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May 28, 2014

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

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

  1. Mike R

    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).

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