This chapter was contributed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (August 2009).
Australia is the lowest, flattest and, apart from Antarctica, the driest of the continents. The first part of this chapter describes Australia’s landforms and their history in terms of how they were formed. The second part discusses Australia’s wide range of climate conditions.
The island continent of Australia features a wide range of climatic zones, from the tropical regions of the north, through the arid expanses of the interior, to the temperate regions of the south. Australia experiences many of nature’s more extreme phenomena; including droughts, floods, tropical cyclones, severe storms, bushfires, and the occasional tornado. Each of these phenomena is discussed in this chapter.
Temperatures in Australia were relatively stable from 1910 to 1950. Since then both minimum and maximum temperatures have shown an increasing trend, with an overall increase from 1910 to 2009 of approximately 0.8°C. The acceleration in the warming trend that has occurred from the late–20th century has been largely attributed to the enhanced greenhouse effect.
This chapter contains the article The exceptional heatwave of January - February 2009 in south-eastern Australia.