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Record cold and wet in the west, record heat in the east
Australia was again two countries yesterday and today, with records tumbling in WA as the state experienced its coldest and wettest February days in many years while today the eastern states sweltered at the start of a three-day heatwave.
In WA, moist tropical air moving south from a deep low near Carnarvon met cooler air coming north from the Southern Ocean, producing a cold, wet day yesterday, and further rain today. The combination of cool sSouthern air, thick cloud and rain produced a day for the record books yesterday with many weather stations in the South West Land Division knocking between two and six degrees off their old records. Today, it was the turn of rainfall records to tumble.
The most notable record to fall yesterday was for for Perth itself. Those living near the CBD would have been shivering as the capital had its coldest day by far in a record that goes back to 1897. The top temperature of 17.4° shaved 1.6° off the previous record of 19.0° set back on 17 February
1914. In the city's east, Perth Airport, with a 73-year history, only warmed up to 17.1°, knocking 2.7° off its old record. The AWN records section for 9 February shows many locations in the Lower West, Central Wheatbelt and Great Southern had their coldest February day on record by a long way.
Rainfall for the 24 hours to 9 this morning also set dozens of new February records and over a dozen new all-time records. Bannister, 110km SE of Perth, with continuous records back to 1885 had its all-time wettest day with 115.0mm while Perth's total of 114.4 was only 6mm shy of an all-time record. This is normally the middle of the dry season in SW WA, so many of the totals broke old records by a long way.
As of late this afternoon, heavy rain and thunderstorms were continuing across parts of the Great Southern, South Coast and South East Coast. To 4pm, Wagin had recorded 166.6mm, Williams 163.8mm, Katanning 126.8mm and Wandering 110.8mm since the rain began. There are flood watches out for many rivers as well as warnings of flash flooding.
Those living in eastern states would welcome some cool, wet weather like this at present but all they are having is unrelenting heat which moved into hyperdrive today and is forecast to continue until Sunday. The top temperatures today for each state at Automatic Weather Stations were Hay NSW 47.4°, Tarcoola SA 46.7°, Mildura VIC 46.0° and Birdsville QLD 44.8°. Adelaide saw a top of 40.0° while Sydney's Observatory Hill only reached 37.5° and Terrey Hills 39.5° thanks to a cooling seabreeze. Every other AWS in the Sydney basin got well into the 40s with the western suburbs above 44°. Penrith's 44.9° the highest.
Observatory Hill has now had ten days with a temperature above 35° this summer, breaking the previous record set in 1895-1896. The average is just over three per year. January was Sydney's hottest month on record with readings at Observatory Hill going back to 1859. But the real record is being challenged inland where the highest number of consecutive days with temperatures over 35 stands at 50 at Bourke. Both Moree and Walgett are now close to beating that record.
NSW looks like experiencing the worst of the heat tomorrow, says the BoM. Acting NSW Regional Director Stephen Lellyett said a stationary mid-level ridge over central Australia had caused a build-up of heat over the interior of the continent over the last few weeks. "An approaching front to the south is now dragging this hot air down across New South Wales," he said, leading to widespread severe heatwave conditions which are locally extreme along parts of the coast.
The worst combination of wind and extremely hot temperatures is expected on Sunday as the front comes through. Mr Lyllyett said "The forecast Catastrophic fire weather conditions on Sunday in the upper Hunter and fringes of adjoining districts are rare in NSW. Sunday is shaping up to be the worst fire weather day so far of the season."
Australian weather briefs
- The Guardian produced this guide to what you need to know about blackouts, bushfires and coping with heat, as well as a short video on what has really been causing the major blackouts in SA, and how it could happen in other cities.
- And the ABC answers the question on everyone's lips: when will the heatwave end?
- The Sydney Morning Herald went into the present situation in some detail, also breaking down state-by-state what's happening and about to happen*.
- Across in WA and the NT, ABC News and ABC Rural have done stories on the problems caused by many road closures. There's the remote Aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara, 550km east of Kalgoorlie, that's running out of food; the people from the same community who have been stranded in Kalgoorlie for over a month because of impassable roads; and the NT gold mine that has had to stop production after 57 days of isolation.
- The ABC also shows what it's like living in the south of WA today, both for humans and wildlife, as the unseasonal rain keeps falling and the land goes under water. And up in the Pilbara, where Karratha was swamped by 211mm of rain yesterday, we find out the practical problems of living in a tropical deluge.
And for something completely different