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Sierra Daily

Jan 09, 2013

Turning Purple

Australia temperature mapHot enough for ya? In 2012 the U.S. set a heat record and Australia’s hottest spring and summer on record has turned that country purple. Facing forecast temperatures that were literally off the charts, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology recently added new color bands to its forecast maps. The old maps went only as high as 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). The new ones go to 54 degrees Celsius (129 degrees Fahrenheit), adding the colors pink and deep purple.

Australia’s average temperature on Tuesday was 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), the highest since record-keeping began in 1911. “This is the largest heat event in the country's history," David Jones, manager of climate monitoring prediction at the agency told the New York Times.

The 100-plus wildfires raging in Australia have grown so large that they are visible in images taken by the International Space Station, frustrating climate experts who note that extreme weather events like punishing drought are exactly what we should expect with long term climate change. “We are well past the time of niceties, of avoiding the dire nature of what is unfolding, and politely trying not to scare the public,” Liz Hanna, convener of the human health division at the Australian National University’s Climate Change Adaptation Network, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The U.S. heat record in 2012 beat the next highest year, 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit. "These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate," Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told Associated Press. "And they are costing many billions of dollars."

Image from Australian Bureau of Meteorology

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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