Yesterday was Australia's hottest day on record, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).
The average temperature across the country was 40.9 degrees Celsius, breaking the mark of 40.3C set in January 2013, but it's a record unlikely to last for long.
Temperatures were well over 45C for much of the interior — the location record (50.7C at Oodnadatta) is still safe — but the wide spread of exceptional heat meant the national average record was broken.
The heat is expected to keep building over the next few days as the air mass moves across the country.
A few of the standout temperatures yesterday included:
- Ceduna (SA) – 46.5
- Birdsville (Qld) – 46.1
- Lajamanu (NT) – 46
- Rabbit Flat (NT) – 45.8
- Jervois (NT) – 45.6
- Longreach (Qld) – 45.3
- Trepell (Qld) – 45
- Oodnadatta (SA) – 44.9
Oodnadatta is forecast to get up to 47C today, tomorrow and Friday, before cooling slightly to 45C on Saturday.
But Oak Valley, further to the west in outback South Australia, is predicted to reach 49C tomorrow.
Closer to the coast, the heat is far from over for Adelaide — daily maximums for West Terrace will hover around 42C before reaching 44C on Friday, when the fire danger is also expected to peak.
Further east, Canberra has been experiencing severe heatwave conditions that are forecast to continue into the weekend, with the hottest day expected to be Saturday (42C).
Why so hot?
This week's heat is the result of widespread drought combined with a late onset of the monsoon in the north.
Without moisture around to cool things down, temperatures have continued to build as summer sets in.
Both the delayed monsoon and the drought are linked to a climate driver called the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which directs the flow of moisture over the Indian Ocean.
This year has been one of the strongest positive IOD events on record, meaning warm rising air in the ocean's west has led to wet conditions in eastern Africa and encouraged the monsoon in India, while bringing dry conditions to Australia.
The positive IOD is expected to break down when the monsoon eventually makes its way south, but that is likely to be much later than the usual arrival around Christmas.