climate change

Australia adds new colours to the temperature chart

australia temperature

Climate change produced a striking new image this week: Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology added two new colours to their temperature charts, as the top end didn’t go high enough any more. The upper end of the chart now accounts for temperatures up to 54 degrees C.

The chart previously stopped at 50C, although the temperature has gone above that before. The new colours have been added in anticipation that temperatures will go over 50C again, and they were expected to in the current heatwave. Adding new colours to charts is largely symbolic, but it demonstrates the changing range of temperatures we can expect. Those purples may be called upon before the week is out, and Australia did set a new record average this week at 40.33C on Monday.

The temperature has never gone that high in Britain, ever, so the idea of 50 degree heat is hard to imagine, but other countries may need to re-draw their temperature charts eventually too. As David Jones of the Bureau of Meterology says, “everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.”


  1. Heat is nothing new in Australia. My family have been here since settlement began.
    The weather in NSW in 1896 was even worse than it was this week.

    Following text from attached newspaper article published 13th Jan 1896.

    Sydney, January 13th 1896
    • 123F (50.6 C) IN SHADE AT CAMDEN.
    The heat in Sydney to-day was intense. The glass went from 98F (36.7C) in the shade at 9 o’clock in the morning to 108.5F (42.5C) at 2 in the afternoon, being the record for Sydney. It then slowly receded and at 3 o’clock stood at 99.2. (37.2)

    Mr. Merewether, a miner from New Zealand, was doing business at the Union Bank during the morning when lie was suddenly seized with an illness and died on reaching the hospital. Death is supposed to have been due to heat apoplexy.

    W. Jones, who was working outside the post office, received a sunstroke, and is not expected to recover.

    A laborer named James Quinn, employed on the Government works Woolloomooloo Bay, also died at the hospital during the afternoon from effects of sun stroke and heat apoplexy.

    Michael Kane, a corporation laborer, a very old man, received a sunstroke at Pyrmont during the afternoon and died shortly afterwards.

    Several horses were also struck dead in the streets during the day.

    At Bourke the heat last week averaged 113F (45C) in the shade, and eight deaths took place from heat apoplexy, including Mr. Macdonald, of the Government farm staff at Pera.

    The heat at Broken Hill on Sunday was the highest ever recorded, reaching 112F (44.4C) in the shade. Three deaths occurred on Sunday from heat apoplexy.

    SYDNEY, January 14.

    The record temperature yesterday has fortunately been succeeded by a southerly buster, which came on at 6.30 p.m. By 8.53 p.m. it was blowing at the rate of 53 miles per hour. In the first hour the wind recorded actually 40 miles an hour. When it came on it was hot for some time, and then the temperature began to fall rapidly, and was greatly enjoyed.

    Reports from the country last night were most discouraging, the excessive heat reaching in many cases to a deadly degree. Disastrous bush fires are ravaging the crops and threatening the homesteads, and the want of water is causing serious mortality amongst stock.

    Camden reports that the shade temperature yesterday ran up to 123F (50.6C) and the average temperature for the last three days was 112 degrees F. (44.4C)

    Quirindi reported 120F (48.9C) in the shade; Kiama, 117F (47.2C) ; Wilcannia, 118F (47.8C) ; Condobolin, 116F (46.7C); Cobar and Nymagee, 115F (46.1C); Albion Park and Nowra, 114F (45.6C) ; Bourke, Bulli, Dapto, and Mulgoa, 113F (45C); and other stations, from 112F (44.4C) downwards, but the majority were over 100F. (37.8C)

    In addition to the deaths reported last night another death occurred yesterday afternoon at Balmain through the abnormal heat, the victim being Mr. Duggle McLachlan, residing in Beattie Street, Balmain. Mr. McLachlan, who leaves a widow and four children, was for some years associated with the police force at Balmain, and subsequently was proprietor of the Warwick Castle Hotel.
    Several other cases were admitted to the Sydney Hospital, but fortunately they were not attended with fatal results.

    Mr. Charles Auchenbach was treated at the Prince Alfred Hospital yesterday for sunstroke, and several cases of women fainting in the streets are reported from the effects of the weather. In Surry Hills a little girl while walking along Riley-street just before 1 o’clock suddenly became demented.

    At Singleton yesterday Mr. William Clarke, licensee of the Royal Hotel, was struck down with heat apoplexy, and died within a couple of hours.

    A young man named John M’Cusker, 26 years of age, died suddenly yesterday at Jerildore, death being due to heat apoplexy.

    In addition to the eight deaths reported at Bourke, two more have since died, bringing the total up to 10, all caused by excessive heat

    From Goulburn it is reported that eight infants died during the week from causes attributable to excessive heat.

    At Wellington yesterday, a little boy aged 11 died from the effects of sunstroke.

