Australia sees hottest day ever with 40.9C heat

18 December 2019, 08:19

A firefighter works in Dargan, 130 kilometres northwest of Sydney
A firefighter works in Dargan, 130 kilometres northwest of Sydney. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

Australia has experienced its hottest day ever recorded with the national average temperature reaching 40.9C

The record could be broken today, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

Oodnadatta in South Australia is forecast to peak at around 47C today. The searing heat in the town is set to last all week, and temperatures are expected to fall just shy of 50.7C - a one time record high recorded in 1960.

The BoM said the heat on Tuesday exceeded the previous record of 40.3C set on 7 January 2013.

The heat has fuelled fires and prompted widespread health warnings across the country.

More than 100 fires are being dealt with across New South Wales and the fires have claimed six lives so far.

Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has described it it as an "enormous challenge"

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced criticism over the official response to the fires and his government's climate policies.

Meteorologist Diana Eadie said: "This hot air mass is so extensive, the preliminary figures show that yesterday was the hottest day on record in Australia, beating out the previous record from 2013 and this heat will only intensify."

The weather bureau said temperatures in southern and central Australia may reach between eight and 16 degrees higher than normal.

On Wednesday temperatures soared to 47.7C in Birdsville, Queensland, 46.9C in Mandora, Western Australia and similar levels in southern and central Australia.

The highest temperature reliably recorded in any location in Australia was 50.7C in January 1960, at Oodnadatta, a desert settlement in outback South Australia .

High temperatures and strong winds are also fanning bushfires around Australia, including more than 100 in New South Wales state where heat and smoke have caused an increase in hospital admissions.

Cooler conditions are forecast from Friday.