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It’s getting hot in here: how El Nino is messing with the program

Sydney “missed out” on winter last year after experiencing its hottest on record, and it looks like winter may elude the city for a second year in a row with strong signs of further warm and dry weather ahead, writes meterologist Magdalena Roze

With Sydney forecast to hit 28 yesterday and Melbourne nudging 25, it’s hard to believe winter is five days away. The unseasonal warmth follows months of exceptionally mild temperatures, with Sydney on track for its hottest autumn on record.

The heat has been particularly unusual during May, with average maximum temperatures the hottest on record. This includes an unprecedented warm spell of 17 consecutive days above 22 degrees for Sydney, eclipsing the 2007 record of nine days. And the mercury is set to stay above 22 degrees for the rest of the working week.

Most of south-eastern Australia have been experiencing an Indian summer over the last two weeks. Yesterday was Adelaide’s 16th consecutive day over 20 degrees. Meanwhile, Brisbane is baking in record late autumn warmth, with daytime temperatures exceeding 26.5 degrees since last Friday.

Sydney rainfall has also been scarce, with just 25mm for the month, one-fifth of the long-term May average. Gardens will receive a much-needed top-up of rainfall this weekend as a low pressure system tracks across most of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales from Friday to Sunday.

The odds are that the unusually hot and dry conditions will persist not only through this winter and spring, but also potentially into 2015, in large part due to a developing El Nino.

El Nino is one half of a climate phenomenon that has far-reaching impacts on weather around the globe. In Australia, El Nino is the “dry” one, usually associated with below-average rainfall in south-eastern Australia and more prolonged and severe bushfires. Over two-thirds of El Nino events since 1900 have caused major drought over large parts of the country. The flip side La Nina is the “wet” one, responsible for the record floods across eastern Australia from 2010-2012.

The likelihood of an El Nino coupled with the general trend of warming temperatures in Australia have the potential to make 2014 and/or 2015 our hottest yet, with fears of an earlier and more intense bushfire season.

*Magdanela Roze (@magdalena_roze) is a journalist and meteorologist

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  • 1
    jimjames jammyjams
    Posted Wednesday, 28 May 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    summer’s gonna suck hardcore this year

  • 2
    Kristian
    Posted Wednesday, 28 May 2014 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    On the other hand, over here in Perth, we’ve had double our average May rainfall, and will probably just fall short of the wettest May on record.
    Is this also El Nino? (serious question)

  • 3
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Wednesday, 28 May 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    El Nino brings drought to Eastern Australia. Western and northern Australia are also affected by the Indian Ocean equivalent.

    When we (in Oz) read international stories about El Nino, we often read implications of rain and flood. That is the American perspective, the other end of the Pacific dipole.

    BTW - in South America, the term “El Nino” means “Christmas time”, referring to the ocean event that ends the sardine harvest. Calling its antithesis “La Nina” is a strictly Gringo joke.

  • 4
    Brown Derby
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    We have had plenty of EL Ninos before without the record temperatures that we are presently seeing. Must be something else compounding the heat buildup. I wonder what it could be?

  • 5
    Brian Melbourne
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    El nino is the pacific winds changing. Perth is 1000s of kilometres away on the Indian Ocean.

  • 6
    MJPC
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Keep diging and burning that coal, we have’nt stuffed the Earth too much as yet. It was only the hottest Sydney autumn on record, the earliest fire season in California ever, we are hoping for break all records ever before our PM admits climate change is an issue.
    Meanwhile, President Obama in his speech to West Point graduating officers admits the results of climate change will influence their career choice in future.
    Which world leader (or many) is going to address the elephant in the room and do something?

  • 7
    Mike R
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    The much vaunted plateau in average atmospheric global temperatures over the past 15 years or so provides a very incomplete picture of climate change.

    We know that the oceans are taking up much of the ‘missing heat’ but also the global average temperatures disguise what is happening at a local level.

    Many of these local examples of climate change are enormous compared to the changes in the average global temperature. For instance SE Australia has been warming at the rate of 0.5 degrees per decade from 1995 until 2013 during the ‘pause’ in global temperatures (see http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/victoria) so it not unexpected that number of temperature records are being broken at an extraordinary rate.

    Other major hot spots are the Arctic and sub Arctic regions where the increases have been even more extraordinary. The consequences range from the horrendous collapse of ice sheets and resultant increases in sea level , to the less malevolent. On the latter It seems any updates to the ‘fin de (most recent) siecle’ classics will have to be renamed ‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Slush’ (see http://berkeleyearth.lbl.gov/regions/Greenland ) and ‘Sleet Falling on Cedars’ (see http://cses.washington.edu/cig/outreach/files/psat1005.shtm).

  • 8
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    If only the Senate would pass the carbon tax repeal, climate change would just go away.

  • 9
    Roger Clifton
    Posted Thursday, 29 May 2014 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    @MJPC we could start by spelling out the elephant in our own thinking first. However unwillingly, we need to add those extra two words, “and gas” instead of hiding from the fact that our precious gas creates CO2 and its distribution implies methane leakage.

    Our idea of alternative energy in Australia is wind and gas, commercially but it’s solar and gas to the hobbyists. Despite our delusions and prayers, our electric power stations still run on coal and gas. Our exchange rate is impressively high because we are able to sell our hard work and gas.

    When our conscience needs us to rail against the enemies of the greenhouse, that is coal and gas, instead we rail against the enemies of gas, condemning coal and nuclear. The problem ain’t our leaders when we followers are so dumb.

  • 10
    beachcomber
    Posted Friday, 30 May 2014 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Indian summer” should be renamed “Abbott summer” to remind us of the stupidity of ignoring Climate Change.

    It nauseates me that Abbott justifies his cruel changes to pensions and the dole by claiming “generational theft”, but plans to leave future generations with massive costs, financial, social and economic, through his failure to address Climate Change.

  • 11
    zut alors
    Posted Sunday, 1 June 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Meantime Australia is reluctant to include climate change as a topic on the agenda for November’s G20 in Brisbane. We’ve had stupid governments before but this one takes the cake.

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