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Australia breaks weather records with hottest ever summer

The Guardian logo The Guardian 28/02/2019 Naaman Zhou
a traffic light in front of a sunset: Australians sweltered through back-to-back heatwaves and battled bushfires across the country over the 2018-19 summer. © EPA Australians sweltered through back-to-back heatwaves and battled bushfires across the country over the 2018-19 summer.

Australia has endured its hottest summer ever, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, breaking the previous record set six years ago.

The 2018-19 summer, which produced near 50C days and topped temperature highs across the country, has officially exceeded the previous record set in 2012-13, which was 1.28C above what is considered normal. Climate analysts say it falls into a pattern of human-induced global warming.

Firefighters (L) watch as a blaze moves through Deepwater National Park in Queensland on November 28, 2018. - Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in northeastern Australia as bushfires raged across Queensland state amid a scorching heatwave. (Photo by ROB GRIFFITH / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images Firefighters (L) watch as a blaze moves through Deepwater National Park in Queensland on November 28, 2018. - Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in northeastern Australia as bushfires raged across Queensland state amid a scorching heatwave. (Photo by ROB GRIFFITH / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images) January alone had already been confirmed as the hottest month ever recorded in Australia, with a mean temperature across the nation of 30.8C, which was 2.9C above the average for January temperatures (calculated between 1961–1990) of 27.9C.

On Thursday, the BoM revealed the whole season was officially the hottest ever recorded.

MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 21: Tasmania's Great Lake is smothered by smoke as vegetation fire comes dangerously close on January 21, 2019 in Miena, Australia. The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) has issued an emergency warning for Miena with the town in Tasmania's Central Plateau at very high risk. Residents have been told to enact their bushfire emergency plans. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 21: Tasmania's Great Lake is smothered by smoke as vegetation fire comes dangerously close on January 21, 2019 in Miena, Australia. The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) has issued an emergency warning for Miena with the town in Tasmania's Central Plateau at very high risk. Residents have been told to enact their bushfire emergency plans. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) While exact figures are not yet confirmed, the bureau said this summer’s mean temperature was at least 2C above the 27.5C benchmark of what is considered normal, based on 1961-1990.

“Summer has been our warmest summer on record in terms of maximum temperatures, in terms of minimum temperatures and in terms of mean temperatures,” said Andrew Watkins, the BoM’s manager of long-range forecasting.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 04: Seen is a general view of the flooded area of Townsville on February 04, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned Townsville residents that flooding has not yet reached its peak as torrential rain continues. The continued inundation forced authorities to open the floodgates on the swollen Ross River dam on Sunday night. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 04: Seen is a general view of the flooded area of Townsville on February 04, 2019 in Townsville, Australia. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has warned Townsville residents that flooding has not yet reached its peak as torrential rain continues. The continued inundation forced authorities to open the floodgates on the swollen Ross River dam on Sunday night. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images) The statistics will come as no surprise to Australians who sweltered through back-to-back heatwaves and battled bushfires across the country.

In January alone, Adelaide broke its all-time heat record with a 46.6C day, Port Augusta broke its record with 48.9C, and then broke it again with 49.5C a week later.

A fire truck races towards a blaze in the Deepwater National Park area of Queensland on November 29, 2018. - Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in northeastern Australia as bushfires raged across Queensland state amid a scorching heatwave. (Photo by ROB GRIFFITH / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images A fire truck races towards a blaze in the Deepwater National Park area of Queensland on November 29, 2018. - Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in northeastern Australia as bushfires raged across Queensland state amid a scorching heatwave. (Photo by ROB GRIFFITH / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROB GRIFFITH/AFP/Getty Images) The small New South Wales town of Noona also broke the record for the highest overnight minimum ever recorded, with a night that never dropped below 39.5C. And in Cloncurry in Queensland, residents endured 43 days in a row over 40C, Watkins said.

This summer’s extreme temperatures had been predicted since late last year, with the BoM’s climate outlook forecasting a drier, hotter summer due to the El Niño weather event, a positive Indian Ocean Dipole and the effect of global warming.

MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Fires burning dangerously close can be seen from the Central Highlands Lodge from on January 22, 2019 in Miena, Australia. Around 40 residents from the small town of Miena in Tasmania's Central Plateau have been evacuated, as bushfires continue to burn in the area. Bushfire warnings have been downgraded to watch and act, but the Tasmanian Fire Service is still warning that ash and embers are still a risk. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22: Fires burning dangerously close can be seen from the Central Highlands Lodge from on January 22, 2019 in Miena, Australia. Around 40 residents from the small town of Miena in Tasmania's Central Plateau have been evacuated, as bushfires continue to burn in the area. Bushfire warnings have been downgraded to watch and act, but the Tasmanian Fire Service is still warning that ash and embers are still a risk. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) The “long-term increasing trend in global air and ocean temperatures” was a factor in the hotter-than-average summer, the report said in October.

On Thursday, the BoM also updated its outlook for the coming autumn, saying there were “very high odds” that hot, dry conditions would continue.

LIAWENEE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Fire damage is clearly visible from the Great Lake Highway as vehicles drive past on February 22, 2019 in Liawenee, Australia. Around 20 residents were evacuated from the area recently as Tasmania has experienced almost six weeks of bushfires since Christmas, with almost 200,000 hectares of land burnt across the state. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images LIAWENEE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 22: Fire damage is clearly visible from the Great Lake Highway as vehicles drive past on February 22, 2019 in Liawenee, Australia. Around 20 residents were evacuated from the area recently as Tasmania has experienced almost six weeks of bushfires since Christmas, with almost 200,000 hectares of land burnt across the state. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) Watkins warned that while some high rainfall events could occur, it would largely be bad news for drought-stricken farmers. “I wish we had better news than that,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Victorian health authorities warned of a late summer heatwave that would bring 40C temperatures on Saturday.

Sunbathers are seen on Bondi Beach as temperatures soar in Sydney on December 28, 2018. - Australia's vast continent is sizzling through extreme heatwave conditions this week, with temperature records falling and emergency services on high alert for bushfires. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images Sunbathers are seen on Bondi Beach as temperatures soar in Sydney on December 28, 2018. - Australia's vast continent is sizzling through extreme heatwave conditions this week, with temperature records falling and emergency services on high alert for bushfires. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) The bureau has forecast a heatwave across most of Victoria over the weekend, and Victoria’s chief health officer issued a health alert for parts of the state from Thursday to Saturday.

Pregnant women, the elderly, children and people with medical conditions have been warned to take care.

MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: Tasmania Fire Service conduct back burns and create fire breaks in preparation for the unfavourable weather conditions on January 23, 2019 in Miena, Australia. Firefighters continue to battle a number of blazes across Tasmania as with hot, windy weather forecast for the rest of the week. The Tasmanian Fire Service confirmed one property has been destroyed near the town of Miena on Tuesday night. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) © Catalyst Images MIENA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23: Tasmania Fire Service conduct back burns and create fire breaks in preparation for the unfavourable weather conditions on January 23, 2019 in Miena, Australia. Firefighters continue to battle a number of blazes across Tasmania as with hot, windy weather forecast for the rest of the week. The Tasmanian Fire Service confirmed one property has been destroyed near the town of Miena on Tuesday night. (Photo by Heath Holden/Getty Images) Victoria’s emergency management commissioner, Andrew Crisp, also warned there was a high fire risk, peaking at a severe fire danger rating in parts on Saturday.

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