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Australia swelters through hottest ever day

By Rebecca Brice, Wednesday January 9, 2013 - 13:14 EDT

The hot weather that has fuelled fires in southern Australia has also delivered the nation its hottest day since records began a century ago.

The national temperature is the average of hundreds of daily readings across the country and it hit 40.3 degrees on Monday.

But the record is not expected to last - the weather bureau predicts Tuesday's scorching temperatures in some parts will set another high.

For the past week, temperatures in Oodnadatta in South Australia's far north have hit more than 45 degrees Celsius.

"The bitumen road's melting but you don't really blame it," local Lynnie Plate told PM.

"It's like a ghost town here. People come out in the mornings. My theory is if you get up before the heat then you're much better coping."

Yesterday, the mercury went above 47 degrees in Oodnadatta. It was also the 10th consecutive day over 40 degrees in the town, 170 kilometres south of the Northern Territory border.

Over the border, Alice Springs has had six straight days above 42C and Yulara near Uluru has had five above 44C - records for both towns.

John Wallington from Outback Ballooning in Alice Springs says the heat has not helped tourism.

"It's hot and it's also unstable - the weather has been a little bit unpredictable for the last days. It's frustrating in our business," he said.

Dr David Jones from the Bureau of Meteorology says the sweltering heat is being felt across the nation.

"In records going way back to the start of 1911, [Monday] - with an average temperature of 40.33 - is Australia's new hottest day on record," he said.

Dr Jones says the national temperature is the average of between 700 and 800 stations.

"And if we look at maximum temperatures that were recorded at those, average those across country, taking into account the spatial distribution, and then just get a simple number," Dr Jones said.

"So what it tells us really is if you look across Australia, as an average, what was the daytime maximum temperature."

The previous all-time high was in 1972.

Dr Jones says Tuesday is expected to be even hotter.

"Our guiders are suggesting we may beat yesterday's record by another 0.1 or 0.2 of a degree. The other record that we'll be watching is a run of very hot days," he said.

"We'd only ever seen four days of 39 degrees or above consecutively. We've now seen six, and we'll almost certainly see seven, and perhaps even eight.

"So, this event is now going beyond anything in our record books."

Back in Oodnadatta, there is no end in sight to the heatwave with the next six days forecast above 40 degrees.

"If you look at the weekly forecast, or dwell on the last 10 days you'd get a bit depressed, so I just look at the daily forecast," Ms Plate said.

"I looked [for Wednesday] and it's 41; I think beauty - that's a cool change."


© ABC 2013

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