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A severe heatwave is forecast for large parts of inland Australia with temperatures in the mid-40s expected across three states, the Bureau of Meteorology warns.
The heatwave is expected to hit today and continue through the weekend.
BoM Assistant Director Weather Services, Alasdair Hainsworth, said a large, hot air mass from northern Australia was being drawn southeastwards by a slow-moving, low pressure trough.
The excessive heat was moving slowly east, driving up temperatures in central, southern and eastern Australia, he said.
Temperatures are expected to peak in the mid 40s over inland South Australia, western NSW and northern Victoria on Thursday.
Temperatures will remain in the high 30s and low 40s through the weekend for large parts of NSW and the Queensland border region.
"We haven't seen an early season, prolonged heatwave like this since November 2009, which was a record hot month for Australia," Mr Hainsworth said.
He said neutral weather conditions had returned this spring following the past two relatively mild and humid summers as a result of the wetter and cooler conditions typical during La Nina years.
Mr Hainsworth said a concern was the amount of vegetation following two wet years, which meant high fuel loads now drying out and causing an increased bushfire risk.
Fast-moving grassfires were of particular concern, he said.