Australia's top government-appointed climate commissioner says this week's heat wave is occurring amid record-breaking weather around the world. "This has been a landmark event for me," professor Tim Flannery told Climate Desk from his home in Melbourne. "When you start breaking records, and you do it consistently, and you see it over and over again, that is a good indication there's a shift underway -- this is not just within the normal variation of things."
Flannery is perhaps best known in the U.S. for his 2005 book The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change; down under, he was named Australian of the Year in 2007, and appointed chief climate commissioner in 2011 by the current Labor government, which tasked him with communicating climate science to the Australian public (a government-funded job that may well sound unimaginable to American readers).
Flannery says the harsh weather is a sign of things to come: "What we've seen is the bell curve shift to the hot end. The number of very hot days is increasing quite dramatically. But we're also encroaching on entirely new territory."
That new territory involves record-breaking temperatures. The number of consecutive days where the national average maximum temperature topped 102.2 degrees F (39 degrees C) was broken in the last week, almost doubling the previous record set in 1973. There are now new first- and third-place winners for highest temperatures on Australia's books, too. The number of record high temperatures has outstripped the number of record low temperatures at a 3-to-1 ratio over the last decade, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.