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According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the temperature on Tuesday, December 17, 2019 – which reached 40.9 ºC (105.62 ºF) – beat the previous record of 40.3 ºC recorded on January 7, 2013 in the outback town, Oodnadatta. The ‘normal’ average temperatures during summer in Australia is 27.5 ºC. Forecasters use the average figures of several maximum temperatures across Australia to determine the maximum average for the nation.
Forecasters expect temperatures to rise again later this week and to reach somewhere below 50.7 ºC in Oodnadatta and Nullarbor Plain. Temperatures in the mid to high 40s are foreseen for parts of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.
Senior forecaster Tom Boeck says that South Australia has been spared from the extreme heat which has been endured in Northern and Western Australia. In Perth, the temperatures recorded were between 40 and 41 ºC this week.
Australia’s bushfires to blame?
The hottest day record came amid an ongoing heatwave and a bushfire crisis. More than 100 blazes are still burning across Australia’s east coast and have consumed more than 2.7 million hectares (6.67 million acres). The fires have destroyed more than 700 homes and have claimed six lives since September.
A number of bushfires have combined into a ‘mega-blaze’ which firefighters say will take weeks to control – being described as a wall of flames at 70 meters (229.66 feet) high.
Prime minister’s response
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged citizens to remain calm concerning the bushfires raging through parts of the country. Morrison says he will take advice from fire chiefs and will provide any assistance that is requested, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
However, Morrison has come under scrutiny on social media for going on holiday amid the bushfire crisis, with hashtags such as #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou and #FireMorrison trending on Twitter. The prime minister’s office has not revealed the exact date Morrison will be back from holiday.
Why is it so hot in Australia this summer?
According to meteorologists, Australia’s sweltering summer is caused by a mass of hot air sweeping east across the continent. Average temperatures in the country have increased by approximately 1 ºC since 1910, largely due to climate change. Furthermore, rain is expected to fall below average levels, especially in the southwest and southeast regions – worsening the ongoing drought.
The BBC reports that Sydney faces a water restriction this month after dam supplies have dropped to their lowest in a decade.