The Bureau of Meteorology has declared 2019 the warmest and driest year on record for Australia.
The BoM made the call as part of its Annual Climate Statement, presented on Thursday morning, calling last year our hottest year with a mean temperature of 1.52 degrees Celsius above average.
Australia’s national average rainfall total was just 277mm – the lowest recorded ever.
The Bureau’s head of climate monitoring Dr Karl Braganza said the concerning signs pointed towards increased
"For maximum temperatures, it was a larger departure. It was plus two degrees. So that is the first time we have seen an anomaly that's two degrees above average and about half a degree warmer than the previous record,” he said.
The BoM says rising temperatures and less rainfall is linked to increased bushfire risk. Source: AAP
“We also saw the six hottest days on record peaking at 41.9 and that is temperature averaged over the whole continent.
“I think we saw 11 such days where the national daily temperature went over 40 degrees this summer and that is really quite stark."
Nation-wide, Australia is experiencing catastrophic bushfires conditions with dangerous blazes burning in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The BoM report said the link between the fires and record low rainfall and increased temperatures was clear.
"We were lucky last summer that we didn't get the sort of fire activity that we've seen this year. But this year we weren't so lucky,” Dr Braganza said.
The report also revealed that evidence pointing to the unprecedented duration of this season's bushfire became clear two years ago.
“So certainly the combination of extended drought, very low soil moistures in some regions, drier fuels, higher temperatures on most of the outlooks and no meaningful rainfall meant that we had quite early indications that the fire season was likely to be, or include, quite frequent severe fire weather," Dr Braganza said.
The National Farmers' Federation said the record warm temperatures are severely impacting the livelihoods of farmers.
A recent climate change march in Sydney.
“The conditions in 2019 really turned what were tough conditions into almost unbearable conditions for some farmers,” general manager of NFF’s trade and economics department Pru Gordon said.
She said many farmers are facing as many as six years of no income.
"So we're just seeing really a tipping point for a lot of farmers where the drought has so far impacted them really significantly, but we're finding a lot are hitting a crisis point.”
Western Australian and the Northern Territory are both experiencing changing weather conditions, with cyclones hitting both regions.
But, climate scientist Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University's Fenner School of Environment and Society said that won't be enough to solve the dry and fire-prone conditions.
The year 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest on record. Source: AAP
"We can't actually count on cyclones pulling us out of this mess. In general, they don't have a strong influence on the south-east of the continent," he said.
"We depend, particularly in the cool seasons on fronts coming off the southern ocean and we know that those are very likely affected by climate change.”
While it is still early in the new year, Dr Braganza said it is unlikely the weather conditions are going to improve.
"There's nothing really indicating things will cool down too much over the next few months. We are starting to see some signs that the monsoon is starting to get active.
"At this point I think I'd optimistically say less dry rather than wet if that makes sense so I don't think we're seeing an indication that we'll see significant above-average rainfall."
He said the science is clear on a link between a warming climate and Australia's bushfire season over the years.
University students for the Climate Justice group are set to protest on Friday to demand more action on climate change as the country continues to battle dangerous bushfire conditions.