Australia heatwave breaks records

This map of Australia captured by NASA’s Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) compares
January-February 2009’s average land temperature with previous years. Red areas are warmer than previously
while blue areas are cooler. The darker the colour the more extreme the temperature change. Really dark red or
dark blue areas reveal where the difference in temperature is 10ºC higher or lower than previously.
The abnormally hot temperatures here – the highest recorded being 48.8°C in Hopetoun, Victoria – indicate a
severe heatwave. Slow-moving high pressure lingered over the Tasman Sea and conditions conspired to cause
hot tropical air to blow across south-east Australia. The extreme heat worsened the country’s alreadydangerous
bushfi re season, and led to the Black Saturday bushfi res, which caused the deaths of 173 people on
Saturday 7 February, also destroying homes and towns in the process.
South-east Australia’s January heatwave set the record for Melbourne’s highest recorded temperature of a
blistering 46.4ºC according to the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne.

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