12 Jan 2013

More frequent heatwaves predicted for Australia

10:00 am on 12 January 2013

Australia is hotter than before and should prepare for more heatwaves and more severe weather, a Climate Commission report says.

In a report called Off the charts: Extreme Australian summer heat, the commission says the length, extent and severity of the present heatwave is unprecedented and shows climate change is making extreme heat and bushfires worse.

It says the impact needs to be understood to plan for more of the same.

One of the report's authors, David Karoly, says the heatwave has affected over 70% of Australia and longstanding temperature records have been broken, AAP reports.

"Although Australia has always had heatwaves, hot days and bushfires, climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heatwaves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions," Professor Karoly said in a statement.

"The baseline conditions have shifted. We live in a hotter world and the rise of more frequent and severe extreme weather has already increased."

The current conditions are unusual because of their widespread nature and duration, the report says.

Heat is a "silent killer" because small changes in the environment can have dramatic impact on the human body.

The report says if the core body temperature exceeds 38 degrees Celsius for several hours judgement and behaviour can be impaired.

Heatwaves in recent years have resulted in increased hospital admissions and death.

The Climate Commission says having a good understanding of climate change risks can ensure that action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plans are made to respond to more extreme weather.