Official data on Australia’s 2023 weather released showing warmer climate

Last year was warmer than average across the country, with significant contrasts in rainfall patterns between the north and south.

Australia’s climate in 2023 was marked by contrasts and extremes, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement. Last year was warmer than average across the country, with significant contrasts in rainfall patterns between the north and south.

The report, encompassing a comprehensive analysis of temperature, rainfall, hydrology, sea ice, oceans, greenhouse gases, and significant weather events, underscores the ongoing impact of climate change on the Australian environment.

2023 tied as the eighth-warmest year on record since 1910, making it the warmest year Australia has seen since 2020. Both the mean annual maximum and minimum temperatures soared above average across all states and the Northern Territory, with the latter half of the year experiencing widespread warmth.

Notably, winter 2023 was the warmest on record, with a mean temperature 1.53˚C above the 1961–1990 average, emphasizing the escalating trend of rising temperatures.

Rainfall patterns in 2023 showcased a division across the continent; the north saw above-average rainfall, while parts of the east, south, and west experienced below-average precipitation. Queensland and the Northern Territory were the exceptions, recording overall above-average rainfall.

The year also witnessed multiple major flood events in its initial quarter, predominantly affecting inland and northern regions. Conversely, the period from August to October marked Australia’s driest three-month spell on record, highlighting the variability and severity of weather events the country faced.

Surface water storages, including those in the critical Murray–Darling Basin, experienced declines throughout 2023. However, the total volume of Australia’s surface water storage remained relatively high at year’s end, at 74.1% of accessible capacity.

This follows three consecutive years of La Niña conditions, which brought widespread rainfall but dissipated through the summer of 2022–23, giving way to the influences of El Niño and a strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole in early spring.

The statement also points to significant global climate indicators, with sea surface temperatures around Australia being the seventh-highest on record since 1900. Globally, sea surface temperatures reached record highs, continuing a decade-long trend of unprecedented warmth.

Additionally, Antarctic sea-ice extent was either at record lows or significantly below average throughout 2023, further evidence of the rapid changes occurring in our global climate system.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s report concludes with a stark reminder of the impact of climate change on Australia’s climate, noting a 1.50˚C increase in temperature since national records began in 1910.

This ongoing trend underscores the urgency for continued monitoring and adaptation strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change on Australia’s environment and communities.

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