Aussies in the north of the country have been urged to stay indoors as the first "extreme" heatwave of summer sends temperatures soaring well above average in the lead-up to Christmas.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a heatwave warning for the Pilbara and parts of the Kimberley in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and North Queensland on Monday as temperatures reach well into the 40s — 4 to 8 degrees above average.
The sweltering weather is expected to linger for several days, increasing the risk of bushfires and placing people at risk of heat stroke.
"Heat will continue to expand across much of northern Australia this week, with severe to locally extreme heatwave conditions," the BoM said on Monday. "Fire dangers are also rising, with multiple states expecting high fire dangers in the coming days."
In the NT, inland towns will see temperatures in the low to mid 40s, while coastal areas will linger in the mid to high 30s. Overnight temperatures will decrease to the mid to high 20s.
In central and western parts of Queensland, maximum temperatures will rise to the low to mid 40s, while the eastern part of the state is expected to rise to the mid to high 30s.
Much of interior and northern WA will also see temperatures in the mid 40s, with the town of Marble Bar predicted to hit a staggering 45 on Tuesday and Wednesday and Sunday. Brisbane is forecast to reach 35 on Tuesday, 33 on Wednesday and 36 on Thursday..
Although the northern band across the three states is known as Australia’s hottest region, it is even warmer than usual due to global warming and "unusually warm sea surface temperatures in Australia's northern waters", according to Weatherzone.
"Warmer waters lead to higher humidity and more clouds. Clouds trap in the heat overnight like a blanket, and when you get numerous such days in a row, daytime temps start to show a slight increase," Weatherzone meteorologist Joel Pippard said.
"There is also warmer air above warmer waters, and this air eventually makes its way over land through daily sea breezes. A warmer than normal sea breeze over time will lead to warmer days."
Meanwhile, in southeastern Australia, cooler conditions are forecast following a burst of summer heat over the weekend. Last month, the bureau released its long-range forecast, confirming that the country’s eastern states are likely in for a wet Christmas.
Aussies urged to take heatwave precautions
Heatwaves can be dangerous for many people, including babies, children, pregnant women and older Aussies. To stay safe as the temperatures sizzle, the BoM is encouraging people to seek relief at a cool place like a home, library or shopping centre.
"Close your windows and draw blinds, curtains or awnings early in the day to keep the heat out of your home," the BoM’s heatwave warning says. "If available, use fans or air-conditioners to keep cool."
Hidden risk in this year's bushfire season
Bushfire season has officially begun, and despite copping a drenching from La Nina the country could still see devastating burns. NSW is facing its most significant grassfire risk in a decade, with two years of rain creating conditions for "prolific vegetation growth".
Forecast hotter and drier conditions for the second half of summer also means the overall impact this season could be much worse than many are expecting. Grassfires can move up to three times faster than a bushfire, generating enormous amounts of heat, and flames up to five metres high.
"It can take just a few days of hot, dry and windy conditions for grassfires to take hold, even in areas which have experienced recent heavy rains and flooding," Emergency Services and Resilience Minister Stephanie Cooke said last week.
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