A “once in a lifetime” heatwave is set to sweep across Australia over the coming days, making almost the entire country “like a furnace” with temperatures on course to break records.
Highs of over 50C are expected, with meteorologists warning the heat could break the country’s existing record of 50.7C measured at Oodnadatta, South Australia, in 1960.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has said people in the south can expect back-to-back days of 49 and 50 degrees in some remote regions for Wednesday and Thursday.
The soaring temperatures, coupled with a weeks-long bushfire crisis, have already led to some extraordinary stories of bravery, including a 12-year-old boy who escaped with his dog by driving away from the blaze in his family's pick-up truck.
The bureau has weather warnings in place for almost the entire country, with fire warnings issued in Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.
Diana Eadie, a bureau forecaster, told the Sydney Morning Herald a weak pressure pattern had allowed heat to build, while the late arrival of the monsoon over northern Australia had contributed to the build-up of the “very warm air mass” that would start to move south.
Dr Adam Morgan, a forecaster at the bureau said high temperatures were already marking the beginning of “an exceptional week that’s likely to break numerous December and all-time temperature records across the country. They may even approach or exceed Australia’s warmest day on record, which currently stands at a nationwide average maximum of 40.3C, set on 17 January 2013.”
The warnings come as parts of Australia are being scorched by enormous bushfires that have already destroyed hundreds of homes.