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Severe to extreme heatwave conditions expected across south-east, eastern parts of Australia

By Kate Doyle, Sunday November 29, 2020 - 00:40 EDT
ABC licensed image
The heat is set to make its way across the country this weekend. - ABC licensed

The first significant heatwave of the season is here, and it's ending what's shaping up to be the nation's hottest November on record with a sizzle.

Severe to extreme heatwave conditions are expected across much of the south-east and eastern parts of Australia over the coming days as the heat makes its way around the country.

Jonathan How, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), said heatwaves are normal for this time of year.

"But the temperatures and duration of what we're going to see is exceptional," he said.

It is important that people plan ahead, check in with the local health advice and look after their pets, local wildlife and vulnerable people.

Here is a wrap of how the heat is expected to affect the states and territories.

South Australia

After a scorching day on Friday, South Australian temperatures were forecast to remain high on Saturday with 47 degrees Celsius at Maree and Roxby Downs and 46C in Renmark and Port Augusta.

Adelaide was forecast to reach 38C on Saturday.

All of this heat was expected to up the fire risk across the country, with extreme fire danger forecast again on Saturday.

A cool change ended up coming through a little earlier than expected across much of South Australia.

Adelaide avoided another scorcher, with the mercury hovering around the low 30s.

BOM senior forecaster Brett Gage said the heat had started moving northward.

"Even though we've set three temperature records inland, it only got to 22C at Victor Harbor," he said.

According to the BOM, it reached 44.6C at Yunta in the state's east at 2:33pm and 45.9C at Coober Pedy at 2:39pm.

Roxby Downs recorded a temperate of 47.4C at 3:34pm. Roxby Downs resident Kyra Wait said locals are used to extreme temperatures.

"You've got to have good air con to live up in Roxby," she said.


Meanwhile, across the border, things were hot in northern Victoria, but according to Mr How, Melbourne and southern Victoria looked set to be protected by a southerly breeze.

"Even though it's going to be baking hot, up to 45C along the Murray, for southern Victoria it's going to be fairly cool," he said.

The Mallee region in the north-west of the state copped the worst of the heat in Victoria on Saturday, with Mildura reaching 45.7C shortly before 3:00pm.

The Mildura Airport temperature reading was a new record, with the previous hottest temperature for the weather station 45.5C on November 29, 2012.

Walpeup in the northern Mallee also hit a new record of 45.2C. The previous was 44.7C also on November 29, 2012.

While people in the regional city would usually cool off in the Murray River, a red alert for blue-green algae near Mildura meant people were banned from swimming.

Further east along the Murray, Albury-Wodonga reported a top temperature of 41.8C about 2:30pm.

But the rest of the state escaped the soaring temperatures, with Mr How saying Melbourne and southern Victoria would be protected by a southerly breeze.

"Even though it's going to be baking hot, up to 45C along the Murray, for southern Victoria it's going to be fairly cool," he said.

The Melbourne CBD ended up reaching a top temperature of 22.9C just before 12:30pm, and Warrnambool in the state's south-west only reached a top temperature of 20.2C just before noon.

New South Wales and the ACT

Southern Victoria might be missing out, but there is no such luck in New South Wales.

The heat stretched all the way to the coast with a forecast of 45C in Hay and Deniliquin on Saturday and 40C days forecast for Western Sydney.

Sunday was expected to be the peak heat day for eastern New South Wales, and even Sydney City was forecast to get up to 39C.

By early afternoon on Saturday, Western Sydney and Sydney City had already reached their forecast temperatures.

"Severe fire dangers for the Sydney Metro, and severe fire dangers right along the New South Wales coast with very strong winds ahead of a change on Sunday," Mr How said.

The change was expected to come in the form of a gusty southerly buster bringing potentially damaging winds, thunderstorms and a rapid drop in temperatures.

"We're talking 10 to 20 degrees in the space of an hour. It could also bring some thunderstorms in the form of dry lightning.

"So the risk of new ignition on Sunday is there."

Locals have been warned to stay alert and keep an eye out for emergency warnings near them.

Canberra was expected to miss the worst of the peak heat this time round with maximums of 33C and 28C on Saturday and Sunday, with next week's maximums expected to be mostly in the high 20s.

But the ACT faces a potential "thunderstorm asthma event" on Saturday evening ?a rare phenomenon that can occur when storms and strong winds combine with high pollen levels.

The city recorded its highest-ever pollen count this week, and health authorities have urged people with asthma and hay fever to be vigilant and consider staying indoors.


Up in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland, there is no cool change in sight until Thursday. Yes, Thursday.

"It's looking like a five or six-day heatwave for millions of people," according to Mr How.

In Mount Isa, where temperatures reached Saturday's forecast of 39C on Saturday, local Hayley Connell's pets cooled off in a tub of water.

On Thursday, onshore flow is expected to cool things down around the coast, but it will push the heat back into central and inland parts.

The heat is expected to hang around through western Queensland all the way through until next weekend.

Whether or not the heat then circles back around the following week will depend on whether the rain finally starts falling up north.

Northern Territory and the tropics

For the heat to stop circling the country, we really need the tropical rains to kick in.

"It looks like the second week of December could be another heatwave," Mr How says.

"It's a race between that and the increase in the monsoon activity to see which one wins out."

Despite there being a strong La NiƱa in the Pacific, the rains have held off for the past few weeks thanks to short-term climate drivers getting in the way.

But with the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) expected to move over early to mid-December, that deluge could be starting soon.

Western Australia

While the east is sweating it out, it was looking like a relatively mild weekend in the south-west.

A high-pressure ridge was expected to form over southern Western Australia on Saturday before a surface trough forms on Sunday ahead of the next cold front, expected to graze the south-west on Monday.

Perth was forecast to have two lovely days of 25C with no chance of rain, partly cloudy on Sunday.


I know you hate being left out down there, but in this particular instance it really is a good thing.

Showers were forecast over the weekend, as troughs and lows move through.

Things were expected to clear up on Monday, but Tuesday will likely bring some wet weather as the next front makes its way through.


© ABC 2020

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