Parts of Australia could later this week get sizzling 50 degree Celsius plus heat for the first time in 17 years.
Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) climate monitoring expert Blair Trewin told Business Insider that temperatures in the high 40s were recorded on Monday about 800 km north of Perth.
Forecast modelling suggests an intense heat trough will remain in the area, with potential 50-degree conditions in the Pilbara region by Friday.
“No records of any consequence have yet been set during this event in WA, although the potential exists for records in the coming days (either for absolute temperatures or for consecutive days above thresholds),” Trewin said.
“However, whether it actually happens or not will largely depend on local factors – the places with the greatest potential to reach 50 are on or near the coast (Mardie, Roebourne, Onslow), but coastal sites are also sometimes affected by seabreezes, so to get a really extreme hot day at a coastal site you need the seabreeze not to come in until (at least) early afternoon.”
Blair said most of the bureau’s inland sites are at too high an elevation (300-500 metres) to reach 50 degrees.
“On extreme hot days temperatures normally drop by about 1 degree for every 100 metres elevation, so most of the inland sites have all-time records around 46-48. Marble Bar is a bit lower but still high enough (182 metres) to take a little bit of the edge off the highest extremes,” he said.
It may be difficult to record the searing temperatures even if they do occur, given the limited observational network available in these remote areas.
Since the establishment of the BoM in 1910, Australia has recorded just four instances of 50-degree temperatures under standard measurement conditions.
The most recent recording was 50.5 degrees in the Pilbara town of Mardie, around 1500 km north of Perth on February 20, 1998.
The hottest ever was 50.7 degrees on January 2, 1960, in Oodnadatta, South Australia.
“Various other 50+ readings were made prior to 1910 with equipment not compatible with current standards (in most cases, equipment which was inadequately sheltered from direct or reflected sunlight),” Trewin said.
2014 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record and 2013 the warmest ever observed.
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