A wool shed goes up in flames near the Carlton River in Tasmania, where up to 80 buildings were destroyed, 5 January 2013. Photo: Richard Jupe / The Australian

27 June 2013 (University of Melbourne) – Human influences through global warming are likely to have played a role in Australia's recent “angry” hot summer, the hottest in Australia’s observational record, new research has found.

The research led by the University of Melbourne, has shown that global warming increased the chances of Australians experiencing record hot summers such as the summer of 2013, by more than five times.

Lead author, Dr Sophie Lewis from the University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science said the study showed it was possible to say with more than 90 per cent confidence, that human influences on the atmosphere dramatically increased the likelihood of the extreme summer of 2013.

“Our research has shown that due to greenhouse gas emissions, these types of extreme summers will become even more frequent and more severe in the future,” she said.

The study Anthropogenic contributions to Australia’s record summer temperatures of 2013 has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The study used climate observations and more than 90 climate model simulations of summer temperatures in Australia over the past 100 years.

Professor David Karoly, a co-author on the paper said the observations, coupled with a suite of climate model runs comparing human and natural influences in parallel experiments, indicated we have experienced a very unusual summer at a time when it was not expected.

“This extreme summer is not only remarkable for its record-breaking nature but also because it occurred at a time of weak La Niña to neutral conditions, which generally produce cooler summers,” he said.

“Importantly, our research shows the natural variability of El Niño Southern Oscillation is unlikely to explain the recent record temperatures.”

This analysis of the causes of the record 2013 Australian summer is one of the fastest ever performed worldwide for a significant climate event.

This fast-response analysis was made possible because data from many existing climate models and observations were made available through Centre of Excellence collaborations with CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the National Computational Infrastructure in Australia.

“The new data resource means scientists are able to work on understanding and addressing the problems of extreme climate events sooner,” Professor Karoly said.

The researchers are now turning their attention to other recent extreme climate events.

Humans play role in Australia’s “angry” hot summer

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