A 4500km belt of scorching weather stretching from Broome in Australia’s northwest all the way to the country’s southeast could prove “dangerous” in the coming days, a climate scientist has warned.
The all-time record for Australia’s hottest ever November day could soon be broken, with the mercury rising close to 50C.
There’s also a possibility central Sydney and Adelaide could top out at 40C. Sydney’s west is expected to easily get into the 40s on both Saturday and Sunday.
“There’s a big build-up of heat in a belt stretching from Broome to Canberra. Once we get to Thursday that will start to kick in across the south and east and peak on the weekend,” said Dr James Goldie from Monash University’s Climate Change Communications Research Hub.
Towns nearing 50C
Goldie singled out Echuca and Kerang, in Victoria, as two towns that could break their all-time monthly heat records.
Kerang’s record November high of 44C, set in 2012, is set to be equalled on Saturday and it wouldn’t take much for it to be beaten.
But that’s small fry compared to Tarcoola, Roxby Downs and Oodnadatta in South Australia and Birdsville in outback Queensland.
Right in the path of the heat conveyor, Tarcoola could see temperatures exceed its previous best of 48.7C on Saturday, which would mean the rural town would become the site of Australia’s hottest November day in history.
However, Tarcoola is more or less a ghost town these days. But the nearby mining community of Roxby Downs, which has 6000 residents, a Woolies, Mitre 10 and a Subway, is not far off that.
“There is a potential for the hottest November temperatures on record anywhere in Australia to be beaten if this system does slightly exceed expectations,” said Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe on Tuesday.
Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney are all in the crosshairs of the blistering conditions, which are being cranked up by a large high-pressure system in the Tasman Sea, dragging that hot air from mainly northern Western Australia south and eastwards.
Broome is seeing regular days in the mid-30s and, as that weather drifts through Central Australia, it slowly cooks even further.
Goldie said a pulse in the Madden-Julian Oscillation was another factor at play. This is a climate driver in tropical regions that circles the globe every month or so and has a particularly strong influence during spring and summer.
While it can bring rain to Northern Australia, its current position, further from the continent, drags moisture away.
Goldie said he doubted the 50C barrier would be broken this week. But Australia was nonetheless set for an “exceptional” heatwave event, with some places experiencing multiple days in the mid-40s.
Even in places cooler than that extreme, there could still be a large impact on health due to the heatwave’s arrival early in the season.
“November heatwaves are first out of the gate and that can leave people flat-footed as our bodies are not yet adapted to it physically and we can underestimate the effects,” he said.
“It can be dangerous and we really encourage people to start thinking about bushfire plans.
“In the aged care system – where people are vulnerable to heat stress – but unlike a bushfire, a hot day may not seem remarkable, that’s often when people are not checked upon.”
Goldie said people needed to ensure they didn’t do “silly things” in the upcoming heat like leaving animals or children in cars, or not carrying water.
“It’s the transition season; that’s when people think it’s not dangerous and that’s when they make mistakes.”
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