Australia Is Baking Under a Record-Smashing Heat Wave

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It is really, really, really hot in Australia right now.

On Thursday, Onslow, a coastal town in Western Australia north of Perth, recorded a high temperature of 123.3 degrees Fahrenheit (50.7 degrees Celsius). That sweltering heat ties the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, which was set in 1960 in the South Australia outback.

While Onslow was the hottest spot on the continent on Thursday, it wasn’t alone in suffering through the heat. The nearby towns of Roebourne and Mardie both recorded temperatures of 122.9 degrees Fahrenheit (50.5 degrees Celsius), both of which are records as well. Before this week, Australia has only crossed the 122-degree-Fahrenheit (50-degree-Celsius) mark three times in its history. Now, it’s happened at three locations in one day — and even more intense heat is on the way.

Luke Huntington, a meteorologist at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, told local outlet WA Today that the dry spring the area has had could be contributing to the record-setting temperatures — and that this trend could continue.

“The Pilbara region has had persistent hot temperatures over the last few months. and there has been no rainfall to really take away the hot air that has built up,” he said. “Over the next few months. there is a high chance that temperatures on a day-to-day basis will be above average, at least until the wet season rains hit properly.”

Crossing that historic threshold is incredible in itself, but other places in Western Australia broke temperature records or saw worrying highs this week. The coastal town of Karratha, which is a 83-mile (134-kilometre) drive away from Mardie, saw 119.1 degrees Fahrenheit (48.4 degrees Celsius), breaking its previous record of 118.8 degrees Fahrenheit (48.2 degrees Celsius). The Gascoyne region, where a bushfire is currently burning over 560,884 acres, also saw temperatures top 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). The Bureau of Meteorology has extreme heatwave warnings in place for certain regions on the coast through Friday, and Onslow is expected to see 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) on Friday.

The heat is increasingly par of the course in Australia, as burning fossil fuels continues to alter the climate. The country has seen a number of disturbing heat-related calamities in recent years. Among them are the horrific 2019-20 bushfire season that decimated wildlife populations across the continent and left the country with a $US1.5 ($2) billion medical bill. The alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last year warned that heat waves that previously would have happened once every 50 years will become about eight times more common as the planet heats up by 1.5 degrees Celsius of (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), a target viewed in science and international agreements as relatively safe. 

Australia also isn’t the only place that has seen a summer from hell. Driven by heat in the northern hemisphere, last July ranked the hottest month on record. And with a sweltering heatwave also baking Argentina right now, it looks like it’s the southern hemisphere’s turn to buckle up.




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