Another hot, dry year for Canberra and more of the same to come

Joel Patton, of Woden, swings over the Murrumbidgee River as he tries to cool off in January. Photo: Jeffrey Chan A late start to the ski season brought some winter snow to the Brindabellas in June. Photo: Melissa Adams
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Canberrans sweated through another hot, dry year in 2014, which weather-watchers say was the ACT’s seventh warmest on record.

The city also had an equal record of three days in which the temperature reached 40 degrees or more – all in January.

The Bureau of Meteorology will not release its official annual review until next week though the trends are already apparent.

The ACT’s total rainfall this year (569 millimetres) was only 8 per cent less than the annual average, but almost a fifth of that fell in a very wet December.

And whereas the year was neither as hot nor dry as record-breaking 2013, Weatherzone meteorologist Rob Sharpe said Canberrans should brace for more heat in coming months.

“Looking ahead, across January and February, we’re expecting warmer than average temperatures as the most likely scenario,” Mr Sharpe said.

“It’s also slightly more likely that it will be drier than usual.”

 

The bureau says there is a 70 per cent chance that 2015 will be an El Nino year, which in Australia is associated with droughts, high temperatures and bushfires, particularly across the eastern and southern states.

Mr Sharpe said “we’re teetering on the edge” of declaring the climate event.

“We’re experiencing what we call El Nino-like conditions. It’s pretty much an El Nino but not officially. And that generally means we’re likely to see drier than usual conditions here in the east.

“But the other factor working against that is we have warmer sea surface temperatures off the coast at the moment. Because of that, you see more evaporation than usual, and therefore you have more moisture in the atmosphere.

“That’s a fairly large reason why we’ve seen a wetter than usual December throughout NSW, with a lot of thunderstorms.”

Earlier this month, the ACT government released the first detailed projections of how climate change was likely to affect the Canberra region.

The joint NSW-ACT project found the city would experience hotter summers, drier springs and a significant increase in severe fire-weather days.

The warming trend projected for Canberra was worse than that projected for NSW regions.

Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the modelling provided “a very clear and stark warning about what our future will be”.

“This is a marked change in our city’s climate, in our region’s climate and the implications are far reaching.”

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, which publishes The Canberra Times.