The average temperature across Australia reached a record high of 105.6 Fahrenheit on Tuesday, and experts are warning that temperatures could soar even higher later this week.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday’s temperatures beat the 2013 record of 104.5 Fahrenheit. Some weather stations in central Australia recorded temperatures that were 16 degrees higher than the usual December averages, with Adelaide reaching record highs of 109.4 Fahrenheit and other parts of South Australia as high as 114.8.
Australian summers typically reach peak temperatures in January and February, but earlier this week, the city of Perth, in Western Australia, experienced three consecutive days above 104 Fahrenheit — which had never before happened during December.
Following Tuesday’s record-breaking temperatures, residents in New South Wales are now preparing for the arrival of a “heat dome” — a large, extremely hot, expansive air mass that sticks around for days.
“We saw significant heat build over Western Australia over the course of last week, and that heat is now pushing east over the continent, which is going to lead to several days of exceptional heat," Blair Trewin, a meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, said in a statement.
The record-breaking heat wave, combined with forecast 60mph winds, is threatening to ramp up bushfires that are raging out of control across New South Wales, the state’s premier warned on Wednesday.
“We're going to have a number of wind fronts escalating the fuel, the fires burning, and the potential to have spot fires and embers traveling very long distances,” Gladys Berejiklian said during a press conference Wednesday. “It's going to mean very unpredictable fire conditions.”
The Rural Fire Service issued an “extreme” fire warnings for Sydney and surrounding areas on Wednesday, one rung below the most severe “catastrophic” warning level. The city is bracing for a hellish few days as forecasters warn that hazardous levels of smoke are set to return to the city on Thursday.
Last week, smoke from bushfires surrounding the city was so bad that it set off smoke alarms and sent asthmatics to the hospital.
There are currently 100 bushfires raging across the state, half of which remain out of control.
Adding to the problem is the fact that some areas are experiencing their second or third year of extreme drought, with measurements so far showing that 2019 is Australia’s driest year in over a century.
Cover: Firefighters talk with local residents as a fire burns near Mangrove Mountain, north of Sydney, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Hot dry conditions have brought an early start to the fire season. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)