Sunday, January 1, 2006

Soaring temperatures set new Melbourne and Victorian record

Melbourne had its warmest ever month of December with an average temperature of 27.7 degrees. The previous record was 27.3 degrees set in 1873. On December 31 people in Melbourne sweltered with a record temperature for New Year's Eve of 42.9 degrees at 5.15pm (AEDT). The temperature eclipsed the previous record of 41.7 degrees for December 31 set in 1862.

About 50 cyclists braved clear skies and high temperatures for the monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride in Melbourne on Friday 30 December. Quite a number of the cyclists cooled themselves by riding through the fountain at Southbank outside Crown Casino. The ride ended at Mountain Goat Brewery in Richmond where some parched throats were satisfied by some famed Mountain Goat beer.

Throughout Victoria temperatures soared on New Year's Eve heightening the bush fire danger. The temperature hit 41 degrees in Ballarat, 42 degrees in Ararat, and peaked in the towns of Horsham, Walpeup and Hopetoun at 46 degrees.

Five houses were destroyed by a bushfire near Stawell, in western Victoria, with about 340 firefighters and 68 trucks on the scene of the fire, which has burned more than 5000 hectares. The Country Fire Authority warned residents of the small towns of Armstrong and Great Western, that their communities could be threatened by the fire.

Ward Rooney, Senior forecaster for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said Melbourne's temperature fluctuated a lot during the last hours of 2005 and the first hours of the new year.

"The minimum temperature was 21.9 degrees at 6.01am (AEDT) this morning but it actually fluctuated quite a bit overnight," Mr Rooney said. "At 8pm last night it was still 41.1, it dropped down to 25.8 at 9pm and then started rising again and by 2am it was 33.3. It stayed up around that for the next hour or so because it was still 29 at 4am, and then it fell sharply down to the 21.9 minimum at 6am."

On the record average temperature Mr Rooney said: "It was in fact the warmest December on record... just a lot of days above 30 and the cooler days didn't get all that cool, the lowest maximum we recorded was 19.7 on December 3rd. It was not composed of any extremes either, except for the last couple of days, the 30th and the 31st. The maximum on the 30th was 39.2 and then 42.9 on the 31st."

By 2pm on New Year's Day winds had shifted to the south-west to southerly bringing rain and dropping temperatures accordingly.

With 2005 being Australia's warmest year on record we can look forward to hotter summers and milder winters. Winter snow sports are definitely under threat. Climate scientists have reached a general consensus that people are responsible for the world getting warmer.

Even if Australia and the rest of the world takes drastic action "the earliest we would probably start to see a levelling off of this effect would be around the middle of the century. That's because there's a lot of inertia in the natural system." said Professor Will Steffen, head of the Centre of Resource and Environmental Studies at the ANU (Australian National University). "By far the most likely cause to explain much of the warming is the increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And there the story is absolutely clear, these are increasing because of human activities, not because of natural causes." he said


* 1. Victoria bakes in heatwave - - January 01, 2006
* 2. Blistering end to a record year - The Age - January 1, 2006
* 3. Global warming to persist until 2050, scientists predict - ABC - 16 December 2005