Australia records third-warmest year in 2014

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Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Experts said greenhouse gases were almost certainly to blame for the higher temperatures

Australia has recorded its third-warmest calendar year since national records began in 1910, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says.

Frequent heatwaves and a marked reduction in cold weather characterised 2014, the Bureau said.

Mean temperatures were 0.91C above the long-term average in 2014, the BOM said.

The news comes as South Australia is facing some of the worst bushfires in the region in decades.

Firefighters are battling to contain a major blaze in the hills behind the city of Adelaide before forecast soaring temperatures and strong winds fuel it further.

Media caption, Soaring temperatures and strong winds fan flames in South Australia

The South Australian government has confirmed 38 homes, 125 outbuildings and four businesses have been destroyed or badly damaged so far.

About 150 people have suffered injuries, including many firefighters suffering from smoke inhalation.

Thousands of customers of internet company iiNet found themselves offline for about six and a half hours on Monday night after the company shut down some of its systems at its Perth data centre because of high temperatures.

Temperatures in Perth reached 44.4C on Monday, according to Fairfax-owned weather service Weatherzone. That made it the hottest January day on record in Australia since 1991, when the temperatures reached 45.8C.

Image source, AFP
Image caption, Experts warn that higher temperatures have left Australia more susceptible to bushfires

"Due to record breaking temperatures, iiNet Toolbox, Email and our corporate websites are unavailable. Apologies for any inconvenience caused," iiNet tweeted.

Average rainfall

The high temperatures of 2014 came after the warmest year on record in 2013, which was 1.2C warmer than average, according to the bureau.

BOM's Assistant Director for Climate Information Services, Neil Plummer, said Spring 2014 was also the warmest on record in Australia.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Players at the 2014 Australian Open faced extreme hot weather

Nationally, Australian temperatures have warmed by about one degree since 1950, and the continued warmth in 2014 adds to this long-term warming trend, it said.

The BOM said that rainfall for Australia as a whole was near average for the year, with 478mm, but southern Queensland and northeastern New South Wales continued to suffer very dry weather.

Recent research has tied these recent heat extremes to climate change, said Dr Sopie Lewis of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University.

"We had our hottest spring on record in 2013 and again in 2014, and these extremes were at least 30 times more likely because of human influences, such as greenhouse gases," said Dr Lewis.

"The report shows that recent extreme heat in Australia is also consistent with global conditions. All of the 10 warmest years recorded have occurred since 1998 and it is likely that 2014 will be the hottest year globally," she said.

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