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Global warming: Hottest summer ever Down Under

Australia, parts of Africa and South America report record-high readings

Six of the hottest ten summers on record have occurred this century, and only two occurred before 1990.

Six of the hottest ten summers on record have occurred this century, and only two occurred before 1990.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — At the start of meteorological autumn for the southern hemisphere, The Australian Bureau of Meteorology reports that the country recorded its hottest-ever summer season, breaking the 1997-1998 mark by 0.1 degrees Celsius.

The most extreme heat was in the beginning of January, when a heat wave settled across much of Australia, including Tasmania, leading to wildfires and record-high readings in parts of the country, with temperatures soaring as high as 49.6 degrees Celsius (121 degrees fahrenheit). Continue reading

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Climate: Australian heatwave sets numerous records

Global warming kicks into high gear Down Under

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Australian heatwave breaks records.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The New Year is barely a week old, but extreme weather continues, this time in the Southern hemisphere, where parts of Australia reached unprecedented high temperatures, in some cases ranging upward of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For the sake of comparison, Death Valley reported a reading of 136 degrees way back in July, 1913.

Temperatures during the recent Australian heatwave were so warm that the country’s meteorology bureau added a new color to its temperature-scale map — bright purple, designating readings of warmer than 50 degrees Celsius (129 Fahrenheit). Read the latest update from the bureau here. Continue reading

Rare egg-laying mammal may still live in Australia

Caption: The western long-beaked echidna, one of the world's five egg-laying species of mammal, was thought to be extinct in Australia. However scientists have found evidence that it may still roam the country's north-western region.Credit: Tim Laman


Caption: The western long-beaked echidna, one of the world’s five egg-laying species of mammal, was thought to be extinct in Australia. However scientists have found evidence that it may still roam the country’s north-western region.
Credit: Tim Laman

Closer look at long-lost museum specimen offers new clues into persistence of endangered echidna

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After re-examining a museum specimen of one of the world’s rarest animals, biologists said they will scour the Australian backcountry to see if they can find a living specimen of the western long-beaked echidna, one of the world’s five egg-laying mammal species.

Until recently, scientists assumed that the critically endangered echidna went extinct in Australia thousands of years ago, but the overlooked specimen in the Natural History Museum in London. was collected from the wild in northwestern Australia in 1901.

Sometimes while working in museums, I find specimens that turn out to be previously undocumented species,” said Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution, the lead author and the scientist to first report the significance of the echidna specimen. “But in many ways, finding a specimen like this, of such an iconic animal, with such clear documentation from such an unexpected place, is even more exciting.” Continue reading

Where will 2012 end up in the annals of global warming?

UK temps a hair below average, Australia warmer than normal

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For 2012 to-date, nearly the entire planet saw above average temperatures.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — While the U.S. is likely be report one of the warmest years ever recorded in 2012, not every country saw record-warmth this year.

The National Climatic Data Center will release the December 2012 and year-end temperature data this week, but several other countries have already released readings, including the UK, which saw a mean annual temperature 0.1 degrees Celsius below the 1981 to 2010 average.

Only 2 years (2010 and 2012) of the last 16 have had annual temperatures below the average. March was the 3rd warmest on record for the UK. The summer was a little warmer than 2011, but otherwise the coolest  since 1998, and it was the coolest autumn since 1993.

The UK Met Office described 2012 as a year of dramatic contrasts, warm and mild the first three months, followed by a shift to exceptionally wet weather from late spring through the summer. Continue reading

Climate: All-time record temps, wildfires in Australia

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Summer heatwave sets records in Australia.

100 homes destroyed in Tasmania

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Parts of southern Australia have recorded all-time high temperatures readings in the past few days, and the heat wave has led to numerous wildfires, including blazes in Tasmania that have destroyed about 100 homes.

Hobart, Tasmania reported a high temperature of 108 degrees Friday, the warmest reading ever on the island south of Australia, with records going back to 1880.

Temperatures across much of Australia were in the 90s and 100s during the first part of the weekend, and wildfires are also burning in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Two wet years in a row, followed by this summer’s heatwave, have combined for dangerous fire conditions, officials said. Continue reading

Southern hemisphere also seeing climate disruption

A poleward shift of the subtropical dry zone may be displacing rainfall in parts of the southern hemisphere.

Rainfall being displaced in critical areas

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As the northern hemisphere grapples with the impacts of the melting polar ice cap, the southern hemisphere is facing a different climate change issue.

A  poleward expansion of the subtropical dry-zone is probably responsible for a significant decline in autumn rainfall over southeastern Australia and may be affecting seasonal precipitation in other areas.

Since most of the world’s landmass and population is in the northern hemisphere, climate change impacts have been recognized and studied more extensively. Much of the southern hemisphere is open ocean, so there’s less good data to work with, but some research has already  suggested a southward shift in the storm tracks and weather systems during the late 20th century. Continue reading

Volcanic pumice may have key role in coral reef ecosystems

Floating rafts of pumice attract all sorts of marine life as they float across the South Pacific.

New study suggests floating rafts of pumice could help replenish reefs

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Pumice from volcanic explosions may play a previously unknown role in the formation of coral reefs, according to researchers with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Dr. Scott Bryan, a geologist at the university, led a recent study of westward flowing rafts of pumice after volcanic eruptions in Tonga in 2001 and 2006, finding that plants and tiny animals — including corals — latched onto pumice as it was swept by ocean currents towards north eastern Australia.

“The pumice raft created after the 2006 Home Reef volcano erupted in Tonga initially formed at least a 440-square-kilometer floating mass,” Bryan said. “This mass slowly broke up into streaks and millions to billions of marine organisms such as cyanobacteria, barnacles, molluscs, corals, anemones, and crabs began hitching a ride.” Continue reading

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