Australia faces extreme weather

Bushfires, hail, dust storms... In a matter of weeks, Australia's weather has gone wild.

Global Extreme Weather

“While the types of weather events and the resulting destruction can be similar, the way they develop couldn’t be more opposite, clearly a reflection of the geography. Here in the U.S., severe weather season is easily identifiable, peaking during the spring and early summer with an increase in tornados, large hail and damaging winds, with the strongest impact across the Great Plains and Midwest. However, in Australia, adverse weather takes many different forms and the types of severe weather typically experienced is influenced by very different geography and regional climate drivers,” Jim Foerster from Forbes explains.

Trouble down under

In barely two months, Australia has experienced one weather extreme after another. From drought to massive bushfires to hailstorms and dust storms. 2019 was Australia's hottest and driest year on record, creating perfect conditions for drought and fire. Then two severe thunderstorms hit the southeast coast in January, bringing hail and rain. It turned into weather whiplash: topsoil was often too dry to absorb the massive precipitation. Then, violent wind from the storms whipped up giant dust clouds. Sudden weather shifts are common in Australia, but meteorologists warn that climate change is making these extremes worse than ever.

Severe weather in the past

2018 was also a record-breaking hot year for Australia. Again, the extreme weather is fueled by climate change and is occurring in an atmosphere that contains more energy than it did fifty years ago. “Globally, in 2018 the United States was plagued by a series of intense hurricanes in the southeast and record-breaking wildfires in California, severe drought created a crisis for Cape Town’s water security, the Nordic region was hit with extreme heat in Norway and Finland and fires in Sweden, and a series of extreme weather events brought both extreme heat and extensive flooding to many parts of Japan,” the Climate Council reported. In order to reduce the severity and frequency of extreme weather in Australia, there needs to be an effective national climate policy that can drastically cut down greenhouse gas pollution as part of a global effort. The Climate Council continues, “To do our fair share of meeting the Paris climate target, Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution levels must be reduced by 45-65 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, as recommended by the Climate Change Authority in 2015… Australia is currently not on track to meet its much weaker 2030 target of 26-28 percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution below 2005 levels.”