Records still falling as Australian heatwave continues

Forecast maximum temperature for today.

Forecast maximum temperature for today.

By Claire

The record-breaking heatwave seen across the Australian continent is not over yet, with temperatures predicted to continue towards 40°C over the weekend. Luckily, forecast temperatures in the low 50s that forced the expansion of the scale bar earlier in the week have been downgraded.

Forecast temperatures for today are expected to top 40°C for much of northern and central Australia. 

Forecast temperatures for Queensland today.

Forecast temperatures for Queensland today.

Queensland residents are feeling the the effects of the ongoing heatwave, with Coolangatta on the Gold Coast the only place on the Queensland mainland where temperatures did not hit 30 degrees on Thursday. The temperature there was 29.4 degrees. Forecasts for the weekend show that these temperatures will continue for at least the next few days.

Fortunately, fears that the “catastrophic” fire conditions seen in the Southern Highlands and Illawarra on Tuesday would resurface today have been downgraded.  The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting west to north-westerly winds of 25 to 40km/h, gusting up to 60km/h on Saturday. That is far weaker than Tuesday, when gusts of 90 to 100km/h were recorded in Canberra.

Firefighters are still on alert, however, with a large number of fires still burning across the stage and fears that large blazes near Yass and Cooma may flare up again.

This heatwave continues to break records across Australia, with the late onset of the summer monsoon being blamed, in part, for the extreme heat.

“On Monday the average maximum daily temperature record for Australia was broken at 40.33°C. The previous record, 40.17°C on 21 December 1972, was held for 40 years. The daily average maximum temperature yesterday (8 January 2013) is a close third at 40.11°C.

“The number of consecutive days where the national average maximum daily temperature exceeded 39°C has also been broken this week—seven (7) days (between 2–8 January 2013), almost doubling the previous record of four (4) consecutive days in 1973,” said Mr Plummer, from the Bureau of Meteorology.

But how does climate change factor into this event?

As stated by Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring and prediction, David Jones, ”The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent – is unprecedented in our records. Clearly, the climate system is responding to the background warming trend. Everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.”

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