SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia sweltered through its third-hottest year on record in 2017 despite the lack of a warming El Nino weather phenomenon, official figures showed Wednesday.
Seven of the vast continent’s 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005, with only 2011 cooler than average, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said in its annual climate statement.
“Despite the lack of an El Nino – which is normally associated with our hottest years – 2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures,” the weather bureau’s climate monitoring chief Karl Braganza said in a statement.
“Both day and night-time temperatures were warmer than average, particularly maximum temperatures, which were the second-warmest on record.”
The data came ahead of the release of global mean temperatures by the World Meteorological Organisation, with BOM projecting that 2017 was one of the world’s three warmest years on record – and the hottest without an El Nino.
El Nino occurs when trade winds that circulate over waters in the tropical Pacific start to weaken and sea surface temperatures rise.
Australia’s annual mean temperature has increased by approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1910, with most of this warming occurring since 1950, the bureau added in its report.
Experts have also warned that climate change has pushed up land and sea temperatures, leading to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons.
Last year, the national mean temperature was 0.95 degrees Celsius hotter than the 1961-1990 average. In 108 years of recorded temperatures, only 2013 and 2005 were warmer.
The eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland were the hardest hit, recording their hottest year ever in 2017.
Some regions also had their driest months on record, including Victoria state in June, and New South Wales and vital river system the Murray-Darling Basin in September. But the last three months took a wetter turn, with above-average rainfall in many areas, Braganza added.
Meanwhile, oceans around Australia recorded temperatures “well above average” for the year.
Prolonged high sea surface temperatures linked to climate change saw significant coral bleaching on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef during early 2017.
Australia is one of the world’s worst per capita greenhouse gas polluters, due to its heavy use of coal-fired power.