Australia just can’t seem to catch a break. Bushfires have been ravaging the country for more than a month. Australia ended 2018 with a record-breaking heat wave, and it appears this year will end the same. And in the process, the country could see its hottest day ever recorded.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) released an update Monday on the country’s ongoing crisis, highlighting that this week’s heat may surpass the nationwide daily maximum temperature of 40.3 degrees Celsius (104.5 degrees Fahrenheit) set in January 2013. The heat is already unbearable on the west side of the country. Perth, the capital of Western Australia with a population of nearly 2 million, saw its temperature peak above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days in a row for the time in December.
The scary heat is moving east where the central and southern parts of the country are set to experience “extreme heat wave conditions,” as BOM meteorologist Adam Morgan put it in the broadcast. Temperatures in central Australia could top out at a staggering 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by Friday. As we approach the weekend, however, the heat will move toward New South Wales on the eastern coast where the worst bushfires have been raging. Some parts of the country may experience temperatures creep 20 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) above average for December.
“Heat waves are Australia’s deadliest severe weather,” said Morgan.
Climate change has been a driving factor in increasing the odds and intensity of heat waves, and Australia has been no stranger to intense heat in recent years. With heat waves expected to become increasingly worse due to the climate crisis, so too will the impacts. The Australian government’s 2016 state of the environment report shows that the number of heat-related deaths is expected to rise through at least 2050. Whereas Perth saw 294 deaths in 2007, the city may see 1,419 come 2050.
In addition to heat-related deaths, hot weather also provides further fuel to the bushfires that have degraded air quality, ruined key wildlife habitats, killed precious koalas. The flames have also released the equivalent of nearly half a year’s worth of Australia’s carbon pollution, making the climate crisis even worse.