Sydney feels the heat as mercury rises to 45.8 C
Updated: 2013-01-19 08:17
By Agence France-Presse in Sydney (China Daily)
The temperature in Sydney on Friday hit its highest levels since records began 150 years ago, after an Australian government agency warned of more frequent and intense heat waves in the future.
While a vicious cold snap has recently hit Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East has suffered its worst winter storm in a decade, Australian firefighters were battling scores of wildfires in stifling summer heat.
In Sydney, Australia's biggest city, the temperature smashed the previous hottest recorded temperature peaking at 45.8 C. The old record, of 45.3 C, was set in January 1939.
"It's a historic day for Sydney," said Weather Channel meteorologist Dick Whitaker.
"We haven't seen a day like this in Sydney's recorded history."
It is the latest record as Australia swelters under a heat wave that has affected 70 percent of the vast country and created what experts have called a "dome of heat" over the nation's Outback center.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the heat wave had been affecting large parts of Australia since late 2012, and the Sydney record set at Observatory Hill - where the temperature has been measured since 1859 - was just the latest.
"The record setting temperatures were not limited to Sydney, with records being set along the coast," the bureau said.
"The highest temperature recorded in the Greater Sydney Area was 46.5 C at Penrith."
The scorching heat follows an extended period of exceptionally widespread hot weather for Australia, which experienced its hottest day on record on Jan 7 with the average maximum temperature hitting 40.33 C.
Fire crews battle a wildfire in the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, about 30 km north of Sydney's central business district, on Friday.
The extreme weather, which has exacerbated wildfires, also triggered the government's weather bureau to upgrade its temperature scale by introducing new colors to cover projected forecast highs.
At one point last week, central Australia was shown with a purple area on the bureau's forecast map, a new color code suggesting temperatures were set to soar above 50 C.
Australia's all-time record temperature is 50.7 C, set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in South Australia state.
The record weather comes as police said one man died on Friday in a wildfire in Victoria, with his body found in a burnt-out car in the Seaton area in the state's southeast.
He was the first person confirmed killed by the blazes, although a 61-year-old firefighter earlier this month died from unknown causes in the southern island state of Tasmania, where fires razed more than 100 homes.
The unprecedented heat wave prompted the government's Climate Commission to issue a new report on the weather event last weekend.
It said climate change had contributed to making the extreme heat conditions and wildfires even worse.
"The length, extent and severity of the current heat wave are unprecedented in the measurement record," the report "Off the Charts: Extreme Australian summer heat" noted.
"Although Australia has always had heat waves, hot days and bushfires, climate change is increasing the risk of more frequent and longer heat waves and more extreme hot days, as well as exacerbating bushfire conditions."