Jan 18, 2019

Blazing heat waves blast Australia as all-time records fall

"Misery index" projection for Australia on Jan. 19, 2019. Credit: Earth.Nullschool.net

While the U.S. awaits the consequences of a breakdown in the polar vortex, Australia has been sizzling through an unrelenting series of heatwaves that have shattered all-time records.

Why it matters: Heat waves are one of the clearest manifestations of global warming, and extended episodes can be particularly deadly and costly. In Australia, they also heighten the risk of wildfires.

Details: The heat waves began in December and have continued throughout January. On Dec. 27, the average daily national maximum temperature in Australia was the hottest on record for December, and the second-highest for any month, the Bureau of Meteorology found.

The BOM found the heat noteworthy for its long duration and broad extent, saying in a special report on Jan. 17 that every state and territory in the country has been affected at some point.

By the numbers:

  • 35.9°C, or 96.6°F: The overnight low temperature on Jan. 17 in Noona, New South Wales, which was the country's hottest nighttime low on record.
  • 40°C, or 104°F: The temperature reached or exceeded in Canberra for 4 consecutive days, something that had not occurred since records began there in 1939.
  • 49.3°C, or 120.74°F: High temperature in Marble Bar, Australia, which was the highest temperature for anywhere in Australia in 2018.
  • 44.1°C, or 111.3°F: Average monthly temperature in Marble Bar during December, a new national record for the month.
  • 40.19 °C, or 104.3°F: Average daily maximum temperature for Australia on Dec. 27, which was the hottest December day on record for Australia.

The big picture: While the proximate causes for Australia's heat waves in late 2018 and early 2019 include a weak El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, the BOM and the country's main climate agency, CSIRO, have concluded that Australia's climate is changing as a result of human-caused global warming.

For example, in a climate report summarizing 2018's conditions, these agencies found:

  • Australia's climate has warmed just over 1°C, or 1.8°F since 1910, "leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events."
  • Oceans around Australia have warmed by nearly the same amount since 1910, "contributing to longer and more frequent marine heat waves."
  • In addition, the length and severity of the fire season has increased "across large parts of Australia," the report found.

Go deeper: Special Report: A 30-year alarm on the reality of climate change

Go deeper

MLB's Rob Manfred is latest villain in Astros' cheating scandal

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to grant Astros players immunity in exchange for confessions about their sign-stealing scheme has undermined his reputation — and he only made himself look worse on Sunday.

The interview: In a 45-minute conversation with ESPN, Manfred asserted that public shame was punishment enough for the Astros. He also called the World Series trophy "just a piece of metal" and said that taking a title away from Houston "seems like a futile act."

Go deeperArrow35 mins ago - Sports

Economists warn coronavirus risk far worse than realized

Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Worries are growing that the economic impact from the novel coronavirus outbreak will be worse than expected and that markets are being too complacent in factoring it in as a risk.

What's happening: The number of confirmed cases has already far outpaced expectations and even those reports are being viewed through a lens of suspicion that the Chinese government is underreporting the figures.

National newspapers thrive while local outlets struggle to survive

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While big national newspapers grow stronger, local newspaper chains that have for decades kept the vast majority of the country informed are combusting.

Why it matters: The inequity between giants like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and their local counterparts represents a growing problem in America as local communities no longer have the power to set the agenda for the news that most affects them.