Heatwave conditions yet to peak

15 Jan, 2014 03:00 AM
Keith, South Australia, hit a blistering 47.2°C at 3.20pm on Tuesday.
The slow-moving weather pattern has just allowed that heat to build and build
Keith, South Australia, hit a blistering 47.2°C at 3.20pm on Tuesday.

HEAT continues to build across southern Australia, with only a sliver of relief in sight for the weekend.

The bushfire risk will inevitably rise along with the temperatures, with strengthening winds on Friday in northern Victoria and south-western NSW exacerbating an already dangerous situation.

Dr Jason Sharples, ARC Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics at the University Of New South Wales, said the escalating heatwave conditions would have a number of important implications for bushfire risk.

“The patterns are reminiscent of conditions before Black Saturday”

"In fact, the forecast weather patterns are quite reminiscent of conditions before Black Saturday [2009], with severe and expansive high temperatures across the southern part of the continent and the presence of low pressure cells on either side of the country in the tropics," he said.

"The community need to make sure their bushfire survival plans are in good order and are ready to be enacted. Careful monitoring of official emergency service websites is strongly advised.”

The highest temperature recorded in the heatwave band on Tuesday was in South Australia, while north-western Victoria copped a more consistent battering.

Charlton in northern Victoria baked at 46.3°C at 3.30pm, with at least eight other towns in Victoria’s Mallee and Wimmera regions exceeding 45°C.

In South Australia, Adelaide and Renmark recorded 45.1°C at 2pm, with Ceduna hitting 46°C, Lameroo and Port Augusta 46.2°C, and Keith at a blistering 47.2°C at 3.20pm.

“The heat is definitely very intense,” Weatherzone meteorologist Sam Brown said. “The slow-moving weather pattern has just allowed that heat to build and build.”

“We have had children locked in cars – and this is just appalling”

During the 2009 Victorian summer, 374 people died in the heatwave preceding the Black Saturday bushfires, which in turn took 173 lives.

An elderly lawn bowler and a teenage footballer were among the 11 Victorians treated for heat-related incidents on a comparatively mild day on Monday, with temperatures in the late 30s and early 40s across much of the State. With the heatwave set to intensify over the next three days, Ambulance Victoria made dire warnings.

Paul Holman, Ambulance Victoria operations manager, said the service was disappointed by the "preventable" incidents. Despite consistent warnings to remain inside and stay hydrated, many people continued to play sport and work in the extreme temperatures, and children were found left locked in a closed car.

Mr Holman said a child might only survive five minutes or less in a car on a hot day.

"We have had children locked in cars – and this is just appalling. If you are going to lock your children in cars, you may as well put a gun to their head," Mr Holman said.

Roger Paskin, chief veterinary officer for Primary Industries and Regions SA, said livestock health was also a major concern in the current conditions.

“It sounds obvious but it is worth repeating: animals of all kinds need shade, wherever possible, to protect them from searing sun and wind," he said.

"Animals can drink up to double their normal intake during hot weather - keep drinking troughs large and clean, especially when moving stock into a fresh paddock as evaporation may make trough water become saline and undrinkable.”

Victoria, NSW and SA can expect worse to come leading up to the weekend.

In south-western NSW, temperatures are expected to continue to surpass 40°C until at least Friday, according to Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) forecasts. Hay, Ivanhoe, Mildura, and Deniliquin are all expecting 43°C-plus. Slightly cooler conditions should bring temperatures down about 10 degrees on the weekend, leaving towns sweltering through a relatively balmy 34°C.

In Victoria, most areas of the north-west close to the NSW border can expect similar highs. Swan Hill, on the Murray, is forecast to have maximums of 44°C until Friday, as is Deniliquin in the NSW Riverina. Shepparton also expects 44°C on Thursday and Friday, which is more than 14°C above the long-term January average for the town.

Those in the south will feel the relief more keenly, with Melbourne expecting 42°C on Friday and then 23°C on Saturday.

The prolonged hot spell will be the most intense since conditions in the days leading up to Black Saturday, forecasters say. In the last four days of January 2009, maximum temperatures were 12-15°C above average over much of Victoria.

The BOM released a Pilot Heatwave Forecast project last week to mitigate the effects of Australia’s “silent killer”. Extreme heat causes more deaths in Australia than bushfires, cyclones and floods, according to the bureau.

“Heat stress becomes a critical factor in human survival and infrastructure resilience”

By predicting when and where a heatwave will hit, the service can help reduce the human and economic impact of heatwaves and prevent deaths, assistant director of BOM weather services Alasdair Hainsworth said.

"The heatwave service allows the Bureau to inform the community of the extremity of heatwave events, such as this one, for their planning and preparation," he said.

"When average conditions are exceeded over a period of time by continuously high night-time and day-time temperatures, heat stress becomes a critical factor in human survival and infrastructure resilience.”

Dr Sarah Perkins, research associate for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said while Australia was "no foreigner to heatwaves, particularly at this time of the year", recent events were alarming.

She said Australia had been experiencing extreme temperature events for well over 12 months, with 2013 being the hottest year on record.

"The past two summers have also been "neutral" phases of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon, when we expect average conditions," Dr Perkins said.

"We usually expect to see hotter temperatures at higher frequencies during an El Nino phase, yet we've seen hot event after hot event when the modes of climate variability aren't conducive to this.

"So while we do expect to see heatwaves over Australia at this time of year, the context in which they are currently occurring is concerning."

Wednesday's forecast - images: www.bom.gov.au

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


15/01/2014 9:59:22 AM

So what are you saying Dr Perkins- the " context " is the global warming theory at play. Katie , whilst referring to the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science it would be helpful to explain who they are so we can assess credibility. Note the words alarming and concerning - straight out of Flannerys song book.
21/01/2014 1:58:18 PM

I replied to torobrook but the message seems to have got lost in the aether. Apologies if there is doubling. I asked torobrook to tell us what expertise he has which would allow him to "assess the credibility" of the various institutions which comprise the ARC Centre of Excellence - some of these are the ANU, UNSW, U Melb, UTAS, Monash, NCI, many others, plus international bodies such as the American Meteorological Society, NOAA, the American Geophysical Union and many more. And I look forward to his reply.
8/01/2015 7:58:54 AM

Answer's simple Nico. Any organisation that does not have the same views as toro could not possibly have any credibility in his or her world.


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