‘Just the start’: Extreme heatwave hit NSW to WA
Authorities across Australia are issuing bushfire and health warnings as an extreme heatwave - which has already knocked over records across four states - shows no signs of going away.
The mercury is expected to soar above 40C in many parts. Residents in Mildura, northwest Victoria, could see maximum temperatures stay above 40C for four days in a row for the first time in 90 years.
Meanwhile, Sky News chief meteorologist Tom Saunders said the intense heat across southeast and central Australia will be with us for at least another week.
"We are seeing maximum temperatures up to 15C above average for December and this heatwave is not over yet," he said. "In fact, it's only just got started.
"It started on Monday and it's forecast to continue until at least the middle of next week. We are perhaps, in some areas, expecting a heatwave which will last at least 10 days or so."
Central and southeast Australia will cop the worst of the heatwave - which is already bringing "severe to extreme" temperatures.
It's a very different picture in Far North Queensland and the Northern Territory where a tropical low will continue to bring lashing rain and flooding. Mr Saunders warned these lows could also develop into cyclones.
Make sure you keep your pets cool over the summer break! Many places across Australia are experiencing hot weather, so give your companion animals plenty of cool water and provide plenty of shade (or even some swims like Bobby here) so they don’t overheat under the sun☀️ pic.twitter.com/myhpWq7Q2B— HSI Australia (@hsi_australia) December 26, 2018
HEALTH AND FIRE WARNINGS
People living in heatwave-affected areas have been urged to drink plenty of water, avoid travelling during the hottest parts of the day and to look after those most vulnerable to the heat.
Beachgoers hoping to cool off have also been advised to take care, after four people drowned in coastal waters in two days on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Fire bans have been declared across the south of the country.
Victoria will face an elevated fire risk with total fire bans declared for Thursday in the Mallee and Wimmera regions, while South Australia will have bans in place in 10 areas including the Mount Lofty Ranges and Yorke Peninsula. Western Australia had declared total fire bans in 13 districts on Wednesday and on Thursday temperatures are expected to exceed 45C in parts.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast severe heatwave conditions for southeast NSW on Thursday.
In other parts of the state, the mercury is set to reach 41C in Cobar in the central west and 44C in Deniliquin in the Riverina region.
Sydney is forecast to hit 29C while Penrith in the west will reach 39C.
Poor air quality has also been forecast for Sydney on Thursday as ozone pollution levels rise with the hot weather, NSW Health says.
Ground-level ozone exposure can irritate the lungs and people with asthma are urged to take extra precautions, NSW Health executive director Dr Jeremy McAnulty said in a statement.
"Ozone levels are higher outdoors than indoors, so limiting time outside during the heat of the day and in the evening would help people to keep cool and to limit their exposure to ozone pollution," Dr McAnulty said.
WHY IS IT SO HOT?
Sky News senior meteorologist Tristan Meyers said this unusually hot festive period has been caused by a "special" high-pressure system - called a blocking system - brewing off the east coast.
"It's not really moving anywhere," he said. "It's waxing and waning in intensity over the next week or two, but it's kind of sticking around the same position."
This means it will continue to swirl and throw incredibly hot northern air onto the heavily populated coastal areas of Australia, causing a sustained heatwave across much of the country.
"This heatwave that's developing now over southern and southeastern Australia is going to be challenging the record books," he said.
"This is not only due to how hot individual days are going to be - for example 45C, 46C, and potentially 47C in parts of western, southern NSW, northern Victoria and South Australia - but also how prolonged it's going to be.
"For some areas we're going to see a week or more of 45C-plus temperatures and that hasn't ever happened before - particularly in December, but potentially all time."
WEATHER AROUND THE CAPITALS
It's just getting hotter and hotter in Sydney, with the mercury hitting 29C today and steadily increasing. It will hit 34C on Sunday, dropping slightly to 32C on New Year's Eve. It will be dry and sunny every day except the last day of the year which is forecast to be partly cloudy with a slight chance of a shower.
And spare a thought for the nation's capital Canberra which will cop 37C heat today - increasing to 38C tomorrow, and the mercury not dipping below 33C for the rest of the week.
Melbourne, is set to hit a high of 36C today. Friday is forecast to tip 34C with the chance of a shower before cooling to a high of 27C on Saturday.
In Hobart , it will hit 24C today. The Tassie capital will reach 27C on Friday and 24C on Saturday.
The high-pressure system in Adelaide could see the mercury top out at a blistering 41C today, with 39C expected tomorrow and cooling off to 30C on Saturday.
Perth will be one of the more pleasant capital cities, remaining sunny and dry until the new year. Today there will be a high of 27C, with 26C expected tomorrow and 27C on Saturday.
Darwin follows its usual weather pattern for this time of year with a strong chance of thunderstorms over the coming days. It will hit 33C today, Friday and Saturday.
Brisbane will reach 29C today before creeping up to a high of 30C tomorrow and Saturday. It will be dry and sunny heading into the new year.
- with wires