Heading to warmer climes

  • As Australia experienced a record-breaking heat wave, even the locals had to cools off, Source: PA

    Australian Bureau of Meteorology temperature map for the 14th January 2013- with the new colours of dark purple and magenta for 52-54 deg C. Source: Bureau of Meteorology

    A NASA-NOAA satellite image of Australia on 6 January 2013, showing that away from the cities, much of the night light was as a result of wildfires. Source: NASA

  • Heading to warmer climes
    15.03.2013 17:18


    After a winter of frosty and snowy weather and with its last gasps still apparent well into March you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole world has been gripped by these bitterly cold conditions. 

    However, as the UK has been collectively shivering, on the other side of the world the temperatures have been so high that it has scorched new colours onto the weather maps.

    Australia's record-breaking heat wave of 2012/2013 has sent temperatures soaring, melting road tar and setting off hundreds of wildfires. Official figures released by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology reveal that two thirds of the country has had a summer among the top 10 hottest in a century, with January being officially named Australia's hottest month on record. 

    It is not unusual for Australia to experience heat waves; however, the most significant feature about this recent event has been its persistence as well as the fact that it affected the whole of the continent. Whilst the heat was most extreme and persistent in the central and southern interior of the continent, most of Australia experienced intense heat at some stage during the event. Records were set in every state and territory, and the nationally averaged daily temperature rose to levels never previously observed (40.3 deg C on 7th January). 

    The heat wave event commenced with a build up of extreme heat from 25–30 December 2012 as an area of high pressure located over the Great Australian Bight and a trough near the west coast directed hot easterly winds over central and western Australia. This synoptic continuation also helped to delay the onset of the northern Australian monsoon, thus preventing moisture and cloud of tropical origin from moderating temperatures inland.

    It is not that common for the Australian average temperature to exceed 39 deg C for even two days in a row. A run of three days above 39 deg C has occurred on only three occasions, and a run of four days just once, in 1972. However, the 2012/2013 heat wave produced a sequence of Australian temperatures above 39 deg C of seven days, and above 38 deg C of 11 days straight (between 01/01/2013 and 11/01/2013).

    As a result of these high temperatures the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has now had to introduce two new colours to their weather map, in order to better understand what temperatures Australia might experience. Temperatures on the map in Australia were previously capped at 50 deg C, represented by the colour black. However, dark purple and magenta have been added to its colour-coded weather forecasting map to represent temperatures of 51 to 54 deg C.


    By: Chris Hogan