People across much of southeast Australia have been warned that “killer” conditions today could break records for maximum temperatures and exceed heat health thresholds.
Melbourne’s CBD is forecast to get well above 40C today; Tullamarine Airport could reach 44C, Bendigo 45C and towns along the Murray River 46C as the summer heatwave reaches it peak.
At 11.30am it was already almost 38C in the CBD and 42C at Avalon.
In cental Tasmania, bushfires have seen smoke descend on Hobart turning the sky orange.
But the scorching highs will just as abruptly vanish by evening with the possibility of severe thunderstorms as the cold front crashes through. However, this cool change could itself pose a fire risk.
Elsewhere, parts of Tasmania can expect 39C and Canberra will swelter with highs of 38C. Western Sydney will likely hit 39C for several days in a row while towns in the Hunter could hit 40C on the weekend.
“In some locations we’re forecasting an all-time January record of 45C in Shepparton and 46C in Swan Hill,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr Adam Morgan said.
“We should see a top of 42C in Melbourne which is a maximum we see only every three to five years and the hottest it’s been since January 2016.
“A pool of heat has been building over central and northwest Australia for the best part of a week or two now.
“As a high builds in the Tasman Sea and we have a front approaching from the west that heat gets funnelled down in gusty northerly winds towards the south,” he said.
Authorities have urged people to schedule activities for the coolest part of the day, have plenty of water on hand and check on elderly neighbours.
Sky News Weather channel meteorologist Tom Saunders said the desert heat has already been record-breaking.
“Alice Springs hit 45.6C on Thursday, the second time in last two weeks. These are the highest temperatures recorded in Alice Springs for any month.”
Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and southern NSW could all see the mercury rise 10-16 degrees above average until late afternoon.
ABRUPT END TO HEATWAVE
Then, as soon as it arrived, a massive cool change will sweep through reaching Melbourne around 4pm, bringing a sudden drop in temperature to as low as the mid-20s, and wind gusts of up to 100km/h.
On Saturday, it will all be a very different story with Melbourne struggling to reach even 21C with a shower or two.
Steve Warrington, Country Fire Authority chief officer, described the wind change as a “killer”, and urged campers and holiday-makers to prepare for the dangerous conditions.
“Our advice would be don’t get on the road at that particular time and even consider delaying your return home from holidays or being on the road at all at that particular time,” he said.
There are warnings of dangerous fire conditions for Friday across all of Victoria and Tasmania. Extreme fire warnings have been issued for Mallee and Wimmera.
Thunderstorms are expected in parts of central and eastern Victoria in the late afternoon, with the possibility of dry lightning strikes posing a risk of fire.
“If a fire starts it’s going to be uncontrollable, it’s going to be fast-moving. So this is a timely reminder for people if you have not done your preparation and planning in relation to fire,” Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.
TASMANIA AND NSW
In Tasmania, a total fire ban has been declared for the eastern half of the state, including Launceston, the central highlands, southern midlands and Hobart and surrounding areas.
The capital is set to hit 36C and Brighton, just north of Hobart, can expect 39C.
Again a cool change will see the mercury plummet with a high of just 22C on Saturday.
Sydney’s CBD will only see a typical summer high of 29C on Friday, but as you edge inland that will soar — reaching 39C in Penrith in the city’s west and 40C in Maitland near Newcastle. Inland NSW could see temperatures pass the 40C mark today, with Broken Hill and Ivanhoe expected to crack 45C.
On Saturday, Sydney’s CBD will warm up to 34C with the west on 38C, but things will cool a touch on Sunday and Monday.
NSW Health Environmental Health director Dr Richard Broome pleaded with people across the state to limit their time outside during the hottest period of the day and keep an eye on those most vulnerable to the heat.
Brisbane should see a high of 31C on a sunny Friday, a pattern repeated for much of next week. Adelaide reached 41C on Thursday but should get to a mild, in comparison, 31C on Friday and then 25C on Saturday.
In the west, Perth is looking at 25C on Friday and then a hot weekend with a sizzling Sunday of 37C. Darwin will reach 33C with some storms.