AUSTRALIA – Australia has just experienced its hottest day on record and its worst spring on record for dangerous bushfire weather, according to data released by the Bureau of Meteorology.
Preliminary analysis suggested that Tuesday was the hottest day on record for Australia, with an average maximum across the country of 40.9C. The temperature beat the previous 40.3C set on 7 January 2013, in a record going back to 1910.
Confirming the unprecedented nature of the current devastating fire season, the bureau has also found that 95% of Australia experienced fire danger weather that was well above average.
Above average temperatures, high winds, severe drought and the driest spring on record combined to bring dangerous conditions to many parts of the country.
In a special climate statement, the bureau said that by September most of the east of the continent was “primed for high fire danger ratings”, leading to hundreds of homes being lost in New South Wales.
September to November had been the driest, and second warmest, spring on record.
The bureau uses a tool known as the forest fire danger index (FFDI) to assess the risk of bushfire, combining temperature, wind, humidity, fuel and an assessment of drought to deliver an overall rating. The FFDI record goes back to 1950.
The bureau’s analysis found that in October and November, every state and territory had experienced dangerous fire weather.
When the bureau added all the fire ratings together, they found this “accumulated FFDI” was the highest on record across the continent.
Daily high fire danger ratings had also reached record levels in regions in every state and territory.
North-east NSW had an average score of 25 or above – in the “very high” FFDI category – for 21 days, beating the previous highest spring count of 11 days in 2002. The average number of spring days with very high fire risk in the region is just two.
Firefighters, many of them exhausted, have been fighting to save homes and buildings up and down the east coast since the fire season started earlier than normal.
NSW RFS confirmed on Wednesday that 768 homes had been lost and almost 65000 saved during the current fire season, which still has many weeks to run.
A December heatwave starting Wednesday could also break temperature records across South Australia, Victoria and NSW, the bureau has said.
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