Australia gets ready for era of 'extreme heat'
In the Australian town of Moree, it comes as little consolation for residents to know that the relentless summer heat they have been enduring has set a new record.
The town, of about 13,000 people, yesterday experienced its 31st consecutive day of temperatures of 35 deg C or higher. The previous longest spell, which occurred in 1981, lasted 17 days.
Australia is officially the world's driest continent, where temperatures are already 8 deg C higher than global averages.
But, many parts of the country are experiencing record-breaking temperatures in what has been called a new era of "extreme heat". The changing weather has caused rolling heatwaves and a 14 per cent increase in the annual number of 35-plus degree days over the past 20 years.
The heat reflects changing climate patterns that are being felt globally and have left each of the past three years as the hottest on record.
A report in March last year by the Climate Council, a non-government organisation, found that heatwaves have caused more deaths in Australia over the past century - from heat stress or exacerbation of existing heart and kidney conditions - than bush fires, cyclones, floods and severe storms combined.
"Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and the number of hot days, warm nights and heatwaves are all projected to increase over the 21st century," said the report.