Off the charts: 2013 was Australia's hottest year

Climate change Australia

Introduction: Through the period 2 – 8 January, the country experienced seven consecutive days of area-averaged maximum temperature over 39°C. In 102 years of weather records, Australia has experienced only 21 such days, and eight of them occurred in 2013. January 2013 was Australia’s hottest January on record.

The sea surface temperatures in the region around Australia were also very high. Records were set for both January and February, with the record for February 0.6°C above the long-term (1961-1990) average and 0.13°C above the previous record.

Warm weather continued past the end of summer, leading to more heat records in autumn, and pushing back the onset of the cooler months. The winter remained mild, and was the third warmest on record.

Record-breaking heat reappeared at the end of August and pushed winter rudely out the door. On 31 August, the average maximum temperature for Australia reached 29.92°C, the warmest winter day 2013 in detail on record. The end of August marked the warmest 12-month period (1 September 2012 – 31 August 2013) on record.

Spring immediately began to look like summer as Australia experienced its hottest September on record, with some remarkable observations. The monthly average temperature was 2.75°C above the 1961-1990 average, smashing the previous September record by 1.1°C. Some of the state records were astounding; South Australia shattered its previous record by 5.39°C and New South Wales by 4.68°C.

Then came October, 1.43°C above the long-term average (BoM 2013a). The October heat was widespread as the entire continent experienced above average temperatures. Alice Springs airport had its hottest October day on record (42.6°C), Canberra was 2.5°C hotter than the long-term average, and West Kimberley (WA) set a new record, around 4°C above the long-term average. The end of October marked the third month in a row that a record was set for the warmest 12-month period. By the end of November, Australia had experienced its warmest spring on record.

By then, we were well on track to experience our hottest calendar year since records began over 100 years ago. Above-average temperatures continued through the remainder of 2013 to finish off a remarkable year for heat.

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