Not quite a record – “only” 42.3C were reached on Observatory Hill at 2.03pm today, remaining 3 degrees below the record temperature measured on 14 January 1939. Neither did it surpass the previous record from 13 January 1806, which stood at 42.5C. (Although this needs to be viewed with caution as in the SMH article a 32-year old record is mentioned, which would mean 1907. Moreover, the Bureau of Meteorology generally considers data from 1950 onwards as most reliable.)

Nevertheless, the heatwave that has been gripping much of the continent since the start of this year has finally reached the NSW coast and sparked 137 bushfires in just one day, of which roughly 40 are still raging out of control tonight. Over 1000 volunteer firefighters are battling the blazes and as of the point in time that I’m writing these lines they have been successful in protecting lives and property. But crews now have to fight fatigue as well as the fires and a hard days work is taking its toll, while the danger is far from over.

Sydney may be looking forward to a cool change during the night – although probably not as drastic as the 14.2C drop within 10 minutes experienced back in 1939 – the Outback keeps on heating up over the days to come. So much so that the Bureau of Meteorology has added further colour codes to their forecast maps beyond the previously used black for 50C – in Central South Australia an area the size of Tasmania is predicted to reach 54C (= 129.2F!!) early next week.

Commonwealth of Australia Bureau of Meteorology temperature map Jan 2013

If those predictions come true, the all-time high of 50.7C, measured at Oodnadatta in South Australia on 2 January 1960 will soon be eclipsed. And that seems quite likely: The national AVERAGE temperature has been ABOVE 39C (102.2F) for SEVEN consecutive days – nearly doubling the previous record of FOUR days above 39C in a row in 1973. The hottest day in NSW this year so far was measured in Hay, in the state’s Central West with 47.9C (118.22F) on 5 January, while nationwide Red Rocks Point in WA holds the 2013 record so far with 48.6C (119.5F) on 3 January.

Authorities have imposed total fire bans and all NSW State Forests and National Parks are absolute no-go-zones with fines in excess of $2000 for violations in place. Thus, no bush walking and no walkabouts in these conditions! Sit in the shade, drink plenty of water and check on kids, the elderly and pets to keep them from dehydrating. Monitor the Rural Fire Services website and stay informed about bush fires, road closures and evacuation zones.

Stay cool. Stay safe. See you soon!!

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