Tale Of Two Hemispheres: World Watching Australia’s Record Heat

NEWS.com.auEmma Reynolds | AP

Australia is seeing record-breaking temperatures while the US is frozen solid. What the hell is going on? One map has revealed the scary truth.
Temperatures across the US hit 40 degrees below zero

While Australia battles record-smashing heat, interminable drought and deadly bushfires, the United States is in the grip of a polar vortex, with temperatures plunging to their lowest in history.
After Adelaide’s mercury soared to an unprecedented 46.6C last week, toppling a heat record from 1939, seven people have died in freezing temperatures and heavy snow across America’s Midwest.
A nine-year-old died in a crash on the icy roads and a 75-year-old man was hit by a snow plough as authorities warned of the danger of “instant frostbite”, with Chicago set to be colder than Antarctica, Alaska and the North Pole tonight.
Schools, offices and colleges were closed across the region with temperatures on the city’s Lake Michigan plunging to an icy -29C on Wednesday local time, and set to break its -32C record early on Thursday.
Australia is sweltering in record-breaking temperatures as it battles drought and bushfires. Source: Supplied
Meanwhile on Lake Michigan in Chicago, temperatures dropped to -29C. Picture: Joshua Lott / AFP Source: AFP
A cyclist passes through heavy frost in Nokomis parkway, south west Minneapolis, as temperatures plunged in the Minnesota area. Picture: Kerem Yucel / AFP Source: AFP
Bushfires rages through Judbury in South West Tasmania, where properties have been destroyed. Picture: Luke Bowden Source: News Corp Australia
Australians, of course, have the opposite problem, with power failures causing misery in Victoria as air-conditioning use soars and households evacuating as bushfires rage across Tasmania.
Twelve bushfire warnings are in place for the state and the Huon Highway that connects Hobart to southern Tasmania is partially closed.
In the US, blizzard-like conditions across the Midwest saw 1000 flights cancelled in the Chicago area alone, the postal service cancelling its operations, and rail tracks set alight to keep trains moving.
Snow plough drivers in Wisconsin were struggling to deal with record snowfall, with Sturgeon Bay blanketed under 32.5cm — more than double its 1949 record — and Manitowoc seeing a 26.7cm snowfall, breaking a 1918 record of 18cm.
There is worse to come, with a blast of Arctic wind racing through Maryland on Wednesday and Baltimore City Health Commissioner Mary Beth Haller calling the temperatures “dangerously cold”.
Icicles form outside a bridal shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota with seven dead in the Midwest polar vortex. Picture: Stephen Maturen / AFP Source: AFP
The arctic chill in the Midwest and Northeast has seen temperatures plummet to -29C. Pictured Evanston, Ilinois. Picture: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Source: AP
Adelaide broke the record for the world’s hottest city at 46.6C. Source: Supplied
Rain accumulation figures show almost 500m around Cairns. Picture: Windy. Source: Supplied
Wind chill in northern Illinois could fall to a -48C, which the US National Weather Service called potentially “life threatening”, advising people not to drive or even leave their homes unless necessary.
Weather Prediction Center meteorologist Brian Hurley said Minnesota temperatures could hit -34C with a wind chill of -51C. “That’s quite dangerous,” he said. “You’re talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds.”
Donald Trump caused controversy when he seized the opportunity to question how climate change could really be warming the planet if the weather was so abnormally cold. “What the hell is going on with global warming?” he joked. “Please come back fast!”
The backlash was instant, with Americans demanding how their President — who controversially pulled out of the Paris accord to reduce emissions in 2017 — could deny the widespread scientific consensus.
But experts explained that the chilly conditions were a result of the same problem, with the warming Arctic triggering changes in the jet stream and pushing polar air down to lower latitudes than usual, including the Midwest and Northeast of the US.
A University of Maine Climate Change Institute map showing how different global temperatures were compared to a baseline from 1979 to 2000 — around the whole world. Source: Supplied
Map Reveals Global Problem
It’s unusually cold in parts of the US, but global temperatures are still warmer on average.
One map proves that Trump is wrong and that global temperatures are on the rise.
Analysis from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute shows the world on January 29 was 0.3C warmer on average compared to the baseline, Vox reported.
Worryingly, these extreme weather events could be becoming increasingly common.
Recent research shows that the frequency of winter polar-vortex events has increased over the past four decades, perhaps because of climate change, Business Insider reported.
Temperatures are rising fast twice as fast in the Arctic as the rest of the planet, which means there is less disparity in temperature between the North Pole and continents at lower latitudes.
That is affecting air pressure levels which weakens the jet stream.
A meandering jet stream can disrupt the natural flow of the polar vortex, leading to what we see today.
A Graphic News map explaining the polar vortex and get stream activity. Source: Supplied
The US is looking to Australia to provide context for its big freeze, with the New York Times reporting on the extreme heat, bushfires, business closures and power shortages gripping the country. Australia’s drought “has gone on so long that a child in kindergarten will hardly have seen rain in her lifetime”, wrote the newspaper, noting that temperate New Zealand had also broken heat records.
“Warming centres” for homeless people have opened in the bitterly cold American Midwest, with buses driving the streets in the hope of preventing more deaths as the big freeze sets in. It comes just months after California was ravaged by its most destructive wildfires.
