cover image: Climate Whiplash: Wild swings between weather extremes


Climate Whiplash: Wild swings between weather extremes

8 Feb 2024

In late October 2023, after three years of above average rainfall had given way to El Niño and Australia’s driest three months on record, fires in the Western Downs Region of southeast Queensland destroyed more homes than were lost in that state in the infamous 2019-20 Black Summer fires. Just weeks later, nearby weather stations were registering their highest November rainfall on record, and December saw southeast Queensland hammered by extreme downpours and reeling from billions of dollars in flood damages. January has delivered severe and extreme heatwave conditions at times, as well as flooding rains. Some have described the summer so far as one of whiplash – being hurtled violently from one extreme to another. Such experiences are not confined to Queensland, Australia’s most disaster-prone state. Communities throughout our eastern states, including Victoria and New South Wales, have similarly experienced wild swings between scorching heat and fire risk to intense downpours and flash floods, and back again. In a rapidly changing climate, history may no longer be our best guide for what’s next. Our weather is noticeably more chaotic, unpredictable and dangerous.1 Climate drivers – recurring phenomena such as El Niño/La Niña, the Southern Annular Mode, and the Indian Ocean Dipole – may be interacting in complex new ways. Rising ocean temperatures are affecting rainfall patterns. Extreme events are becoming worse, more common, and less predictable. We are poorly prepared for these changes, and still doing far too little to tackle the root cause of the climate crisis: pollution from the relentless burning of coal, oil and gas In this interim report, the Climate Council presents some key observations from the summer so far. What have we learned? What has surprised our experts? What has it taught us about our changing climate, and how we need to respond?
climate weather


Simon Bradshaw, Lesley Hughes, Greg Mullins, David Karoly, Joëlle Gergis, Dinah Arndt

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