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Australia

Australia swelters through record-breaking heatwave

  • Towns across southern Australia have recorded new December highs, with the mercury up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than usual
PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2018, 10:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 12:21am

Australia is sizzling through extreme heatwave conditions this week, with temperatures reaching record highs and emergency services on high alert for bush fires.

Numerous towns across southern Australia have recorded new December highs, with the mercury up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than usual for this time of the year, the Bureau of Meteorology said on Friday.

“Heatwave conditions are being experienced across large parts of the country,” it said, adding that the sizzling temperatures spanned the southern parts of four states and the Northern Territory.

Marble Bar in Western Australia, which bills itself as the nation’s hottest town, recorded a peak of 49.3 degrees Celsius on Thursday, it added.

Major cities across the country are also affected, with the thermometer pushing towards 40 degrees and the heat set to linger into the new year.

In Sydney, thousands of people flocked to beaches to cool down, while the state’s health service issued a warning for poor quality air as ozone levels rise with the hot weather.

“This is all because of a high-pressure system coming off the Tasman Sea that is slow moving and has set up a pattern over several days,” Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Nick Neynens told Fairfax Media.

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“It’s a very stable situation with not a lot changing, meaning everywhere is pretty much going to be hot and we don’t see a strong change coming yet.”

Emergency services have issued fire bans and warnings and called on people to stay out of the extreme heat.

A southerly wind change will start to bring cooler conditions that gradually extend inland into the states of South Australia and Victoria before weakening, the weather bureau’s meteorologist Sarah Fitton said on Friday.

High temperatures are not unusual in Australia during its arid southern hemisphere summer, with bush fires a common occurrence. But climate change has pushed up land and sea temperatures and led to more extremely hot days and severe fire seasons.