pleasant winters for much of the country, a repeat during the summer period could make for some uncomfortable periods not least because of the elevated bushfire (as we dub ‘wildfires’).
The new Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains inclined to view the above as ‘natural variability’ rather than a signal of climate change. It will be interesting to see how closely he adheres to that line if this summer turns out to be even hotter than last year’s record-breaking one.

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By James Phillips (Beaumont, TX, 77055)
on October 6th, 2013

There are SIX states in Australia, not seven.  If this article can’t get something so basic right, why should we have any confidence in its other claims?

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By Brian Kahn
on October 7th, 2013

James, the article has been amended accordingly. You can read the whole BOM statement on September here:

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By Leslie Graham
on October 8th, 2013

“...The article switches between Fahrenheit and Celsius without explanation. My guess is to mislead and confuse and alarm the readership…”

No it doesn’t. It uses Fahrenheit consistantly all the way from start to finish.
What a classic example of denialist desperation and hysteria.
Actualy hallucinating totaly imaginary ‘attempts to alarm”.
ROFL. Brilliant.
And you whackjobs call scientists ‘alarmists’!
What a joke you people truly are.
Now that climate change is simply obvious and happening all around us the deniers have become hysterical and even started to hallucinate ‘alarmist’. Thanks - you made my day.

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By angech
on October 9th, 2013

how many of the top 5 hottest Septembers were before 1950. would it not be important to mention the hottest ones at the start of the record as well , I am sure we have had some early scorchers.

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By Abel Adamski (Melbourne,Vic,Aust)
on October 12th, 2013

Actually James
To be a Pedant, there are 6 States and two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory {ACT - where the capital Canberra is located - historical statehood barney resolution).

Interesting to Note extreme for mid Spring temperatures again, around 40+ Celsius Sydney and Bris last couple of days. Needing the air conditioner on in the car (In Melb ) .

For those of a religious of any flavor bent.
The last few years in Australia have been a relentless campaign of misinformation, misrepresentation, distortion and deceit, even straight out lies from Murdochs Press and their associates. The same from the now Government, our new P.M famously stated don’t beleive anything I say unless it is scripted and has a record of untruths and deception, many years ago as a minister in the Howard Government he along with the Gang of four, including Hockey(treasurer) Bishop (Foreign Minister - history of callous cruelty as a lawyer) with Abbott as bagman and organiser with a $10,000 slush fund paid for an awkward politician to be falsely charged and convicted.
News Ltd made much of Abbotts strong religious “beliefs” and connections with Cardinal Pell compared with the athiest , living in sin prime Minister Gillard. Abbott made much of being a devout christian over a few years.
News Ltd. The great deceiver seduced and deceived the voters and had the prince of liars and his birds of a feather associates elected to rule Australia. Devout individuals betrayed their Lord voting the great deceiver and the Prince of Liars to rule over them and their Nation.

There are consequences for the betrayal

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By Bob Bingham (New Zealand)
on October 13th, 2013

Australia has just voted in a Prime minister who thinks that climate change is a load of rubbish so hopefully these hot spells will soon go away. He has shut the climate change advisory service just to be sure and will no doubt start getting rid of their very fine climate scientists..

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