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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Australia’s sweltering heat matches a record

australia_flag.jpg
Lachlan Fearnley
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CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard about extreme cold sweeping through much of the country in recent days. It’s also been a season of extreme temperatures in Australia — but in the other direction.

123 degrees Fahrenheit is the hottest temperature ever recorded in Australia.

That’s 50.7 degrees Celsius — a level that was matched last week in the small coastal town of Onslow, Western Australia.

There have been other eye-popping extreme temperatures lately. Two other towns in the same region of Western Australia reached more than 120 degrees just last week.

It’s unusual for coastal towns to have such record heat, but meteorologists say high winds from the center of the country pushed a hot air mass over Western Australia— blocking the usual sea breezes.

One of the questions that’s getting a lot of play Down Under: How much does this have to do with climate change?

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology says there’s been a country-wide increase in the frequency of extreme heat events and record high temperatures.

Another concern is not just the temperature of the air, but also the water.

Researcher Nina Ridder at the University of New South Wales says that last month, surface temperature waters off the northwest coast of Western Australia were more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than average.

That hurts vulnerable marine ecosystems—and among other events, plays a role in coral bleaching.

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