Australia records hottest month ever

EXTREME WEATHER::Roads melted in New South Wales and bats dropped dead from trees in Victoria, with the highest maximum temperature reaching 49.5°C

AP, CANBERRA

Sat, Feb 02, 2019 - Page 5

Australia last month sweltered through its hottest month on record and the summer of extremes continued with wildfires razing the drought-parched south and flooding in expanses of the tropical north.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology yesterday confirmed the January record as parts of the northern hemisphere experienced record cold.

Australia’s scorching start to the year — in which the mean temperature across the country for the first time exceeded 30°C — followed Australia’s third-hottest year on record.

Only 2005 and 2013 were warmer than last year, which ended with the hottest December on record.

Heat-stressed bats dropped dead from trees by the thousands in Victoria and bitumen roads melted in New South Wales during heat waves last month.

Drought-breaking rains are needed to improve the water quality in a stretch of a major river system where hundreds of thousands of fish died last month in two mass deaths linked to excessive heat, New South Wales officials said.

A South Australia government report on Thursday found that too much water had been drained from the river system for farming under a management plan that did not take into account the effect of climate change on its health.

The South Australian capital Adelaide on Thursday last week recorded the hottest day ever for a major Australian city — a searing 46.6°C.

On the same day, the South Australian town of Port Augusta, population 15,000, recorded 49.5°C — the highest maximum anywhere in Australia last month.

Bureau senior climatologist Andrew Watkins said that last month’s heat was unprecedented.

“We saw heat-wave conditions affect large parts of the country through most of the month, with records broken for both duration and also individual daily extremes,” Watkins said in a statement.

The main contributor to the heat was a persistent high-pressure system over the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand that blocked cold fronts from reaching southern Australia.

Rainfall was below average for most of the country, but the monsoon trough has brought flooding rains to northern Queensland state this week, leading to a disaster declaration around the city of Townsville.

Queensland’s flooded Daintree River reached a 118-year high, while emergency services reported rescuing 28 people from floodwaters.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the torrential rain was a “one-in-100-year event” that had forced authorities to release water from the city dam.

The water release would worsen flooding in low-lying suburbs, but would prevent the Ross River from breaking its banks.

In the southern island state of Tasmania, authorities are hoping rain will douse more than 40 fires that by yesterday had razed more than 1187,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

Dozens of houses have been destroyed by fires and flooding in recent weeks.

Milder weather since Thursday has lowered the fire danger, but it was forecast to escalate again from tomorrow.