Records already tumbling as nation prepares for potentially deadly heatwave

Josh Dutton
News Reporter

Brisbane has registered its equal hottest December day on record in a week where numerous historical readings are expected to be smashed as a heatwave spreads across the nation.

The mercury climbed to 41.2 degrees in Brisbane on Monday equalling its previously hottest December day in 1981.

Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra are also all set for 40-degree days while Perth has just come off three successive days above 40 over the weekend.

Heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest natural hazard and experts are warning for people to prepare as temperatures rise dramatically across much of the country later this week.

Bureau of Meteorology climatologist Dr Blair Trewin said temperatures in many locations around Australia are forecast to approach or even exceed December and potentially annual records.

"We saw significant heat build over Western Australia over the course of last week, and that heat is now pushing east over the continent, which is going to lead to several days of exceptional heat," Dr Trewin said.

He says the vast heat may lead to a new record for the hottest day across Australia on one day based on average temperatures.

"Australia's warmest day on record occurred in January 2013, when the average maximum temperature across the continent was 40.3,” he said.

"We’re closely monitoring the development and progression of this heat but based on current forecasts we could see that record broken this week."

South Australia sizzles

Weatherzone meteorologist Craig McIntosh said Adelaide is already in the midst of a heatwave which should last the week.

“The heatwave starts from today (Monday) until a cooler change kicks in on late Friday or Saturday,” he said.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Adelaide reached a high of 36.1 at about 1.50pm on Monday.

It was far hotter at Ceduna, northwest of Adelaide, which hit 41.1. Woomera, north of Adelaide, also went about 40 too.

The hottest part of the state on Monday was Nullarbor, which hit 43.

A man uses his umbrella at Adelaide's Henley Beach to shelter from the sun. Source: AAP (file pic)

It’s not going to ease up anytime soon in South Australia.

Adelaide is forecast for 40 on Tuesday, 42 on Wednesday, 41 on Thursday and a scorching 44 on Friday.

The heatwave should end on Saturday though, with a high of 26 in the city.

However, Mr McIntosh stopped short of saying any specific part of the state is set to break any temperature records.

BOM senior forecaster Paul Lainio said South Australia’s temperature record for December was reached in 1972 when the temperature hit 49.1 in Moomba.

"We need to get up to those sort of levels to see records,” he said. 

“It is possible, though, in some of those locations in the West and North of South Australia."

Adelaide’s hottest day on record is 46.2 which it reached on January 24 this year.

Victoria to fry on Friday

Mr McIntosh explained that Victoria isn’t exactly facing a heatwave given it doesn’t have back-to-back hot days.

But that doesn’t mean Melbourne won’t be spared the heat.

“Melbourne will have two hot days - Wednesday and Friday but Thursday will be cooler,” he said.

“Friday will see a max of 43 but the conditions are nothing like we’ll see in Adelaide.”

This weather map shows how hot Australia is compared to our neighbours in South East Asia and New Zealand. Source: Windy.com

Tuesday is set for a high of 30 before it soars to 39 on Wednesday.

Melbourne will then ease to a top of 23 on Thursday before it hits ramps up again on Friday.

The weekend will be much cooler with Saturday and Sunday sitting at the mid to low 20s.

It’s much the same for other parts of the state with Ballarat set for 38 on Wednesday and 39 Friday. Thursday’s a top of 28.

Queensland to cool down for a few days

After record breaking heat on Monday, BoM forecaster Kimba Wong said the rest of the week should be a bit cooler before it warms up again over the weekend.

Matilda Lee-Archer swims at Enoggera Reservoir in Brisbane's suburb of The Gap on Monday as the city equalled its hottest December day on record. Source: AAP

“The heat will shift further west with Brisbane currently experiencing a southeasterly change which should see temperatures hit the low 30s,” she said.

“That’s pretty standard for this time of the year,” she said.

Further north and Rockhampton hit 41 on Monday. The city should experience temperatures within the mid to low 30s throughout the rest of the week through to Saturday and Sunday.

Expect similar conditions for the Whitsundays, Townsville and Cairns.

NSW hot, but Canberra facing record temps

“Sydney will be similar to Melbourne as it doesn’t face a heatwave as such,” Mr McIntosh said.

“There are hot days but they’re broken up by cooler ones. BOM has it classified as a low intensity heatwave with Friday reaching 26.”

Thursday and Saturday are due to be the hottest days in Sydney this week when it reaches 36 and 34 respectively while it will be hotter in the western suburbs. Expect a smoke haze on Thursday too.

A man jogs through Rushcutters Bay Park, Sydney, as smoke fills the air from bushfires last week. Source: AAP

“Canberra, on the other hand, is in a heatwave,” Mr McIntosh said.

“We possibly could see a couple of records broken with a chance of a new December temperature record broken by the end of this week.

“That could be Saturday.”

Canberra’s in for a 34-degree day on Tuesday, 38 Wednesday, 41 on Thursday, 38 on Friday before a scorching 43 on Saturday.

The city’s hottest day this year was 41.6 on January 16 and if it reaches 43 as forecast it would be Canberra’s warmest December day in 25 years,

It reached 39.2 on December 21, 1994.

Western Australia

Perth’s seeing the end of its heatwave after it hit 38 on Monday.

Mr McIntosh said most of the heat has already begun shifting east leading to the hot conditions in Adelaide.

It doesn’t mean it won’t be a hot week though.

The city should reach 32 on Tuesday and 36 on Wednesday.

There will be some reprieve though, with the temperature reaching a high of 27 on both Thursday and Friday.

Saturday and Sunday will warm up just slightly with highs in the low 30s.

Northern Territory

Darwin’s forecast for a week of temperatures in the mid 30s with possible storms and showers.

Alice Springs residents are in for a far hotter week though. It’s been forecast the town won’t see a max below 41 through until Sunday.

Thursday’s due to be a scorching 45.

Tasmania

Mr McIntosh said Hobart has the chance of being cooler than normal for this time of year.

“There’s the possibility of Hobart running below average for maximum and minimum temperatures by less than one degree,” he said.

Hobart’s forecast for temperatures in the mid to high 20s through until Friday when it reaches a top of 33.

It will then drop to 23 for both Saturday and Sunday.

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