1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

'Extreme' heatwave breaks records across Australia

January 18, 2019

Temperatures are set to climb next week as heatwave conditions persist in parts of the country. The searing heat has had a particular impact on the Australian Open tennis tournament and a cycling event.

Australien Hitzewelle- Sydney International Tennis 2019
Image: picture-alliance/Actionplus

Australians have been offered a little reprieve this weekend before sweltering conditions to return to the southeast.

This week temperatures soared to as much as 15 degrees Celsius above the average, with 14 temperature records broken in the populous state of New South Wales (NSW) alone.

In NSW, the small town of Noona broke a different type of record — the highest minimum temperature recorded on any given day, after the mercury failed to fall any lower than 35.9 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Although the weather event has since been downgraded from "extreme," low-intensity heatwave conditions will persist across much of the country this weekend.

Sydney and Canberra will see "severe" conditions, with temperatures forecast at almost 40 degrees C on Thursday and Friday.

Tigers at Australian Zoo enjoy an "ice cream" made of meat and blood as heat wave sweeps through the country
Tigers at the National Zoo in Canberra enjoy 'ice creams' made of meat and bloodImage: picture-alliance/Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua/Pan Xiangyue

Bushfires and the environment

The heatwave has allowed bush and grass fires to persist. The Rural Fire Service in NSW reported 78 fires, 40 of which were not contained.

A Total Fire Ban was declared through the state due to windy conditions, prohibiting solid fuel barbecues and open fires from being lit.

The heatwave has also affected wildlife, with reports earlier in the week of a mass die-off of fish in the state.

Read more: Australia heat wave 'brain-frying' bats

Athletes suffer the heat

The Australian Open reviewed its extreme heat policy in December last year, after criticism it wasn’t doing enough to protect players’ health.

The new heat stress scale, informed by research by the University of Sydneytakes into account multiple factors including air temperature, the strength of the sun, humidity levels as well as wind. Another measure allowing organizers to call for 10 minute breaks was also introduced.

Italian cyclist Letizia Paternoster wipes away sweat during the Santos Tour Down Under  2019
Italian cyclist Letizia Patenoster battles the heat during the 2019 Santos Tour Down UnderImage: picture-alliance/Augenklick/Roth

Forty degree temperatures also affected the Santos Tour Down Under cycling route, with organizers cutting short the second stage by 26.9 kilometers.

”The safety and welfare of the riders, spectators and everyone involved with the race is always our primary concern,” Race Director Mike Turtur wrote in a statement.

“All parties have agreed it would be sensible to shorten the stage.”

Dutch cyclist Bert-Jan Lindeman pours water over his head during the 2019 Santos Tour Down Under
Dutch cyclist Bert-Jan Lindeman at the 2019 Santos Tour Down UnderImage: picture-alliance/Augenklick/Roth

News of the extreme weather events reached Germany earlier this week, after the body of German tourist Monika Billen was found just outside Alice Springs, in a popular hiking area in the outback.

The Cologne resident wrote to her family days before her disappearance, noting she liked to take “extensive walks” despite the heat.

Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding her death.

Read more: Body of missing German tourist found in Australia

nn/msh  (AFP, dpa, Reuters)