Australia experiences 'angry summer'

March 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM
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SYDNEY, March 5 (UPI) -- In what it calls the "Angry Summer," a new report from Australia's Climate Commission links the country's extreme weather events to climate change.

At least 123 weather records were broken during Australia's 2013 summer -- the hottest ever -- through Feb. 28.

Extreme heat waves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the "Angry Summer" were made worse by climate change, the report says, adding that "it is virtually certain that extreme hot weather will continue to become even more frequent and severe around the globe, including Australia, over the coming decades."

The commission, comprised of an independent panel of experts that isn't subject to government direction or oversight but issues reports on behalf of the government, called for an increase in renewable energy to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

"In Australia and around the world we need to urgently invest in clean energy sources and take other measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. This is the critical decade to get on with the job," the report states.

Australia relies on coal power for around 80 percent of its electricity generation.

Climate Commission Chief Tim Flannery likened the climate shift to an athlete on steroids.

"I think one of the best ways of thinking about it is imagining that the base line has shifted," Flannery told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "If an athlete takes steroids, for example, their base line shifts. They'll do fewer slow times and many more record-breaking fast times."

"The same thing is happening with our climate system," he said. "As it warms up, we're getting fewer cold days and cold events and many more record hot events."

Flannery cited the summer's record dry spells, heat waves and floods as a pattern that would continue in coming decades.

While Australia typically experiences naturally occurring cycles of drought and flooding, the country was inundated with a stream of erratic weather even before the summer of 2012-13. In 2011, Queensland was hit by flooding and cyclones and last year a decade-long drought that had affected the country's farms was declared over. Firestorms in 2009 claimed hundreds of lives.

Flannery told ABC that "what we're seeing is a whole slew of new records ... new climatic territory" in Australia as well as in the United States and in the arctic.

"The report shows how all of that relates to a change in climate due to the increased burden of greenhouse gases," Flannery said.

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