Not for the first time this summer, Sydney is going to be hot. Hideously, stinkingly, don't-even-think-of-arguing-with-me-today hot.
Other cities have had a taste this week. Adelaide reached 42 on Wednesday and looks set to reach that level again on Thursday. Melbourne has endured a couple of days in the mid-to-high 30s. But that's nothing compared to what parts of Sydney are about to cop.
We say "parts of Sydney" for good reason. Sydney's west and east have different microclimates. Long story short, it's due to the sea breeze effect. So while Sydney city is expecting high enough max temps of 36, 39 and 38 from Friday to Sunday, the forecast for the west looks like this. Eek!
WOW, THAT'S HOT
It is. The image above shows the forecast temps for Penrith in Sydney's outer west. As we pointed out in January, it has been the hottest suburb in any Australian capital city this summer. That's because heat gets trapped on the flat plains at the base of the Blue Mountains. Discomfort ensues. Pass the Zooper Doopers.
But the whole of NSW and southern Queensland is going to be scorching hot into this weekend. Some eye-popping stats:
- The town of Hay, in the NSW Riverina, is forecast to go 44, 46, 46 over the next three days. It's not unusual for western NSW towns to cop one or two extremely hot days. But you rarely get mega-extremes three days in a row;
- The town of Ivanhoe, 200 km north of Hay, is forecast to reach 44 on Thursday, 46 on Friday, then 47 on Saturday. That 47 is the hottest forecast we can find for any location in Australia this week. For the record, Ivanhoe's hottest ever day was 47;
- For the record, the hottest temperature ever recorded in NSW was 50 degrees at Wilcannia, another 200 km north of Ivanhoe. Maybe that record will last this week, maybe it won't;
- Let's not forget Queensland. Birdsville (which is located near the QLD/NT/SA border intersection), is having a nightmare run. The forecast temps over the next 7 days? 45, 44, 45, 46, 41, 40, 40. We hope the pub is well stocked;
- Canberra is worth a mention too. Because of the city's elevation at 600 metres above sea level, it rarely has temperatures beyond the 30s. But 40 and 41 are forecast for this week.
I HAVE A SHORT CONCENTRATION SPAN AT THE BEST OF TIMES. TELL ME QUICKLY WHY THIS IS HAPPENING.
Can do. We contacted Peter Zmijewski, senior forecaster at the NSW branch of the Bureau of Meteorology
"What's happening upstairs in the atmosphere is we haven't really had any airmass changes for quite a time," he explained. "So basically the same airmass has been accumulating heat every day for weeks."
The Bureau backs this up in the really helpful video below.
The video shows how the stalling of the hot airmass which Zmijewski mentioned has been exacerbated by a lack of weather systems from the southern ocean, which normally head northwards and "flush away" the heat.
That hasn't happened much this summer. A huge mass of heat has stalled in the centre of the country, and has been propelled straight towards the east coast by north-westerly winds.
That's why Sydney just had its hottest January ever, and why Penrith -- to return to our favourite heatstruck suburb -- will by Sunday have endured 12 days above 40 this year, and eight days ABOVE 42. No suburb in any Australian city has come close to that.
IS THIS A CLIMATE CHANGE THING?
It's Australia. We have always had heatwaves. Always have, always will.
But as we demonstrated last month, every single Australian capital city was above average in January. When you take readings from multiple weather stations in totally different climatic zones, and all of those readings are consistently above average, it speaks to a warming atmosphere.
And of course, a warming atmosphere makes extreme heat events (like this week's heatwave) both more frequent and more intense.
But there's another level to all of this. There is also increasing evidence that weather systems are changing. For example, the sort of systems mentioned above which "flush away" the hot weather are penetrating north much less often from the Southern Ocean.
For the eastern and southern areas of Australia, it's a double whammy. More heat, and less of the stuff that gets rid of the heat -- due to changing weather patterns caused by overall atmospheric warming. Gulp.
As to the question of whether warming is caused by humans, we suggest you read our chat earlier this week with leading climate scientist Michael Mann. Professor Mann told us that the science on human-caused global warming is as widely accepted in the scientific community as the boiling point of water.
In other words, there is no argument. Full stop. And any so-called debate is a fabrication.
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