Australian heatwave set to worsen as fires rage

Jan 16, 2014
Firefighters try to contain wildfires in the Stoneville area, a suburb east of Perth in the state of Western Australia on January 12, 2014

Australians sweltering through a severe heatwave were warned on Thursday that the worst Is yet to come, with hundreds of fires raging in several states and temperatures nearing record highs.

Most of southeast Australia has been sizzling in a heatwave that triggered a devastating wildfire on the west coast, razing 55 homes and claiming one life on Sunday.

The mercury has soared above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for successive days in South Australia and there is a total ban on recreational fires in neighbouring Victoria where players at the Australian Open fainted and vomited in blistering conditions.

Play was halted on Thursday afternoon due to the , and a Melbourne school gardener, aged 76, died after collapsing on Wednesday in the grounds.

Commuters were urged to leave work early to ease peak-hour pressure on trains and trams, with the heat expected to cause significant delays and a wild evening hailstorm forecast.

Health officials in South Australia said 129 people had presented to hospital in the past three days with heat exhaustion and dehydration.

In Victoria state, currently experiencing its longest stretch of hot days since 1908, there were 109 cases and ambulance services reported almost double the average number of call-outs for heart attacks.

Wildfires raged across both states, with South Australia's Country Fire Service saying there were some 800 blazes of concern and an "escalating fire pattern over the next 48 hours", with total fire bans across the state from Friday.

Map showing heatwave forecast for Australia
Map showing heatwave forecast for Australia

"We may be reaching quite a dangerous phase in this heat wave and it's important that people are well aware of those risks," said state premier Jay Weatherill.

"Because we appear to be getting closer to some of the cooler weather does not mean that the threat is receding. If anything the threat is increasing."

Acting chief meteorologist for South Australia, John Nairn, said the state capital Adelaide was on track to eclipse its hottest ever temperature of 46.1 Celsius, recorded in January 1939, briefly earning it the title of hottest city on Earth on Thursday.

"We're seeing today as a day where we may well set a record. We have a clear-sky day, the potential is there to reach that 46 degrees in Adelaide," he said.

Cyclists and spectators in Adelaide for next week's Tour Down Under road race were urged to be extra careful venturing into the heat, warnings that were echoed for the large crowds in Melbourne for the Australian Open.

In Victoria, 1,000 fires have been reported in the past 24 hours—mostly due to lightning strikes—and 39 had taken hold, with four declared emergencies.

Friday is expected to bring horrific conditions for fire crews, with strong gusts and a wind change forecast before a cool front arrives.

A wildfire in the Stoneville area, a suburb east of Perth in the state of Western Australia, on January 12, 2014

"It's the worst scenario possible but it's a reality," said fire commissioner Craig Lapsley. "It's forecast for tomorrow."

Officials are warning of some of the worst fire weather in the state since 2009, when the so-called Black Saturday inferno killed 173 people and razed entire towns.

A heatwave ahead of that disaster killed 374 people in Victoria and another 64 in South Australia.

The Climate Council thinktank said new research had showed that heatwaves were becoming longer and more frequent in Australia, with heat records toppling three times as often as cold records and the number of hot days more than doubling.

Tennis fans rest indoors after play was suspended due to 'extreme' heat on day four of the Australian Open tournament, in Melbourne, on January 16, 2014

"Australia has always had hot weather. However, climate change is loading the dice towards more extreme hot weather," said the council's Will Steffen.

"The current heatwave follows on from a year of extreme heat, the hottest summer on record and the hottest year on record."

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Skepticus
4 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2014
Apparently all the AGW critics are too busy relaxing in front of their AC or heaters somewhere else to take in the changing climate reality. But don't worry, they will be back to peddle their normal crapware soon enough.
Mike_Massen
4.8 / 5 (4) Jan 20, 2014
Living in Perth, Western Australia for the last 30+ years I notice more humid days and longer periods of heat with less respite, anecdotal I know but, buried in that period of intuitive sensation is some real data, especially our diminishing rainfall...

Here's a place I put some news paper articles,
http://niche.ii.net/AGW/

Of course Earth is now close to perihelion at some 5 million Km's closer to sun than 6 months ago, one wonders given the Sun is massive and replete with electrical currents if it isn't in some way aware of our dilemma by virtue of some form of electrical feedback consciousness and has 'chosen' to relax the insolation just a wee bit.
Skepticus
5 / 5 (4) Jan 20, 2014
Yeah Mike. 30 years ago i used to sleep with two blankets in July. Now just a thin throw will do nicely for most of the time...talking about the Sun going quiet at the moment, that's the calm before the storm, to give the stupids ammo and excuse to burn and burn...then the crap will hit the fan in the next decade with a vengeance! You know the dance: 1 step back, 3 steps ahead, that's what we are in for. I am moving to Alaska to open ice-cream franchises, refrigerators and air con dealerships there.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2014
Yeah Mike. 30 years ago i used to sleep with two blankets in July. Now just a thin throw will do nicely for most of the time...talking about the Sun going quiet at the moment, that's the calm before the storm, to give the stupids ammo and excuse to burn and burn...then the crap will hit the fan in the next decade with a vengeance! You know the dance: 1 step back, 3 steps ahead, that's what we are in for. I am moving to Alaska to open ice-cream franchises, refrigerators and air con dealerships there.

Hunh... I always thought it was one up and two back... must be the hemisphere difference....
Mike_Massen
5 / 5 (1) Jan 22, 2014
Whydening Gyre tickled my recollection of Drew Carey and got me musing with
[Hunh... I always thought it was one up and two back... must be the hemisphere difference....
Hmmm complicated naturally (or otherwise) by the direction of those steps, hrrrm, clockwise in Northern and counter-clockwise in Southern but, but, why you may ask ?

Np, glad you asked.
North is clockwise because the befuddled deity is looking down 'from the top' so it has to be clockwise so he can watch all those people scurrying around like mechanical clock creatures - whereas the South, he doesnt care, its out of view, like the lazy obese fat man (that never lifts a finger) that can't see his own freaking d__k ;-)

Gosh parallels are scary. You can't even make chemistry jokes about noble gasses anymore because all the best Are Gon...

FFS, back to work, night all :-)

@Skepticus, I have the thinnest dooner like material in Winter, only one layer, though I am on high Cu dosage, so better thermal regulation !