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In a joint release today, two of Australia's most apolitical institutions have directly attacked global warming sceptics who claim that global warming is not happening. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology have issued a six page easy to read snapshot (940kb PDF) of the Australian Climate, showing how it has changed over the last 60 years and hitting back at the "smokescreen of denial" that has covered the media in the last few months.

In accordance with Australian Public Service traditions, the CSIRO and the BOM both try to stay out of actual politics as much as possible. There will naturally be uninformed attacks on the possible partisanship of these departments, which can quickly be dismissed by pointing out that fully half of the CSIRO Board was appointed under previous Prime Minister John Howard, famous climate change denier and close friend of George W Bush.

Due to increasingly strident attacks on the underlying science in the last few months, they have decided to take this unprecedented step because they say the existing fixation on the faux-debate from "is climate change happening" is diverting valuable time and resouces from the real debate "what can we do about it" ?

Unlike the Northern Atlantic countries, where changes in ocean salinity and currents can lead to substantially colder temperatures in areas, Australia has no major oceanic thermal currents to complicate the issue, which means that the information can be summed up quickly and clearly.

Some of the main points :

Since 1960 the mean temperature in Australia has increased by about 0.7 °C. The long term trend in temperature is clear, but there is still substantial year to year variability of about plus/minus 0.5 °C.
Some areas have experienced a warming of 1.5 to 2 ºC over the last 50 years. Warming has occurred in all seasons, however the strongest warming has occurred in spring (about 0.9 °C) and the weakest in summer (about 0.4 °C).

Remember all those people going on about how Global Warming stopped from 2000 - 2009 ? Here's what was going on down here at that time :

* The number of days with record hot temperatures has increased each decade over the past 50 years.
* There have been fewer record cold days each decade
* 2000 to 2009 was Australia’s warmest decade on record

Please note the line skyrocking up in 2009, showing just how extreme last year's heatwave was, historically.

This is the one that should concern Australians the most. :

This is a map of changing rainfall patterns across Australia. The areas showing the decrease in South West and South Eastern Australia correspond with the main primary production areas of high-performing farmland (Yellow, orange, bright pink and black in the older image below)

<super>(Note: This image was not in the report released today, it was included to provide background information on farmland use in Australia)</super>

The last page contains some plainly-written text summarising the issues facing Australia :

What this means.
Australia will be hotter in coming decades
Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 0.6 to 1.5 ºC by 2030. If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current levels, warming is projected to be in the range of 2.2 to 5.0 ºC by 2070. Warming is projected to be lower near the coast and in Tasmania and higher in central and north-western Australia. These changes will be felt through an increase in the number of hot days.

Much of Australia will be drier in coming decades
In Australia compared to the period 1981-2000, decreases in rainfall are likely in the decades to come in southern areas of Australia during winter, in southern and eastern areas during spring, and in south-west Western Australia during autumn. An increase in the number of dry days is expected across the country, but it is likely that there will be an increase in intense rainfall events in many areas.

It is very likely that human activities have caused most of the global warming observed since 1950
There is greater than 90% certainty that increases in greenhouse gas emissions have caused most of the global warming since the mid-20th century. International research shows that it is extremely unlikely that the observed warming could be explained by natural causes alone. Evidence of human influence has been detected in ocean warming, sea-level rise, continental-average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns. CSIRO research has shown that higher greenhouse gas levels are likely to have caused about half of the winter rainfall reduction in south-west Western Australia.

Climate change is real
Our observations clearly demonstrate that climate change is real. CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will continue to provide observations and research so that Australia’s responses are underpinned by science of the highest quality.

The Australian CSIRO and the BOM have decided to nail their colours to the mast in the ongoing battle against Climate Change denialists, and I think they should be congratulated and encouraged.

Originally posted to oznick on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 04:16 PM PDT.

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