Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Devastating wildfires in Australia linked to climate change

Australian Wildfires

Wildfires in Tasmania, Creative Commons: Toni Fish, 2013

Facing a record breaking heat wave and catastrophic wildfires raging across Tasmania and New South Wales, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke publicly of the connection between these weather conditions and climate change.

"We do know that over time as a result of climate change we are going to see more extreme weather events," said Prime Minister Gillard.

Fires are currently burning in five out of the six Australian states. Though no fatalities have been reported, emergency workers continue to search for missing people.

According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the last four months of 2012 set new maximum temperature records across the nation. In fact, the Bureau added new colors to their forecasting charts to indicate never before seen temperatures of up to 54 degrees Celsius. These temperatures, in combination with a delayed and weak monsoon season, helped to spark the dangerous wildfires in the eastern part of the nation.

Like U.S. President Obama's remarks in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Prime Minister Gillard's comments reflect the growing awareness amongst world leaders of the connection between climate change and a 'new normal' of increased dangerous weather events. Average temperatures in Australia have climbed by almost 1 degree Celsius since 1910 due to climate change, and may continue to rise by up to 5 degrees Celsius by 2070. This news comes as the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirms that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the United States.

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