The Northern hemisphere may be suffering from one of its coldest winters on record, with deep snow falls and ice blizzards, but Australia has been gripped by its worst drought in a century.
And the blistering heat which has scorched southern Australia proves the accuracy of warnings by scientists, according to the country’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. “All of this is consistent with climate change and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen,” she said.
Over the last few days temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees in Adelaide, which has experienced nearly a week of such temperatures. In Melbourne the temperature has stayed above 43 degrees for days. Even normally mild Hobart has been in the 40s.
You do not have this kind of heat without consequences. Over 28 people have died, leaves are falling off trees to conserve water, railway tracks are buckling and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles.
There is a slight respite coming this week, with temperatures due to drop below 40 degrees for the first time in days.
Most of the south of the country is already gripped by an unprecedented 12-year drought. The “Australian Alps” have had their driest three years ever, and the water from the vast Murray-Darling river system now fails to reach the sea 40 per cent of the time. Harvests have fallen sharply.
At the end of last week, over 10,000 homes were without power in southern Australia as the unprecedented demand for air conditioners, coupled with the heat, forced a substation to malfunction.
People in Australia are calling it a once in a 100-year event , but with climate change who knows what will happen next year? Could Australia’s already over-stretched infrastructure and services cope if it happens again?