The Washington Post

Australia braces for more blistering heat after record busting spell

A dust storm associated with a collapsing thunderstorm or “haboob” photographed in western Australia. Hot weather has set records and contributed to both wildfires and dust storms in the land down under. ( Levi Cooper / Perth Weather Live )

Four of Australia’s hottest 10 days on record have occurred this young calendar year and another punishing round of heat is on the way.

On Monday, Australia’s average high temperature reached a scorching 40.33 C or 104.5 F, the hottest day on record.

David Jones, manager of climate monitoring for Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology told the Associated Press that the extent, duration and intensity of this summer’s heat wave is “arguably the most significant in Australia’s history.”

“The number of consecutive days where the national average maximum daily temperature exceeded 39°C has also been broken this week—seven (7) days (between 2–8 January 2013), almost doubling the previous record of four (4) consecutive days in 1973,” said Neil Plummer, assistant director for climate information services in Australia.

Plummer said the flurry of blistering hot days is “consistent” with the trend of increasing extreme heat events associated with climate change.

The heat “down under” has stoked dramatic wildfires which have charred more than 300,000 acres.

Suomi NPP VIRS sensor shows fires over Australia from space

“The fires have been so intense that they’ve been spotted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station,” writes Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman.

The UK Independent describes the harrowing tale of a family forced to take refuge in a lake when a fire forced them from their home in eastern Australia.

The heat has also fueled freakish dust storms that form in collapsing thunderstorms, known as haboobs.

Photographs from western Australia show a massive wall of fiery dust inhaled into the structure of a towering thunderstorm.

A dust storm associated with a collapsing thunderstorm or “haboob” photographed in western Australia. ( Brett Martin / Perth Weather Live )

“In 18 years of meteorology, I’ve never seen a white shelf cloud capping the brownish dirt from the haboob, said Jonathan Erdman, meteorologist for the Weather Channel. “If there was a hall of fame for weather photos, this one would get in on the first ballot.”

There is a little sign of meaningful relief from the heat. More record-challenging temperatures are possible Sunday and Monday - which may require new color contours on regional temperature maps.

The GFS model simulates maximum temperatures well over 100 degrees F next Monday over large parts of Australia (

“Forecasters expect Sunday and Monday to provide the next chance of 50-plus degrees — and for the possible appearance of that new purple shade to the country’s observed weather charts,” writes Australia’s National Times.

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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