CLIMATE CHANGE: 2019 was officially the hottest and driest year on record for Australia. Photo: Erin Smith
CLIMATE CHANGE: 2019 was officially the hottest and driest year on record for Australia. Photo: Erin Smith

CLIMATE: Worst year yet for Lockyer Valley, data reveals

AUSTRALIA has survived its hottest, driest year on record, according to new data released this week by the Bureau of Meteorology.

The Annual Climate Statement 2019 paints a grim picture of the year that has been, with protracted drought conditions and warm temperatures, capped at both ends by periods of extreme heat.

Bureau of Meteorology Head of Climate Monitoring Dr Karl Braganza said the warm, dry conditions were a major contributor to the ongoing bushfire crisis.

“2019 was consistently warm, but it was book-ended by periods of extreme heat,” Dr Braganza said.

“January last year was the warmest month Australia has ever recorded, while just a few weeks ago in December, we saw the Australia-wide record hottest daily average maximum temperature broken multiple days in a row.”

The enduring lack of rain has also had a profound impact on the situation.

“Rainfall deficiencies across large parts of eastern Australia have continued to increase, unfortunately exacerbating both drought conditions and the current bushfires,” Dr Braganza said.

The average rainfall total in 2019 was 277mm, the all-time lowest since consistent national records began in 1900.

The Bureau of Meteorology gathers its data from a network of over 700 recording stations positioned throughout the country, which send in data twice or more each day.

One of these stations can be found at University of Queensland campus at Gatton, and has been actively recording data since 1897.

Graph charting average temperature highs in the Gatton area for the past 30 years.
Graph charting average temperature highs in the Gatton area for the past 30 years.

The median data from these recordings is grouped in 30-year periods, revealing the average highest temperatures and overall rainfall values from these decades.

  • 1901-1930 – average temp. 31.6, rain 725.1
  • 1911-1940 – average temp. 31.7, rain 719.1
  • 1921-1950 – average temp. 31.7, rain 777.6
  • 1931-1960 – average temp. 31.6, rain 808.9
  • 1941-1970 – average temp. 31.4, rain 839.7
  • 1951-1980 – average temp. 31.2, rain 828.3
  • 1961-1990 – average temp. 31.1, rain 839.4
  • 1971-2000 – average temp. 31.3, rain 789.1
  • 1981-2010 – average temp. 31.9, rain 742.2
  • 1991-2020 – average temp. 32.4, rain 674.2

The data reveals the profound impacts of climate change in the Lockyer Valley, with temperatures steadily increasing since around the 1960s, with rainfall decreasing since the same time.

This effect has been even more profound in the last ten years.

“The other key factor at play is that Australia’s climate has warmed by more than a degree since 1910, which means very warm years like 2019 are now more likely to occur, while the trend in recent decades has been for drier winter and spring seasons in the south,” Dr Braganza said.

“It’s important the community remains vigilant to the risk of more heat and fire days this summer, particularly given how dry the country has been over the past 12 months.”


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