This story originally appeared in in The Guardian and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Record heat and drought across Australia have provided the worst conditions in the country since at least 2000 with, according to a new report entitled Australia's Environment river rivers, trees and wildlife are being hit to an "unprecedented extent". The Australian Environmental Conditions Index reached 0.8 out of 10 in 2019, the worst result of all years analyzed since 2000.
The year saw unprecedented brush fire, record heat, very low soil moisture, low vegetation growth and 40 additions to the list of endangered species.
The lead author of the report, Albert van Dijk of the Fenner School of Environment and Society of the Australian National University, told The Guardian that 201
"This is not the new normal – this is getting worse," he said, adding that in 2019 there was a "continuing descent into an increasingly bleak future". You can see how ecosystems fall apart and then find it difficult to recover before the next major disruption. “
The report evaluated environmental conditions using seven indicators: flooding, current flow, vegetation growth, leaf area, soil protection, tree cover and number of hot days. In all years examined, 2005 was the next worst year to be affected by the millennium drought. 2010 was the best; It was also one of the wettest in Australia ever recorded.
Van Dijk said the cause of the 2019 impact is global warming and the natural variability of the Australian climate. The number of days above 35 degrees Celsius was 36 percent higher than in the past 19 years.
The country's population continued to grow and greenhouse gas emissions remained high, the report said. Greenhouse gas emissions per person were 11 percent below the 2000 to 18 average, but remained among the highest in the world due to the high energy consumption per person and the burning of coal for electricity.
The results were underpinned by approximately 1 million gigabytes of data, including satellite data that was only available in 2000, as well as field data and field surveys.
The report looked at the number of eyeglass foxes – one of many species prone to eyeglass heat stress – had dropped from an average of 100,000 before 2016 to 47,000. The number of endangered species has increased by 36 percent since 2000, the report said.
River rivers were 43 percent below the 2000-18 average, which resulted in water reservoirs. The Murray-Darling Basin and wetlands also had record-high flooding. The river rivers on the coast of North Queensland, near Karratha in Western Australia and in Strahan in western Tasmania were above average.
The protection of the soil by vegetation and moisture was "extremely bad" and caused dust storms. Average soil moisture was also the lowest since at least 2000 and agricultural productivity was affected.
The Great Barrier Reef, which was experiencing its third mass bleaching event in five years, could not be bleached in 2019, but its condition remains poor.
The Gondwana rainforests, the Blue Mountains, the Alpine regions, the eastern Gippsland and the Kangaroo Island, all of which are World Heritage Sites, have all been hit hard by bush fires.
Marta Yebra, co-author of the report, said: “Our data clearly show that the combination of dry forests and hot weather led to a particularly explosive mixture. “
All results and data of the report, which is already in its fifth year, can be viewed on a website and an interactive map.
More Great WIRED Stories