Australia had its hottest and driest year on record in 2019
Australia is currently suffering through some of the worst bushfires on record, and it’s not hard to see why. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has released its annual climate statement for 2019, and found that last year was both the hottest and driest on record for the continent.
The BOM has been collecting data on Australia’s climate for well over a century, including national temperatures since 1910 and rainfall figures since 1900. Using this information, the organization reported that 2019 was far and away the warmest year on record, while rainfall was at a record low.
The report shows that the area-averaged mean temperature for 2019 was 1.52° C above average (that average being taken between 1961 and 1990). That beats out the previous record holder of 2013, which was 1.33° C above average. The mean of the maximum temperatures were also the warmest on record at 2.09° C above average, while mean minimums were also above average.
It was a “good” year for individual temperature records too. January 2019 was the hottest month on record for Australia, while December 18 was the hottest individual day, with the maximum average for the entire country hitting a sweltering 41.9° C (107.4° F).
When stretched out to the full decade, the years 2010 to 2019 were also the highest on record at 0.86° C above average. In fact, every year since 2013 has made it into the top 10 in the record books.
Those record highs were accompanied by record-low rainfall, as much of Australia continues to be gripped in severe drought. In 2019, only 277.6 mm of rain fell on the country. That’s far below the previous lowest of 314.5 mm, recorded in 1902. Averaged over the whole country, that’s 40 percent less rain than the 1961 to 1990 average.
Important to note is that there was no El Nino pattern in effect in 2019, which is known to contribute to lower rainfall. However its western equivalent, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), was very strong, which also reduces rainfall across the continent.
This record-breaking year culminated in the devastating fires that are still raging across much of the country. By the end of December, more than 12 million acres had been burnt, destroying over 1,600 homes and taking the lives of at least 18 people. Smoke has blanketed Sydney for weeks, periodically affecting other cities such as Melbourne and even reaching as far as New Zealand, over 2,000 km (1,200 mi) away.
The report echoes others from organizations like NOAA, which predict that globally, 2019 will likely be the second-hottest year on record after 2016.
The BOM annual climate statement 2019 can be viewed online, and it’s summed up in the video below.
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology