Director Greg Ayers says a century's worth of climate records show definitive evidence that the weather patterns are shifting and the planet is warming. There are more extremely hot days, fewer cold wet ones and the scientific observations confirm it's happening now. His comments follow similar remarks from Australia's peak scientific organisation, the CSIRO, in support of climate change science.
Presenter: Sarah Clarke
Speaker: Greg Ayers, Director of the Bureau of Meteorology
GREG AYERS: Well, when we look back over the last 50 years or so and look at the succeeding decade as we roll forward, what we see in the climate records that's been produced by the Bureau, which is based on very high quality measurements at a range of stations across the country, we see increasing temperatures, a trend to increasing temperatures from decade to decade.
We also see shifts in patterns of rainfall with the drying in the East and the South and the West of the continent. But we see other things as well. There is an increase in temperature in the surface oceans around Australia as well that goes hand in hand with the, the surface temperature increases over the continent and there's also an increase in sea level, a rise in sea level.
So all of those things together, simply observed changes in the regional climate.
SARAH CLARKE: So, if we continue down this path, what does this translate to in the future, if we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, what kind of temperatures and what kind of Australian climate could we be looking at?
GREG AYERS: Well, I think those sorts of projections forward have been handled by CSIRO so it's important that you go to them for that sort of fuller projection. The point that I'd make is that the Bureau has been doing these measurements over the Australian continent in the regions for more than a 100 years and so what we're seeing is strong evidence of change over the last five decades in particular. And it's, it's the observed change that I want to focus on.
SARAH CLARKE: Is then the evidence of climate change in Australia, in your eyes, unquestionable?
GREG AYERS: Well, it's in the record. I'd recognise there's quite a thirst for information at the moment about whether our climate's changing and if it's changing and what ways. Well, we provide this high quality observational database and perhaps Australians aren't aware that it's available and we'd like them to know it's available so that they can delve into it themselves.
SARAH CLARKE: Are you concerned then, of recent times, the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as CSIRO, have copped some criticism on climate change and on the evidence that you're revealing. Has this concerned you?
GREG AYERS: Oh, I'm not so sure that's, that that's important here because we're talking about the observed climate record that the Bureau's been amassing, as I said for 100 years, and it's the, it's the information that's there and the observations that I think is important for people to look into.
So, if there are people who feel that the climate is or isn't changing, we've got the evidence that they can go and check to, to see whether or not their interpretation is borne out by the observations.
SARAH CLARKE: And would the Bureau have the best and most solid database when it comes to temperature records?
GREG AYERS: For the Australian region, we have around 100 climate reference stations, as we call them, where we pay a great deal of attention to doing the best possible measurements, making sure that there's quality assurance on the way the data is brought in and then used.
And I'm very pleased to be able to say that our climate record in Australia is as good or better than any comparable record anywhere in the world.
So, I think the Australian public can take considerable comfort from the fact that when they look at the information available to them, in our country, that information is very high quality.
SARAH CLARKE: But what's your reading of the debate that's currently being played out in Australia and around the world about whether or not climate change even exists?
GREG AYERS: Well, the existence of climate change from the Bureau's perspective just goes back to what we've observed and if you see over a 50 year period, if we just look back over the last 50 years, and that's a great time period. It sort of relates to me and my life, we can see that each decade, across the continent, has increased every decade. Every successive decade for the last five has been warmer than the previous one and that's just a very clear signal.
So, if people want to make judgements about whether anything's changing or not, I think that's the really important point for me to make: that there is information available, not speculation, this observed, high quality information and people should go and look at that and make their own judgements accordingly.
SARAH CLARKE: Are you worried that the science is being lost or certainly the scientific foundation and evidence is being lost in this debate?
GREG AYERS: The evidence based, as I said, I'll keep coming back to it. It's very, very strong, it's very robust and it's important for me to make the emphasis that that's the case so that people can take discussions and arguments off in all sorts of directions. But for me, I want to bring it right back to that evidence based, that's what the Bureau does, that's what we're here for and that's what we're delivering to the Australian public.