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Behind the science - our changing atmosphere

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Behind the science - climate data collection and analysis

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The Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO play an important role in monitoring, analysing and communicating observed changes in Australia’s climate.

[Animation of globe and data points]

This is our fourth State of the Climate report.

The report focuses on observations and data which show how the climate is changing.

[Animation of mountains and sea, with floating icons]

Since 1910, Australia and the surrounding oceans have warmed by around one degree.

[Graph of air and sea temperatures since 1910, with upward trend]

And whilst not every year will be warmer than the last, the overall warming trend is projected to continue.

[Animation of a line of red and blue thermometer icons with an upward trend.]

We expect fewer cool days and more hot days.

[Focus on some blue icons, then many red icons.]

Since the 1970s, there has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and the season is longer.

[Animation of green landscape with developing smoke plumes. Fire danger scale swings to extreme.]

We expect more fire weather days, especially in southern and eastern Australia.

[Animation of 4 developing smoke plumes. Fire danger scale points to extreme.]

Australian rainfall is variable, naturally swinging between very wet and dry.

[Icons alternate between blue cloud icon with rainfall, then yellow cloud icon with rainfall crossed out.]

However long-term changes in rainfall are occurring.

In the last few decades northern wet season rainfall has been very much above average.

[Rainfall map for October to April 1995-2016 shows above average rainfall for much of Western Australia, but below average in southwest Western Australia. Rainfall is above average in the Northern Territory.Rainfall is average to above average for inland and northern QUeeensland, most of Southe Australia, and inland New South Wales.Rainfall for October to April 1995-2016 is below average for southeast Queenland, southeastern New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.]

During the April to October growing season there has been an overall decline in rainfall across southern Australia, especially in the southwest.

[Rainfall map for April to October 1996-2015 shows below average rainfall in southwestern Western Australia; also in Tasmania, Victoria, adjacent South Australia and southern New South Wales. Rainfall is below average in southern Queensland except the tropical north. Drought icons are placed over southwestern Western Australia and southeast Australia.]

Southeast Australia has seen below-average rainfall in sixteen of the past twenty growing seasons.

We expect winter rainfall across parts of southern Australia to decrease, with more time spent in drought.

[Animation of green field of wheat turning brown.]

The oceans around Australia have warmed and there is an increased level of acidity.

We expect these trends to continue.

[Animation of fish under the sea, with increasing pH symbols and downward arrow.]

Sea levels have risen globally and around Australia, and are projected to rise further in the future.

[Graph of global mean sea level anomalies, with upward trend.]

For more information, and to understand more about our changing climate, visit our websites.

[Websites are and ]

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Behind the science - our changing atmosphere

I'm Paul Fraser, and I have been working with CSIRO in the greenhouse gas team since 1974.

We were one of the first non-American laboratories to take up that idea of measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, to try and understand where it's coming from.

[Images of a man removing and replacing metal flasks in a laboratory.]

The CSIRO greenhouse gas network consists of about 10 to 15 stations around the world. At those stations, air is collected regularly and put into flasks, and they're shipped back to our laboratory here at Aspendale, and that's where we do the analysis of all the greenhouse gases, on those samples.

[Images of instruments on a cliff top. Images of a man tightening seals around glass pipes in a laboratory.]

The science has evolved significantly at a number of levels. We can measure many, many more greenhouse gases now than we could in the 1970's, and we can measure them much more accurately.

[Images of pipes and taps, a man, and a machine that draws a graph.]

There are a number of versions of carbon dioxide, and they're made up of different carbon - what we call carbon 12, carbon 13 & carbon 14. When we get carbon dioxide coming from fossil fuels, it has no carbon 14 CO2. So by making these measurements of carbon dioxide - not only concentration, but the isotopic composition - we are able to tell whether the carbon comes from the ocean, from the biosphere from plants, or from fossil fuels. And the end result is, we have proved with these records, that the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is essentially driven by the burning of fossil fuels.

[Animation of a graph from 1880 to 2015 of CO2 flux from fossil fuels and industry, also from land use change. Land use change rises slightly; fossil fuels and industry rises rapidly from 1950 onward. The label says: CO2 emissions continue to rise and re mainly from fossil fuel burning.]

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Behind the science - climate data collection and analysis

I'm Blair Trewin. I'm a climate scientist with the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne, and I work with long-term observed historic datasets.

The Bureau has been a world leader in the development of long-term climate datasets. There are many areas where we've been a pioneer, especially daily datasets which are suitable for analysing extremes.

[Images of meteorological instruments]

The Bureau has about 700 sites around Australia that record temperatures every day, and about 6000 sites that report rainfall.

[Blair opens a door to check the temperature; later lifts up the rain guage.]

The monitoring of weather is very important in helping us understand the long-term climate. We can see how what's happening now fits into the context of what's happened historically.

[Images of weather in country locations]

Well, we've seen some things happen in recent years which are outside the range of historical experience, and especially with temperature. We've seen that 2013 was Australia's hottest year on record. We've seen heatwaves where records have been set in many parts of the country.

[Images in the city in action e.g. trams, people walking around in summer clothes, one person sheltering under a shirt on her head.]

There's a clear warming trend for temperature over the last 50 to 100 years, particularly the last 50, over virtually all of Australia. And what we've seen in the last few years is well outside the range of the variability we saw before that.

[Images of a dry landscape, also the sun]

[Animation of a temperature graph since 1910 with an upward trend. The label says: Australia has warmed by around 1°C since 1910.]

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