    Since the beginning of the year 10 infants have died at Albury from excessive heat; four of the victims were buried there yesterday.

    A little girl has died at Mount Hope as the result of excessive heat there, and yesterday a child who had been sent from Sydney to escape the heat, died at Lawson from that cause.

    A man was found dead near the Moonie River. He had evidently perished from thirst.

    The excessive heat of yesterday naturally caused excessive consumption of water. Nearly 20,000,000 gallons are estimated to have been used, the highest consumption ever recorded.

    1. It is warm, but not excessively hot where I live on the Granite Belt of south-east Queensland. The heat is expected to continue for a few more days. It is expected that the heat could reach 37C degrees here on Sunday. The last time it was this hot was in 2006 when it reached 36.8degrees and in 1994 it reached 37.8degrees. This is wine district with about 60 small wineries. They like hot, dry weather like this in January to ripen the grapes. Rain would only create mildew and mould problems at this time of year.

  2. Perhaps the USA should prepare a colour map. It wasn’t only Australia that had a heatwave in 1896. The 1896 Eastern North America heat wave was a 10-day heat wave in New York City, Boston, Newark, New Jersey and Chicago that killed about 1,500 people in August of 1896. Let us hope that these facts are not obscured by people trying to blame the present Australian heat wave on ‘Global Warming’.

  3. Yep, there have been heat waves in the past, but don’t let the existence of previous highs hide the long term trend. It’s all about the long term changes, and those show that the average temperature has risen by 0.94 degrees C in the last century.

    You can’t blame any single event on global warming, including the current heat wave. But Australia’s climate is changing. Here’s a summary from the Australian Government’s ‘state of the environment’ report for 2011:

    Australian average surface temperatures rose by nearly 1°C between 1910 and 2009. Warming was modest in the early part of this period, declined slightly between 1935 and 1950, and then rapidly increased. The decade 2000–09 was the nation’s warmest on record. Some regions have had temperatures increase by 2°C since 1960. The frequency of hot nights has increased and the frequency of cold nights has declined. Rainfall trends are more difficult to distinguish, given the large natural variability across regions and over time. During the past few decades, cool season (April to November) rainfall has largely decreased in the southwest and south-east when compared with natural variability, and winter season rainfall in the southwest of Western Australia has declined by about 15% since the mid-1970s. Climate models project that, by 2030, average annual temperatures across Australia are likely to warm by 1°C (above 1990 temperatures), with warming of 0.7–0.9°C in coastal areas and 1–1.2°C inland. Drying is likely in southern areas of Australia, especially in winter, and in southern and eastern areas in spring. Changes in summer tropical rainfall in northern Australia remain highly uncertain.

  4. A brief explanation as to why we had floods and cooler temperatures 2010-2012 was that we experienced big monsoon rains in those years. This year the monsoon rains have not yet dropped down to Northern Australia, hence the mass of hot dry air over the continent.

    1. Did you know that Britain’s Met Office – an international authority on climate change – quietly added a revised medium-term forecast to its website on Christmas Eve? The new forecast suggests that by 2017 the global average temperature variation will be 20 per cent lower than what had previously been estimated. This means that over two decades temperatures will be unlikely to have topped the record year of 1998.

    1. Own goal for climate change deniers
      A report has just come out describing the affects of hot cities
      I have long believed that cities generate heat and many other types of pollution.
      I have only to look at all the farm ponds situated beside roads to catch the water that runs off the hard surface to understand how cities create their own floods, adding to the impact of high rainfall.

      I have always believed in climate change, as I live in a country where the climate has varied between wet years and dry years for centuries. Rainfall patterns over the centuries haven’t shown much change, but the impact of floods are worst felt in the cities, many of which are situated on river ports around our coast. Droughts now impact more on cities than on country folk as they did a hundred years ago, because cities use so much water, whereas the grazier can now import fodder or truck his cattle out. Australia has become an urbanised country with only 7% of the population living in country regions.
      After 3 wet and relatively cool summers we have just experienced one of the hottest ever Januarys. Why? Not due to global warming, but due to the late arrival of the cooling monsoon rains. The monsoon then generated cyclone Oswald in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Oswald crossed Cape York Peninsular and then became a rain depression. It travelled straight down the Pacific coast picking up moisture from the sea and dropping it on the eastern side of the Great Dividing Range. The result was severe flooding of all the coastal cities. Not since 1914 has a cyclone exactly followed this path.

      Meanwhile, on this the western side of the Great Dividing Range we only had moderate rain and no heavy falls to create running water to fill our ponds.
      After 3 wet summers a huge body of grass grew throughout much of this country. Then came the heat wave and no early summer rain. Lightening strikes from almost dry storms caused bush fires.
      So, the coastal strip has had terrible floods, while inland much of the country is experiencing drought and bushfires.
      None of this is new.

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