SCIENCE
01/09/2018 11:51 pm ET

Australia Swelters Through Third Warmest Year On Record

Seven of the country's 10 warmest years have occurred since 2005.
Franciscus Tan via Getty Images

Australia has just sweltered through its third hottest year on record, the country’s weather bureau has confirmed.

2017 was the third warmest year since records began in 1910, with a national mean temperature of 22.76 degrees Celsius (about 73 Fahrenheit), or 0.95 degree Celsius hotter than the nation’s long-term average, the Bureau of Meteorology said in its annual climate statement.

“Seven of Australia’s ten warmest years have occurred since 2005 and Australia has experienced just one cooler than average year in the last decade,” the BOM report said.

Natural climate drivers in Australia, such as El Niño ocean conditions, were neutral, and there were cooler-than-average waters to Australia’s west and warmer-than-average waters to the east of Africa during the year.

This created a strong temperature gradient across the Indian Ocean, which favored a drying influence on Australia, the report said.

“Despite the lack of an El Niño — which is normally associated with our hottest years — 2017 was still characterised by very warm temperatures,” the bureau’s head of climate monitoring, Karl Braganza, told Newscorp on Tuesday.

Sydney sweltered through its hottest day in 80 years Sunday, while in neighboring Victoria, highway bitumen melted and bushfires burned out of control.

The brutal heat wave that gripped much of Australia over the weekend took a heavy toll on wildlife, with hundreds of bats in a colony in Sydney’s southwest dropping dead. The report landed as a tropical storm gathers and is forecast to make landfall at cyclone strength in West Australia on Saturday.

Despite the scorching end to 2017, it was also Australia’s 30th-wettest year in a record spanning 117 years, the BOM report found.

The area-average total was 8 percent above the 1961-1990 average of 465.2 millimeters (about 18.3 inches).

While rainfall was up in some areas, the 2017 figure was below average for most of inland Queensland, most of New South Wales, eastern to central Victoria, and all of Tasmania.

Rainfall was below average across southern Australia during the cooler months of May to September.

Braganza told public broadcaster SBS he expected a wet three months ahead, as well as odds of favoring cooler-than-average conditions.

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