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Spring heat hitting Australia hard

Ben Domensino, Monday November 16, 2020 - 11:00 EDT

After producing one of Australia's highest spring-time temperatures on record yesterday, a tongue of intense pre-summer heat will target the nation's eastern states today.

Hot northerly winds flowing over South Australia on Sunday saw Oodnadatta reach a stifling 47.4ºC. This was the highest spring temperature in Australia for 11 years. It was also the equal 7th highest temperature ever reliably recorded in Australia during spring.

Image: Modelled surface temperature on Sunday afternoon.

Oodnadatta is famous for holding Australia's all-time highest temperature record, which was 50.7ºC on January 2, 1960. While Sunday wasn't anywhere near this hot, it was still Oodnadatta's hottest spring day on record, beating 47.3ºC from 2006.

Heat extremes are common in Australia during late-spring. This is because:

  • The sun is getting higher in our sky as we edge closer to the summer solstice, which makes days longer and solar heating more intense over the southern hemisphere. 
  • Clouds are usually sparse over northern Australia during November as the monsoon trough is yet to arrive
  • A large belt of high pressure, known as the sub-tropical ridge, moves further south and suppresses cold front activity over southern Australia

Image: Nothing but hot sun in Oodnadatta on Sunday. Source: @rosebolger / Instagram

In addition to these seasonal features that contribute to the heat, Australia's spring-time temperatures are also increasing due to climate change. Our national mean maximum temperature has increased by just over 1.5ºC since 1910.

The hot air that targeted South Australia on Sunday will move further east today. Temperatures are likely to exceed 40ºC in parts of NSW and Queensland on Monday afternoon.

Image: Modelled surface temperature on Monday afternoon.

Sydney should have one of its top two warmest days of the season today, with Penrith on track to register its first spring 40ºC in five years.

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