Scorching heatwave fries Australia

Spectators get into a fountain to cool off at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Spectators get into a fountain to cool off at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
As Adelaide yesterday became the hottest city on the planet for a day, the week-long heatwave that has gripped the west and southeast of the continent continues to fry Australia.

Temperatures again hovered in the mid-to-high 40s in Adelaide and Melbourne, and across much of inland South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, stretching emergency services to their limits.

Worse may be in store. While the weekend is expected to bring relief with a cool southerly change, fire and health authorities fear today could be their most critical period as strong, gusty winds drive through the furnace ahead of the new front.

Fire authorities have also warned that the heatwave has stripped all moisture from bush and grassland, creating a volatile, dangerous tinder for the remaining six weeks of a blazing summer.

And this may be just the harbinger of deadlier summers ahead.

The Climate Council, now a private organisation after its federal predecessor, the Climate Commission, was axed by the new Coalition Government, warns that Australia is facing hotter, more frequent, longer-lasting heatwaves as the planet warms.

The council yesterday released an interim report on heatwaves, showing that between 1971 and 2008 the number of hot days had doubled and the frequency and duration of heatwaves had increased.

A heatwave is defined as at least three consecutive days during which temperatures reach into the top 10 per cent of recordings for a given time of year.

Australia this week has easily met the definition, with many areas enduring four or five days above 40C.

Adelaide has reached record levels, and Melbourne has now endured its longest run of above-40C days in a century.

Inland areas of SA, Victoria and NSW have seen the mercury reach as high as 48C.

The council's report said the frequency of heatwaves would increase significantly, and last on average up to three days longer than at present. Maximum temperatures would also rise.

"As greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, more heat is trapped in the lower atmosphere," the council said.

"This increases the likelihood that hot weather will occur and that heatwaves will become longer and more intense."

The continent's southeast would be the hardest hit, including Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.

The council said emergency, health and medical services needed to start planning now for the increasing intensity of summers ahead.

Services are already struggling to cope. Hospitals in SA and Victoria have reported a surge in heat-related admissions, health and welfare services are being pushed to ensure the safety of the young, the aged and the chronically ill, and train services have been hit.

All kindergartens and childcare centres in Adelaide were closed and power supplies in SA and Victoria have been disrupted by the surge in demand for air conditioning and increased demands on the national grid from other states.

In Victoria, Premier Denis Napthene urged people to cut electricity use to a minimum as peak electricity demand in the two states neared record levels.

Power authorities have warned of more potential cuts that could affect 100,000 Victorians and tens of thousands more in SA.

Fire services have been fighting hundreds of outbreaks in SA, Victoria and NSW, many started by lightning strikes, with a 20km-wide blaze near the western SA coastal town of Ceduna, and several in Victoria potentially threatening towns in the Wimmera and Mallee regions.

- Greg Ansley

Normal 0

And Elvis is alive and living happily in Invercargill.

No omission of facts

Te Jackle, like many deniers, thinks previous record temperatures which match - or exceed - current ones prove that climate change is not happening. But there have been, and will always be, extremes. What the climate warming is doing is shifting the distribution of the temperatures. Temperatures occur in a rough bell curve , a ''normal' distribution and we are shifting the mean higher. [ Nice diagram here ] It does not take much of a shift to get once rare extremes happening much more frequently ... and that is what we are getting now.  It does necessarily mean there will be hotter hots (though it is likely) but it does mean there will be more hot days.

Oddly enough, depending on where you are .. more cold days too .. the polar jetstream is occilating more and slowing, leading to hotter summers and colder winters in the Northern Hemisphere. 

Suggesting a deliberate omission of facts and a desperate need for attention by 'climate change knowalls' is another distortion , doing more to revel the denier's state of mind then bolster any argument they might be trying to make. 

omission of the facts

The climate council have convieniently omitted the fact that the last time SA reached these temperatures in Jan was in 1929, so what do they attribute that to, maybe they didn't have an answer for that so left it off their statement.

There were no heat related power outages in SA, there was nothing more than their outdated network would usually have on any given week, the usual intermitant cut then back on again, most businesses have a UPS because of this un reliabe supply.

Yawwwwn I wondered how long it would take for the climate change know alls to jump up and down, we haven't heard a thing from them over here, they must be bleating to international news agencies now they aren't listened to or taken seriously any more over her.

Mercury is not temperature

Mercury is a poisonous metal, a planet or an old god.  It is NOT a measure of temperature!

If the reporter is attempting to make some reference to a thermometer then they are totally wrong.   Mercury is poisonous and has not been used in thermometers for years.  These days in a glass thermometer it is coloured alcohol.  Most thermometers are now electronic.

If they really wanted to be clever they should have written "Inland areas of SA, Victoria and NSW have seen the red colour alcohol reach as high as 48C." or "Inland areas of SA, Victoria and NSW have seen the electrons reach as high as 48C."

Which is still stupid as mercury, alcohol and electrons don’t "reach" for anything.  Whereas temperature can “reach”, The correct phase should have been "Inland areas of SA, Victoria and NSW have seen the temperature reach as high as 48C."

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