Sydney sets new record temperature, is this what the future holds? Media Release

Jan 18, 2013 - 3:30pm

 At 2:32pm today the temperature at Sydney Airport hit 46.4°C, surpassing the previous high of 45.2°C and marking the hottest day on record.

A breeze was expected later in the afternoon, but as of 3pm there was a possibility that temperatures could rise even higher in some parts of the city.

“Quite simply, Sydney is melting today,” said Corey Watts, regional projects manager at The Climate Institute. “It was in the mid-20s in Sydney this morning and within seven hours that has more than doubled, surpassing the predicted highs and shocking even the meteorologists.”

“It’s early in the summer and yet we’ve hit records across the country, with heatwaves rolling through and bushfires ravaging parts of Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria.”

Watts added: “It is ironic but terribly sad that this happens just days after scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change met in Australia to further their work on extreme weather and climate change. As many of the world renowned scientists pointed out, Australia is very, very vulnerable to extreme weather events. Unfortunately, this sort of thing has been predicted and more is likely in future.”

On Monday, 14 January, the average daily maximum temperature for Australia was 40.33°C, breaking the previous record 40.17°C set in 1972. This follows a record seven-day run of Australian-average temperatures exceeding 39°C. The last record was four days in 1972.

Today’s record temperatures in Sydney come just 10 days after the Bureau of Meteorology added new colours, purple and pink, to its weather map to denote temperatures once considered off the scale: 50-52°C and 52-54°C respectively.

“We urge people to be safe, try to stay in indoors in cool places and drink plenty of fluids,” said Watts. “This kind of weather cannot be taken lightly. These heat waves can have serious impacts on human health and wellbeing.”

Last week The Climate Institute released this media brief on the human impact of heatwaves.

As of 3pm temperatures seemed to be rising still, so final highs of the detail are yet to be confirmed.

Watts said: “This unprecedented weather certainly raises the questions of what the future holds. Heatwaves are part of the Australian experience, but this one is not normal. It is very unusual for extremely hot conditions to persist for so long and cover such a large part of the continent.”

“It follows the hottest decade on record, with every decade since 1970 being hotter than the last. The likelihood of extremely hot spells is now five times what it was in 1960. Record hot days now exceed record cold days by almost three to one for daytime temperatures, and five to one for night-time.”  

For more information

Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 02 8239 6299 

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