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1/06/2008

Australian climate changing, experts say

Image: Sheep feed on a dry paddock in New South Wales, in November 2007. Australia experienced one of its hottest years on record in 2007, and climate experts have warned that the higher temperatures are likely a taste of things to come as weather patterns change. (AFP/File/Greg Wood)

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australia experienced one of its hottest years on record in 2007, and climate experts have warned that the higher temperatures are likely a taste of things to come as weather patterns change.

The country has already kicked off 2008 with a spate of extreme weather -- several cities, including Perth and Melbourne, have suffered summer heatwaves, while bushfires have raged on the east and west coasts.

Meanwhile, heavy rain has caused flooding along the east coast, huge waves have forced the closure of Sydney beaches and Cyclone Helen has brought winds of up to 130 kilometres (80 miles) an hour to the northern city of Darwin.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Thursday that Australia had experienced its sixth warmest year on record last year, with the average annual temperature of 21.8 degrees Celsius some 0.67 degrees above normal.

In the southern states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, as well as the major agricultural zone, the Murray Darling Basin, the effect was more pronounced.

These areas, which account for the majority of Australia's 21 million people and 75 percent of the country's irrigated farmland, experienced their hottest year since records began in 1910.

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