Oct 6, 2022 - Economy

Global warming drives Sydney to wettest year on record

Volunteers from the New South Wales State Emergency Service rescue a llama from a flooded farmhouse in western Sydney on March 3. Photo: Muhammad Farooq/AFP via Getty Images

As Sydney experiences its wettest year since records began in 1858, widespread heavy rains left much of eastern Australia on flood alert Thursday.

The big picture: At least 20 people have died in Australia this year because of widespread flooding driven by climate change and the La Niña conditions present for a third-straight year in the Pacific, according to climate scientists.

An Australian Bureau of Meteorology tweet showing Sydney recording more than 50mm of rain in the 5 hours to 9am Thursday.
Photo: Australian Bureau of Meteorology NSW/Twitter

By the numbers: With 86 days left of the year, Australia's largest city recorded 2,200 millimeters of rain for 2022 (86.6 inches) on Thursday afternoon local time — surpassing the previous record set in 1950, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

State of play: "Widespread rain has fallen across eastern Australia and there is an ongoing flood risk," BOM forecaster Jonathan How said in a video update Thursday.

  • "Heading into the weekend, further rainfall will push rivers even higher and there is concern for some communities," How said.
  • Multiple flood warnings in place "for minor to major flooding" through the states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria were expected to continue for several days — with NSW state capital Sydney among the areas at risk.

What to expect: The active La Niña period means more rainfall is expected for the rest of the year "and that does increase the risk of flooding," How told ABC TV.

The bottom line: Sydney's wettest year is directly linked to global warming — with the average temperature in the city rising 1.47°C in the past 100 years, BOM meteorologist Gabrielle Woodhouse told reporters.

  • "That means we can hold a hell of a lot more water in the atmosphere, meaning we're more likely to see heavy rainfall events," she said, per the Australian Associated Press.
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