Australia Likely Just Broke Its Record for Hottest Day
Tuesday was Australia's hottest day on record, according to preliminary results from the country's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The country recorded an average maximum temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius, beating the previous average of 40.3 degrees recorded on Jan. 7, 2013.
And that record could be broken again this week as an unusually early extreme heat wave is set to bake the whole country, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported.
Senior BOM climatologist Blair Trewin said that temperatures Wednesday and Thursday could be a degree above the 2013 record.
"[It's] a really extreme event on a nationwide perspective," Trewin said, according to The Washington Post.
Preliminary results suggest that the 17th December was Australia's hottest day on record at 40.9 ºC, with the avera… https://t.co/ZhxzYmBK0I— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@Bureau of Meteorology, Australia)1576636821.0
Many different places in Australia could break their December heat records, and parts of New South Wales could break their overall heat records. Perth, in Western Australia, already set a record when it recorded three 40-degree-Celsius days in a row for the first time in December.
It got so hot in the city that resident Stu Pengelly successfully cooked a 1.5 kilogram (approximately 3.3 pound) pork roast in an old car over a 10 hour period Friday, 7 News reported.
"It worked a treat!" Pengelly said in a Facebook post.
But he also issued a warning.
"My warning is do not leave anyone or anything precious to you in a hot car, not for a minute," he wrote.
This week's heat could also make another dangerous extreme weather event worse, according to The Washington Post — the bushfires still raging in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
"There are difficult & dangerous fire conditions forecast over coming days," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said on Twitter, according to The Washington Post.
On Wednesday, BOM said that Australia had seen its highest levels of fire weather danger during spring of 2019. More than 95 percent of the country experienced above average fire danger as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index, and almost 60 percent broke fire danger records for the spring.
Both the record heat and the record fire season are made more likely by the climate crisis. September to November of 2019 marked Australia's driest and second warmest spring on record, The Guardian reported.
Overall, Australia has warmed by a little more than one degree Celsius since 1910, and nine of the country's 10 hottest years on record have taken place since 2005, BBC News reported. 2019 will likely be among the four hottest.
There is also an immediate, more localized reason for the current heat wave, as BBC News explained:
The dominant climate driver behind the heat has been a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) - an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the ocean, cooler in the east.
The difference between the two temperatures is currently the strongest in 60 years. The warmer waters cause higher-than-average rains in the western Indian Ocean region, leading to flooding, and drier conditions across South East Asia and Australia.
But the climate crisis makes natural shifts like this worse.
"Australia's climate is increasingly influenced by global warning and natural variability takes place on top of this background trend," BOM said, according to BBC News.
Climate change is also influencing the IOD itself.
"While the IOD is a natural mode of variability, its behaviour is changing in response to climate change. Research suggests that the frequency of positive IOD events, and particularly the occurrence of consecutive events will increase as global temperatures rise," BOM said, according to The Washington Post.
Despite Australia's susceptibility to climate change, it is also one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases per capita, according to BBC News. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supports coal use, has been criticized for failing to adequately address the climate crisis and the bushfires it has spawned.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.