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Anthony Sharwood, 13 Jan 2022, 5:36 AM UTC

Australia soars to 50 degrees for first time this century

Australia soars to 50 degrees for first time this century

Temperatures of 50°C or higher have been recorded in at least two locations in the northwest of Western Australia this Thursday, January 13, 2022, with a high of 50.5°C at Roebourne Airport.

  • This was the first time this century that any Australian location has reached the 50-degree mark.
  • The 50.5°C reading was the equal second-hottest Australian temperature ever recorded.
  • The 50.5°C equalled the hottest temp ever recorded in the state of Western Australia.
  • The 50.5°C reading came within 0.2°C of the all-time Australian record, which was 50.7°C at Oodnadatta (SA) in January 1960.
  • It's the first time since 1998 that any official weather station anywhere in Australia has reached the half-century. In other words, the Roebourne Airport reading is Australia's hottest recorded temperature in 24 years.

And it wasn't just one location to top 50°C

  • As mentioned, the weather station at Roebourne Airport, just outside the small town of Roebourne in WA's Pilbara region, reached 50°C at 12:23 pm local time, before reaching a high of 50.5°C at 12:49 pm.
  • The official Bureau of Meteorology weather gauge at Mardie Station then became the second location to record 50°C when it reached exactly that level at 12:50 pm.

Image: The area where the pink meets the coast in WA? That's the hot spot. Source: Weatherzone.

Why so hot in northwest WA today?

The Pilbara is well-known as Australia's hottest region. The town of Marble Bar bills itself as "Australia's hottest town". Its average January maximum is 40.7°C and it once went 160 days with max temps of 37.7°C (100 Fahrenheit) or higher.

But according to Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke, the Pilbara has been even hotter than usual this week because of warmer than-normal sea surface temperatures off northern WA.

"The region is also sunnier than normal given the monsoon (and cyclone) has focussed the cloud/rain on Australia's northeast," Dutschke said.

He also named the warming climate as a factor which likely had an impact on today's readings.

How long will this heat last?

The worst of it should be gone after today.

Marble Bar will remain in the mid to high 40s on Friday, but as the Roebourne forecast shows, areas of the the Pilbara closer to the coast will cool down drastically by seven or eight degrees on Friday, with tops in the low 40s.

Max temps could even dip as "low" as the high thirties at Roebourne by the middle of next week. Pilbara locals might need a hoodie or two by then!

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