from SMH (links and pics added by me)
2013 is the year Australia marked its hottest day, month, season, 12-month period and, by December 31, hottest calendar year.
“We’re smashing the records,” said Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW. “We’re not tinkering away at them, they’re being absolutely blitzed.”
Global interest in Australia’s weather flared early. In January, when models predicted heat that was literally off the charts, the Bureau of Meteorology added colours to maps - a deep purple and pink – to indicate maximum temperatures of 50-54 degrees.
But for David Jones, head of climate analysis at the bureau, 2013’s stand-out event was a month largely overlooked by a media diverted by football finals and federal elections: “From a climate point of view, what happened in September was probably the most remarkable.” September’s mean temperature soared to be 2.75 degrees above the 1961-90 average, eclipsing the previous record monthly deviation set in April 2005 by 0.09 degrees.
Maximums were 3.41 degrees over the norm, with South Australia’s out by 5.39 degrees and NSW’s by 4.68. Victoria’s mean and minimum temperatures exceeded previous anomalies.
Nationally, the warmth broke the previous September mean record by 1.1 degrees.
January baked, Australia’s hottest month in its hottest summer. “January was incredibly hot for such a long time for such a large area,” said Jones. “In many ways we were very fortunate not to have had a frontal system like Black Saturday (in 2009) to draw down that hot air into a coastal zone with a gale force wind.”
Fires destroyed hundreds of properties in Tasmania in January and a similar number in NSW in October. Hot years are now about 2-3 degrees warmer than cool ones 100 years ago. “It’s a very large change,” Dr Jones said. “That’s the equivalent of moving in the order of 300-400 kilometres closer to the equator.”
For Australia, the year to beat for heat was 2005, when national mean temperatures were 1.03 degrees above the long-term average. As of the end of November, the country was at 1.25 degrees above the norm. “As best as we can tell, not a single part of Australia has seen below-average temperatures for this year,” Jones said.
So far in 2013, Melbourne’s average maximum is 21.4 degrees, third-hottest in more than 150 years of records. Minimums and mean temperatures are the second highest, behind 2007, according to Blair Trewin, a senior climatologist at the bureau.
Global temperatures are rising too. Last month was the hottest November in data going back to the 1880s, the US government said. That puts 2013 on course to be the fourth hottest on record.
Jones dismissed claims regularly aired by climate sceptics that the planet stopped warming in 1998: “Certainly there is no global surface data set which shows 1998 was the warmest on record.”
Professor Pitman said 2013’s likely rank as the world’s fourth hottest year is more remarkable because the most significant driver of climate variation – the El Nino-Southern Oscillation in the Pacific – remains in neutral mode.