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Perth swelters in January heatwave, with a scorcher forecast for Friday

By Amelia Searson, Monday January 11, 2021 - 18:25 EDT
ABC image
Perth is experiencing the higher end of the heat spectrum for this time of year, according to the Bureau of Meteorology . - ABC

Perth is sizzling through what the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) classifies as a low-intensity heatwave, with the maximum temperature in the city expecting to hit 41 degrees Celsius.



Earlier on Thursday, the maximum temperature reached 38.5C.

After Friday's expected scorcher, Saturday is tipped to reach 37C.

The Bureau of Meteorology classifies hot weather as a heatwave when the maximum and the minimum temperatures are unusually hot over a three-day period 

BOM senior forecaster Neil Bennett said the bureau took weekly and monthly temperature averages into account.

"February is the hottest month of the year ? so what is significantly above [average] in January, may not constitute a heatwave in February," Mr Bennett said.

BOM's criteria for heatwaves is different to those used by the WA Health Department.

The department defines a heatwave as three or more consecutive days when the forecast minimum and maximum temperatures average at least 32C.

The last time the Health Department when the maximum temperature exceeded 40C three days in a row.

What happens when the body can't cool down?

WA's Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson said people needed to be vigilant in the hot weather and know the warning signs of heat-related illness.

"Heat stress occurs when your body can't cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature," he said.



"Mild signs can start off as tiredness, nausea and a headache [which] may build up to muscle cramps, severe fatigue and excess sweating."

In severe cases, individuals may even stop sweating.

Some people are at a higher risk of experiencing heat-related illness, including the elderly, babies and those with chronic disease.

"The body normally sweats to cool itself, but for the elderly and the very young, the body cannot always regulate temperature changes efficiently, particularly when the temperature is over 32 degrees," Dr Robertson said.

Hot nights a concern: BOM

Mr Bennett said while temperature records were not being broken so far this month, the warm weather could be particularly problematic when it continued into the evening.

"It's not that unheard of to get temperatures of 30C or 40C, but when you add that to 25C overnight ? you start to run into problems because it's the [warm] night-time temperatures that prevent you from cooling down, prevent the body from cooling down, prevent the houses from cooling down," he said.

"So, the next day you're feeling less energetic and maybe you haven't had enough sleep ? the house has heated up and then you get hit with a 40C day."



The Health Department says you can follow these tips to stay safe during extreme heat:
Drink plenty of water
Limit or avoid alcohol
Stay indoors, in air-conditioning if possible
Take a cool shower or bath
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
Apply sunscreen properly and regularly
Avoid outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day
Stay in the shade
Don't rely on fans unless there is adequate ventilation

Mr Bennett said while it was summer and hot weather should be expected, Perth was experiencing the higher end of the heat spectrum.

"Regardless of whichever way you cut it, it's going to be very hot over the next couple of days," he said.


- ABC

© ABC 2021

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