Newcastle has sweltered through its hottest spell on record over the past three years, while the earth reached its warmest average temperature in 2015, statistics show.
Weather records at Nobbys show 2013 to 2015 were the hottest years ever, with average annual temperatures of about 22 degrees.
These years had the highest annual temperatures since use of standard weather instruments began in 1906, Weatherwatch meteorologist Don White said.
“The world is definitely warming and has been for quite a few decades,” Mr White said.
Nobbys was the best barometer for temperature in the Hunter because it had the longest records, he said.
Across the world, the average temperature “over land and ocean surfaces for 2015 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880”, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released on Thursday said.
Dr Andy Hogg, a fellow at the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said: “The surprise with this year’s data is not that it is the warmest year ever, but that it is such a huge jump in temperatures”.
Dr Geoff Carey, of the Australian National University, said studies show global warming was associated with more severe bushfires.
“Later this century, a warmer climate could cause a doubling of severe to catastrophic fire danger days.”
The weather data came as the Hunter sweltered on Thursday, with a top of 37.1 degrees in Lake Macquarie.
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NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said it was “urgent that we take the strongest actions to address climate change”.
Dr Faruqi said there was no binding agreement at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
“People in individual countries have to take things into their own hands,” Dr Faruqi said.
This meant lobbying governments for “policies necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change”.
“In Australia, this means no more coal mines, phasing out coal and a swift and large-scale transformation to renewable energy,” she said.
Environmental philosopher and scholar Glenn Albrecht said the globe’s 11 warmest years on record had occurred since 1998.
Professor Albrecht said 2015 was “already locked in as the hottest on record”.
He said Nobbys was consistent with Australia-wide data of 2013 to 2015 being “the three hottest years on record”.
“Everywhere’s getting hotter, everywhere’s breaking records,” he said.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released on January 11, said “human influence on the climate system is clear”.
“The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” it said.
“We have the means to limit climate change and build a more prosperous, sustainable future.”
Professor Albrecht took some hope that the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris produced a global consensus to tackle the problem, despite the lack of firm commitments.
He said climate change was “getting worse every day we don’t do something about it”.
“The world has to decarbonise rapidly,” he said.
Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, of the University of NSW’s Climate Research Centre, said heatwaves were becoming more frequent and intense “particularly in southern Australia and that includes coastal areas like Newcastle and Sydney”.
Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick said studies showed violence increased when people were “hot and bothered”.
Heat and humidity were known anecdotally to cause psychological distress, a condition dubbed “mango madness” in Darwin, she said.
Hunter agriculture expert Cameron Archer said climate change was a “pressing problem that needs to be addressed”.
“We need to reduce emissions and agriculture will have to develop technology and systems to adapt,” Dr Archer said.
Mr White said global warming was “a proven fact worldwide”.
Where discussion could occur, he said, was around “whether the causes are totally manmade or natural or anything else”.
“Personally, I believe man is causing it because changes on a geological scale are far more rapid than anything we could contemplate ever before,” he said.
Evidence showed that “carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at an alarming rate”.
“The only reason it’s increasing is man is putting more into it,” he said.
Mr White said only six months of the last 36 months at Nobbys had been below average.
He said the last year that annual temperatures were below average at Nobbys was 2008 and before that 1999.
“Normally you’d expect 50 per cent of years above average and 50 per cent below average – like tossing a coin,” he said.
“In 2015 at Nobbys, 10 of the 12 months were warmer than average.
“It’s like tossing a coin 12 times and getting 10 heads.”
Mr White said the above-average temperature trends of the last few years were expected to continue.
“Broadly speaking we’re expecting this year to be warm,” Mr White said.