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Report details Australia’s hotter, rainier and more dramatic climate

More than 500 roads across Victoria remain closed due to recent flooding.

More than 500 roads across Victoria remain closed due to recent flooding. Photo: AAP

Australia has experienced its hottest year on record, its most intense flooding and an unprecedented coral bleaching — all in the last few years — as the climate warms, says a new report.

The CSIRO’s State of the Climate biennial report released on Wednesday details Australia’s changing climate now and into the future.

It warns that the country’s climate has warmed by 1.47C degrees with concentrations of greenhouse gases the highest levels seen on Earth in at least two million years.

This has led to some of the most dramatic weather changes on our continent in history — and at an increased pace.

During La Niña events in 2021-22, eastern Australia experienced one of its most significant flood periods ever observed.

As those in flood-affected areas could attest to, the intensity of short rainfall events has increased by 10 per cent per storm.

The eight years from 2013 to 2020 were the warmest on record, with 2019 taking the top spot for the hottest recorded year.

In the coming decades Australia will experience increasing air temperatures and decreasing cool-season rain, with short but heavy rains expected.

There will be fewer tropical cyclones, but the ones that do eventuate will be more intense.

Sea levels will continue to rise and warmer ocean temperatures will mean coral bleaching becomes more likely across the country’s coastline.

“We’re seeing mass coral bleaching events more often and this year, for the first time, we’ve seen a mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef during a La Niña year,” said Dr Jaci Brown, Director of CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre.

Dr Brown said the report documents the continuing acidification of the oceans around Australia, which have also warmed by more than one degree since 1900.

“The rate of sea level rise varies around Australia’s coastlines, but the north and south-east have experienced the most significant increases.”

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Manager of Climate Environmental Prediction Services, Dr Karl Braganza, said the report projected increases in air temperatures, more heat extremes and fewer cold extremes in coming decades.

“Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.47 degrees since 1910,” Dr Braganza said.

“We’ve seen contrasting rainfall trends across the north and the south of the country.

“There’s been an overall decline in rainfall between April and October across southern Australia in recent decades, but in northern Australia, rainfall has increased across the region since the 1970s.”

The report shows heavy rainfall events are becoming more intense and the number of short-duration heavy rainfall events is expected to increase in the future.

Dr Braganza said the length of fire seasons has increased across the country in recent decades.

“We’re expecting to see longer fire seasons in the future for the south and east, and an increase in the number of dangerous fire weather days,” he said.

State of the Climate 2022 is the seventh report in a series published biennially by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

Science Minister Ed Husic said the report reinforced the urgent need for climate action.

“We are acting across government to bring down emissions while creating jobs and economic opportunity,” he said, pointing to $3 billion set aside from the National Reconstruction Fund for renewables and low-emission technologies.

The State of the Climate report has been published every two years since 2010.

-with AAP

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