Boiling over: Extreme heat causes stir at Australian Open


Temperatures Monday over southern Australia topped 42 C (107 F) in many areas (Australia Bureau of Meteorlogy)

A controversy is simmering Down Under over blistering temperatures and the safety of tennis players at the Australian Open, played in Melbourne.

“The Canadian Frank Dancevic slammed Australian Open organisers for forcing players to compete in “inhumane” conditions after he collapsed on court as temperatures rose to 41C (108F) on Tuesday,” reports the Guardian.

Triple digit heat is expected at the Open for three more days, promising to crush the previous tournament record (for average temperature) of 94 degrees from 2009 (according to ESPN).  These temperatures are 10-20 degrees above normal.


Temperature difference from normal as simulated by the GFS model for Wednesday (WeatherBell.com)

“What is unusual about this event … is that when high maximum temperatures and above average minimum temperatures are sustained over a number of days, there is a build-up of ‘excess’ heat,” said Alasdair Hainsworth of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. “When average conditions are exceeded over a period of time by continuously high night-time and day-time temperatures, heat stress becomes a critical factor in human survival…”

Despite the extreme heat, officials have stopped short of suspending play.

“Of course there were a few players who experienced heat-related illness or discomfort, but none required significant medical intervention after they had completed their match,” Tim Wood, the tournament’s chief medical officer, said in a statement published in the Guardian.

According to the Associated Press, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray expressed some concern over the current circumstances:

“As much as it’s easy to say the conditions are safe,” Murray said, “it only takes one bad thing to happen.”

“It looks terrible for the whole sport when people are collapsing, ball kids are collapsing, people in the stands are collapsing,” the Wimbledon champion said. “That’s obviously not great.”

The heat wave, covering much of southern Australia, is the second of 2014. Dozens of records were set after stifling heat crossed the country in the first week of January.  The two hot spells this year follow Australia’s hottest year on record, in 2013.

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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