A prolonged heatwave has seen the month of January officially go down as the hottest in Australia since records began. The mean temperature exceeded 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) for the first time ever.
Australia suffered its hottest month in history, with temperatures almost 3 degrees Celsius higher than January averages, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) confirmed Friday.
It was the warmest January "in terms of mean, maximum and minimum temperatures," the BOM report read.
"Both the scale and longevity of this persistent heat is unprecedented."
The heat disrupted play at the Australian Open, triggered power cuts and allowed wildfires to persist in the populous south-east region.
Animals bear the brunt
Millions of fish have died as a result of the hot weather. The Murray-Darling, the country’s largest river system connecting five of its seven states, saw several mass die-off events.
The heat is believed to have triggered algal blooms, which starve waterways of oxygen. This coupled with below average rainfall caused water to become stagnant and for fish to die en masse.
Authorities installed aerators in mid-January in a bid to pump oxygen back into the river
Excessive heat has also killed hundreds of local bats, some of those listed as vulnerable species.
Dozens of young "flying foxes" dropped dead during the heatwave. "They have less heat tolerance. Their brain just fries and they become incoherent," a Sydney wildlife worker said.
Ideal heatwave conditions
Heatwave conditions began an anticlockwise loop around the country starting late November, creating many new records in December which were then broken again in January.
Stable and sunny conditions allowed a dome of hot air to form over the continent, bringing persistent heat to regions usually less affected by such phenomenon.
In the tropical north, the monsoon season, which usually begins in November, had still not properly arrived by mid-January. The dryness, lack of cloud cover and relatively static weather patterns meant the hot air mass was left undisrupted.
According to the BOM, the summer solstice is also to blame for the heat. The event, which fell on December 22, meant the sun was "almost directly overhead" during this time, boosting the amount of solar radiation.
Activists have taken a swipe at the government, saying weather events like the heatwave are a result of climate change inaction.
"Climate change is cranking up the intensity of extreme heat," Climate Council chief executive Martin Rice wrote. "The January heat record showed the government needed to curb Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions which have increased during each of the past four years."
Australians can expect the next few months to remain warmer and drier than average.
nn/rt (Reuters, AP)