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Australia Likely Just Broke Its Record for Hottest Day

Climate
A landscape northwest of Sydney on Dec. 18, 2019, burned by recent Australian bushfires. SAEED KHAN / AFP via Getty Images

Tuesday was Australia's hottest day on record, according to preliminary results from the country's Bureau of Meteorology (BOM). The country recorded an average maximum temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius, beating the previous average of 40.3 degrees recorded on Jan. 7, 2013.


And that record could be broken again this week as an unusually early extreme heat wave is set to bake the whole country, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported.

Senior BOM climatologist Blair Trewin said that temperatures Wednesday and Thursday could be a degree above the 2013 record.

"[It's] a really extreme event on a nationwide perspective," Trewin said, according to The Washington Post.

Many different places in Australia could break their December heat records, and parts of New South Wales could break their overall heat records. Perth, in Western Australia, already set a record when it recorded three 40-degree-Celsius days in a row for the first time in December.

It got so hot in the city that resident Stu Pengelly successfully cooked a 1.5 kilogram (approximately 3.3 pound) pork roast in an old car over a 10 hour period Friday, 7 News reported.

"It worked a treat!" Pengelly said in a Facebook post.

But he also issued a warning.

"My warning is do not leave anyone or anything precious to you in a hot car, not for a minute," he wrote.

Heat waves are the deadliest Australian extreme weather event and they kill thousands more people than bushfires or floods, BBC News reported.

This week's heat could also make another dangerous extreme weather event worse, according to The Washington Post — the bushfires still raging in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

"There are difficult & dangerous fire conditions forecast over coming days," the New South Wales Rural Fire Service said on Twitter, according to The Washington Post.

On Wednesday, BOM said that Australia had seen its highest levels of fire weather danger during spring of 2019. More than 95 percent of the country experienced above average fire danger as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index, and almost 60 percent broke fire danger records for the spring.

Both the record heat and the record fire season are made more likely by the climate crisis. September to November of 2019 marked Australia's driest and second warmest spring on record, The Guardian reported.

Overall, Australia has warmed by a little more than one degree Celsius since 1910, and nine of the country's 10 hottest years on record have taken place since 2005, BBC News reported. 2019 will likely be among the four hottest.

There is also an immediate, more localized reason for the current heat wave, as BBC News explained:


The dominant climate driver behind the heat has been a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) - an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the ocean, cooler in the east.

The difference between the two temperatures is currently the strongest in 60 years. The warmer waters cause higher-than-average rains in the western Indian Ocean region, leading to flooding, and drier conditions across South East Asia and Australia.

But the climate crisis makes natural shifts like this worse.

"Australia's climate is increasingly influenced by global warning and natural variability takes place on top of this background trend," BOM said, according to BBC News.

Climate change is also influencing the IOD itself.

"While the IOD is a natural mode of variability, its behaviour is changing in response to climate change. Research suggests that the frequency of positive IOD events, and particularly the occurrence of consecutive events will increase as global temperatures rise," BOM said, according to The Washington Post.

Despite Australia's susceptibility to climate change, it is also one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases per capita, according to BBC News. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supports coal use, has been criticized for failing to adequately address the climate crisis and the bushfires it has spawned.

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