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February 2, 2009

Hot Hot Heat Down Under

While we in the Mid-Atlantic experience actual winter for the first time in a while (and today being a sunny Candlemas, we can expect another six weeks of it), Australia bakes (h/t Wonk Room):

Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave.

On Friday, Melbourne thermometers topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C (108F). Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C (114F). After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week.

Average summer temps Down Under are warm, but far lower than what they're seeing now - 79F for Melbourne and 82F for Adelaide (which makes it typically a much cooler summer than we get here in Philly). So 109F counts as unusual.

Thankfully, they're in line for a break in the heat. But they've been having a bit of a bad run down there. With all the talk of a goodly amount of warming now baked into the climate (and with all the deniers' claptrap about adaptation), it's worth noting what this brief run of 100+ degree temps did (via The Independent):
Chaos ruled in Melbourne on Friday after an electricity substation exploded, shutting down the city's entire train service, trapping people in lifts, and blocking roads as traffic lights failed. Half a million homes and businesses were blacked out, and patients were turned away from hospitals.
First the kangaroos, and now this. Throw in a 12 year long drought and coastal populations that are threatened by rising seas and you've got trouble with a capital "T." With water supplies continuing to shrink there's already talk of the collapse of Australian agriculture. At least in the media, the continent has the dubious distinction of being considered a candidate for "the first [country] to implode under the impact of climate change." The ultimate booby prize, no?

Photo by suburbanbloke used under a CC license

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