2013 was declared the hottest year on record in Australia and the ongoing heat in 2014 has claimed some surprising casualties.
The blistering heat in southern Queensland, with temperatures in the mid-40s C, has killed 100,000 bats in the last week.
At least 25 separate colonies of flying foxes experienced mass deaths, with the carcasses lying in heaps beneath the trees in which the creatures roost.
An RSPCA spokesperson said, “The heatwave was basically a catastrophe for all the bat colonies in southeastern Australia. That’s obviously going to have a pretty disturbing impact on those colonies and those colonies are vital to our ecosystem”
It is not just Queensland which has experienced sweltering heat in the last 12 months. The country’s Bureau of Meteorology reports that virtually the entire country experienced ‘above average’ temperatures, with much of South Australia, southern Western Australia, the eastern Northern Territory and western Queensland having the highest annual average temperature on record.
The heat began early in 2013, with January being the hottest since records began in 1910. Both spring and summer were record-breaking seasons as was the month of September.
The heat has continued into 2014, with temperatures already approaching record levels. On 2 January, Moomba, South Australia recorded 49.3C and on the following day Walgett, in New South Wales, hit a state record of 49.1C.
One of the reasons for the extreme heat is the unusually warm seas around the country, reaching record temperatures through the Great Australian Bight.
With changes in sea temperatures occurring only slowly, it is likely that high temperatures, with attendant problems such as bushfires, will be facing Australia’s bushlife and human populations alike in the coming months.