And the problem is global, of course. The past four years have been the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation, and ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.
Extreme heat and drought is devastating the health and livelihoods of tens of millions of people, especially in South Asia, and destroying crops.
A PLOS Medicine study projected a fivefold rise in heat-related deaths for the US by 2080 and 12 times more in the Philippines.
Power was cut off in hot and stormy Melbourne. Picture: Alex Coppel Source: News Corp Australia
A crew clears snow outside of US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Picture: STEPHEN MATUREN / AFP) Source: AFP
Hottest In 80 Years
The Bureau of Meteorology reported that Adelaide’s West Terrace recorded its highest temperature in 80 years on January 25 at 3.36pm, breaking its 46.1C record by 0.5C and earning Adelaide the title of the hottest city on the planet.
The Advertiser reported 28 suburbs and towns surpassed historic maximums, including Port Augusta, where the barometer reached a scorching 49.5C — the fourth-highest temperature recorded in SA — and Tarcoola, which broke its record for the second time in nine days, with 49.1C.
Weather watchers from the Higgins Storm Chasing group told their 780,000 Facebook followers that conditions today were like a “blast furnace” and compared the heat to Black Saturday in 2009, when 173 people died in bushfires
SA Health chief medical officer Paddy Phillips said the heatwave will be worse than last week’s, when some parts of the state recorded four days above 40C. “In last week’s heatwave, we saw 69 people present to hospitals across the state with heat-related conditions and 31 of those were admitted,” he said.
South Australia’s energy network was pushed to the brink last Thursday and Melbourne reached a peak of 42C, with thousands of Victorians left without power after the state’s third generator shut down.
Smoke billows from a wildfire south of Huonville in southern Tasmania. Picture: AAP Image/Rob Blakers Source: AAP
Residents in south and central parts of Tasmania were told to leave their homes, with temperatures in the high 30s and wind gusts of up to 90km/h fanning 50 fires already burning across the state. At least 64,000 hectares of land has been burned.
“The best thing people can do in these conditions is leave early,” the Tasmania Fire Service warned on Thursday. “A fire under the expected conditions can move very quickly with the potential for embers starting fires up to 20km ahead.
“Even those whose homes are well prepared to defend against fire will find their property is not defendable in these conditions.”
Authorities are fighting to keep pace with the extreme weather, with winds grounding waterbombing aircraft and ground crews stepping in. Several fires have the potential to destroy communities, with properties lost and a fire southwest of Hobart burning since December 28.
The state fire service urged Tasmanians to use water sparingly and turn off taps and hoses if evacuating properties as the water mains could be under threat.
Steam hovers above Lake Michigan as ‘instant frostbite’ warnings were issued, flights grounded and schools and businesses closed. Picture: Joshua Lott / AFP Source: AFP
In Victoria, more than 2000 flying foxes were found dead with more of the creatures taken into care suffering heat stress. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning confirmed on Tuesday that about 1400 of the native species were found dead near Bairnsdale on the state’s southeast coast, with another 900 dead at a Gippsland colony near Maffra, reported AAP.
In Northern Australia, the problem is torrential rain, with hundreds of millimetres expected on top of the hundreds already endured.
A slow-moving monsoonal trough dumped more than 350mm of rain on the area around Proserpine, north of Mackay, in just 24 hours. It’s the same weather system that dropped almost 500mm on the Daintree River in 24 hours late last week.
A cool change over the past few days has brought brief relief for many Australians, but forecasters warned of “dangerous conditions” as bushfires are whipped up by blustery winds — and temperatures are set to soar once again into the weekend.
Temperatures may top 40C in NSW’s southern inland and by Sunday scorching temperatures will be returning in Melbourne where it will be 38C.
Perth will see highs of 37C heading into a sunny weekend and Darwin will reach 31C with possible storms.
Cairns could see getting on for 500mm of rain over the next week, with up to 150mm falling on Friday alone. The Bruce Highway remains cut in multiple places after the heavy rain that caused the Daintree River’s record-breaking flood pushed south dumping more heavy rain and stranding four campers, reported AAP.
The two women, aged 29 and 26, and two men, 31 and 28, became stranded while camping at Tabletop Station at Hervey Range. Rescue helicopters from Townsville were unable to reach the group because of the weather, with a mustering helicopter from Charters Towers called in to ferry the four to safety.
This January could be the warmest on record, and the record for the hottest Australian summer since records began could also be snatched.
“We’ve just come off the back of the hottest December on record. In this latest heat spell we had four days that were in the top 10 hottest Australian days on record and the hottest night on record,” said Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Rob Sharpe
“We’ve had some serious heat and it has not really broken up. This next hot spell will take us through to the end of month so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the hottest January ever. And if that happens it could be the hottest summer on record.”
However, the bubbling up of a monsoon could change things, particularly as January comes to a close. A tropical cyclone developing off the north coast is likely to bring rain into initially northern and central Western Australia. As this area is the engine of heat that often ends up in the southeast, it may bring down the highs.
“That could bring rain across a good proportion of the country and will break up that heat and bring a little bit of cooling,” Mr Sharpe said.


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