While much of the US is in deep freeze, Sydney is smouldering under its most severe heat wave in 80 years. In fact, meteorologists thought they had the highest temperatures ever recorded, until coming across data from a now-closed weather station in the Richmond suburb. In 1939, that weather station had recorded a 47.8 degrees Celsius all time high for the Sydney metropolitan area. Today’s heat wave hit 47.3 degrees Celsius. As far as human physiology is concerned, that .5 degree difference is not much relief – the heat is as close to unbearable as can be imagined.
Meteorologists are anticipating a bit of relief coming in from the ocean and cooling down the coast later today, but the Western, inland areas of Sydney might not benefit too much from the weak breeze. In fact, the forecast for the following days is still scorching.
The authorities have issued a complete ban on fires, as the danger for spontaneous fires is very high, and controlling a wildfire would be a herculean task under these weather conditions.
The extreme temperatures are affecting the local population, as well as athletes engaged in the Sydney International Tennis tournament, with French player Kristina Mladenovich retiring during her second set against Australian Ellen Perez, due to the overwhelming heat. The temperature at Sydney’s Olympic Park, where the tournament is taking place, peaked at 44.1 degrees Celsius at 13:00.
The heat wave causes great concern for Sydney’s homeless population, with Mission Australia working hard to provide shelter and water for the city’s less fortunate inhabitants. Two homeless people have already been taken to the hospital for heat-related conditions. Many others have been placed in hostels and refuges. Water is being distributed in parks and on the streets.
Even animals are straining under the extreme heat, with Sydney Zoo employees scrambling to cool them off as much as possible by feeding them ice-cold food. Otters got prawn-cicles, and the 8 year old hippo named Otto got a huge block of frozen carrots.
Australia is well known to be a very hot country, but these temperature extremes in Southern Hemisphere summer, combined with the temperature extremes in Northern Hemisphere winter, are not only great cause for concern, but proof that climate change is indeed real, and a serious threat.