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Australia sweltered through its 4th-hottest year in 2020

Australia sweltered through its 4th-hottest year in 2020

In this Feb 1, 2020, file photo, a fire burns in the grass near Bumbalong, south of the Australian capital, Canberra. (File photo: AP/Rick Rycroft)

CANBERRA: Australia sweltered through its fourth-hottest year on record last year despite the recent return of the usually cooling La Nina climate pattern, the nation’s weather bureau said on Friday (Jan 8).

The wetter-than-average 2020 followed Australia’s hottest and driest year in 2019 that came to a catastrophic conclusion with wildfires fuelled by drought that killed at least 33 people, destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed 19 million hectares.

In this Jan 23, 2020, file photo, firefighters battle the Morton Fire as it burns a home near Bundanoon, Australia. (File photo: AP/Noah Berger) Australia Climate

Globally, 2020 is likely to be recognised as the world’s third-hottest on record once climate data for December is calculated, Bureau of Meteorology head of climate operations Andrew Watkins said.

READ: Australian 'lives and homes' at risk as fire nears Perth

La Nina, the cooler flip side of the better known El Nino, was declared in the Pacific Ocean in September. La Nina occurs when equatorial trade winds become stronger, changing ocean surface currents and drawing up cooler deep water.

In this Jan 23, 2020, file photo, flames from the Morton Fire consume a home near Bundanoon, Australia. (File photo: AP/Noah Berger) Australia Climate

Watkins said the La Nina cycle usually sets in between March and May, but the weather pattern did not impact Australia’s temperatures until October.

READ: Commentary: A decade of climate change has had devastating impact. But there’s hope yet

“You could say that the fourth-warmest year on record is our warmest La Nina year,” Watkins said.

“But this year started very hot and dry and ended more like La Nina. So it’s arguable whether you’d say it was really influenced for enough of the year to expect it to be cooler,” he added.

In this Jan 8, 2020, file photo, a firefighter backs away from the flames after lighting a controlled burn near Tomerong, Australia, in an effort to contain a larger fire nearby. (File photo: AP/Rick Rycroft) Australia Climate

The hottest temperature in Australia for 2020 was 48.9 degrees Celsius, recorded at the height of the wildfire emergency at Penrith in the state of New South Wales on Jan 4. It was the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Sydney area.

Australia’s other hottest years were 2013 and 2005.

READ: Commentary: Days of cool weather do not negate climate change’s destructive impact

Australia’s daily temperature was 1.15 degrees Celsius above average last year, and rainfall was 4 per cent above average despite a parched start to the year.

Source: AP/kg

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