Infrastructure failures exacerbate Australian heatwave conditions
13 February 2017
Large parts of Australia, from South Australia to New South Wales (NSW), northern Victoria and Queensland, are experiencing unprecedented heatwave conditions that are being worsened by inadequate infrastructure and emergency services.
While heatwaves are not unknown in Australia, the more than 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) temperatures recorded in many cities and regional centres over the past two weeks have broken previous records.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, experienced its hottest-ever January, with new records broken in the first weeks of February. Western Sydney suburbs reached 46.9 C on Saturday and the statewide average maximum temperature hit 44.02 C, the highest ever recorded.
Cities in rural NSW, such as Moree and Walgett, have experienced close to 50 consecutive days of temperatures over 35 degrees. Temperatures have climbed to over 40 C in many cities and towns in South Australia and Queensland during the past fortnight.
Australian Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Stephen Wood said: “To have such a large area [of Australia] with temperatures above 40C, and for so long, is definitely unusual … large areas are going to suffer through the pain of it, unfortunately.”
These temperatures, and the combination of wind and humidity, have produced dangerous fire conditions in NSW, which were officially rated as “catastrophic” by the state’s Rural Fire Service (RFS). On Saturday, RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the fire danger was “off the old scale. It is without precedent in NSW.”
Yesterday 87 fires were raging across NSW, with 25 not contained and five given emergency warning status….