2019 officially warmest year on record

By Jared Prestwidge

THE Bureau of Meteorology’s Annual Climate Statement confirmed 2019 was Australia’s warmest and driest year on record.

Australia's mean temperature in 2019 was 1.52 °C above average, making it the warmest since consistent national temperature records began in 1910 and surpassing the previous record of 1.33 °C above average set in 2013.

The statement also calculated 2019’s national average rainfall total as 277 mm, the lowest since consistent national records began in 1900.

The previous record low was 314 mm set during the Federation drought in 1902.

For Victoria, it was the state’s fifth-warmest year on record overall with a mean temperature 1.05 °C above average.

2019 was Victoria's 10th-driest year on record, with rainfall below average and very much below average in the north and over Gippsland.

Bureau of Meteorology head of climate monitoring Karl Braganza said the record warm and dry year was one of the key factors influencing recent and current fire conditions in large parts of the country.

“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.

“At the same time, rainfall deficiencies across large parts of eastern Australia have continued to increase, unfortunately exacerbating both drought conditions and the current bushfires.”

Rainfall in the eastern states is expected to be average to below average for the coming months.

However, Dr Braganza said temperatures were likely to remain warmer than average over the rest of summer.

“Unfortunately, the outlook is not indicating a widespread return to wetter than average conditions over drought- and fire-affected parts of eastern Australia. But with the likely return of the monsoon by mid-January for northern Australia, it raises the chance that we could see some periods of higher rainfall move south in the coming months,” he 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.”