Australian Heatwave

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By Stephen Gode on January 9, 2013, 7:23pm Last modified: January 14, 2013, 4:50pm

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Tammy Holmes and her grandchildren take refuge under a jetty as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley.

Record breaking temperatures and extreme fire danger conditions in parts of central and southern Australia have resulted in wildfires (photos) and citizens seeking relief. The wildfires have ravaged some communities and at times firefighters have dealt with extreme conditions (dry and windy to help spread fires rapidly over the past few days).

It has been so hot that the Australian Government's weather charts needed updating from possible forecasted temperatures and models showing record temperatures for Australia (more information in Quincy's article).

The heatwave for parts of Australia has been continuing since December 29, 2012. Hot temperatures are forecasted to continue in some areas over the coming days. Aaron Coutts-Smith, Bureau of Meteorology NSW (New South Wales) manager for climate services, expects the hot and dry conditions to continue until at least next Tuesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said that maximum temperatures across Australia in the last four months of 2012 were 1.6 degrees Celsius (2.88 degrees Fahrenheit above average) above average, breaking all previous records.

Hobart recorded its hottest day in 120 years on Friday, when the temperature peaked at 41.8°C (about 107°F).

Hay, in southwest New South Wales, reached 47.7°C (117.86°F) on Saturday (hottest day in 56 years). 

Since this heatwave in Australia has been so widespread and intense, some turn to climate change for an answer. Dr. Markus Donat, a researcher from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said, “Counting the number of very warm days (defined as the warmest five percent between 1951 and 1980) we found that during the most recent three decades …the frequency of days in this warmest category has increased by 40 percent globally.” Also, extremely low temperatures have occurred less frequently than they did in the middle of the 20th century.

More information from Sky News.

Cooler temperatures arrived in parts of southeastern Australia on Wednesday. This dangerous heat continued until midnight in Sydney after Tuesday’s hot temperature of 41° (about 106°F). Hundreds of Sydneysiders went for a swim at midnight with a temperature that was still at 35°C (95°F). Sydney’s forecasted high temperature for Wednesday was 25°C (77°F). Surprisingly, snowflakes were flying a bit at Mount Hotham in Victoria Wednesday morning after the hot temperatures the previous day.

More information from the Herald Sun.

The Australian heatwave is updated by the Bureau’s in a PDF file:


Other weather news in Australia, a Cyclone Watch is in effect for coastal areas from Whim Creek to Coral Bay by the Australian Government, Bureau of Meteorology, which was issued at 8:47 pm WST on Wednesday 9 January 2013.

At 8:00 pm WST Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle, Category 3 was 930 km. north-northeast of Exmouth moving south-southwest at 12 km. per hour (about 7.46 miles/hour). 

Narelle is likely to develop further (although, on satellite the system looks ragged) as it moves south-southwest towards the Northwest Cape. Gales with gusts to 100 km/hr (about 62 miles/hour) are expected (although, it depends, because system may just brush the area) to develop in coastal areas between Whim Creek and Onslow including the Karratha area Friday morning, then extend west to Exmouth and Coral Bay later Friday or early Saturday. Winds are likely to increase further during Saturday about the west Pilbara coast. Thunderstorm activity will also increase about the Pilbara coast on Friday with isolated heavy rainfall possible.

 Details of Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle at 8:00 pm WST:

               Centre located near.........  13.8 degrees South 116.2 degrees East

               Location accuracy...........  within 55 kilometres

               Recent movement...........  towards the south southwest at 12 kilometres per hour

               Wind gusts near centre… 165 km/hr (about 102.5 mi/hr) and INTENSIFYING

               Severity category............. 3

               Central pressure............... 971 hPa (mbar)

Update (10 pm, 1/10/13):
Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle has strengthened and looks more organized.
A Cyclone Warning is now in effect for parts of the area previously described.
At 8:00 am WST on January 11, 2013:
Narelle had possibly maximum wind gusts near the center at 230 km/hr (143 mi/hr).
Narelle had a central pressure of 946 mb.
Still satellite images are below and the updated track of Narelle is below, too.
The image of Narelle's track has a deeper shade of orange representing the Cyclone Warning.
Satellite images and loops from the Bureau of Meteorology.
More information on Narelle (Bureau of Meteorology, Current Tropical Cyclones).

The Exmouth area, which was generally the closest to the destructive winds offshore around and near the center of previously Severe Tropical Cyclone Narelle, now a remnant tropical low, escaped the brunt of the storm with minimal impacts. Fortunately, Narelle stayed offshore enough for just some coastal flooding/beach erosion. The winds were sustained near 35 mph with wind gusts around 50 mph in the Exmouth area, which is shy of the about 39 mph, a ten-minute average wind speed of 34 knots or greater, threshold for tropical cyclone gale-force winds.

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Stephen Gode

Town: North Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since September 2012.

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