Heat and Threat of Wildfires Blaze on in Australia

As Climate Central reported on Wednesday, a delayed monsoon is helping to heat Australia to record levels, with weather forecasters adding new colors onto weather maps to indicate temperatures up to 129°F. While the wildfires have diminished some, the heat is forecast to return to Queensland and other areas during the weekend into early next week, and the fire danger remains “extreme” in some places, such as the capital region surrounding Canberra. In addition, a photogenic, otherworldy dust storm swept into the town of Onslow in Western Australia, leading to some amazing images.

Australian Heat Wave, Wildfire Threat Continues

The four hottest days in Australian history have all occurred in 2013.

Storified by · Fri, Jan 11 2013 12:07:32

After some relief in the past couple of days, extreme heat is expected to develop again in large parts of Australia during the weekend and part of next week. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has designated the Australian Capital Territory, which includes the capital city of Canberra, as being in “Extreme Fire Danger.”  

The heat that has gripped the country since early January has been unprecedented. 

According to the Associated Press and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), the national average temperature on Monday was a sizzling 104.6°F. That eclipsed the previous mark of 104.3°F set in 1972, and is now considered to be the country’s hottest day on record.

Temperatures were so hot this week that BOM meteorologists had to add two new colors to their weather maps, with deep purple now showing temperatures in excess of 50°C, or 122°F. The scale now extends up to 129 °F, according to the New York Times

Four of Australia’s hottest 10 days on record have occurred in 2013, with a record seven straight days of temperatures exceeding 102°F. 

Earlier this week, a massive, photogenic dust storm that was associated with a thunderstorm struck Onslow, which is in Western Australia. The photos from this event are incredible - here are a few of the most striking.
** ONSLOW DUST STORM ** Image Submitted By : ...Facebook
IMAGE REMAINS © Brett Martin Photos taken westFacebook
Photo Credit: Levi Cooper/Perth Weather Live.
Image Submitted By : Alicia Gomersall These ...Facebook
Image Submitted By : Ella Nezich Flying into ...Facebook
Images Submitted By : Levi Cooper Onslow DustFacebook
Images Submitted By : Levi Cooper Onslow DustFacebook
Interactive Weather and Wave Forecast MapsBureau Home > Australia > Weather Maps > Interactive Weather and Wave Forecast Maps
Here is the latest summary of the extreme heat event, from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Climate studies show that, due in large part to global warming, extreme heat events around the world are becoming more likely to take place, are longer lasting, and more severe.

The Australian Climate Commission has detailed how extreme weather events, including heat waves and wildfires, are changing as the climate warms. “We are already seeing the impacts of higher temperatures on some extreme weather. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwaves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfire weather in southeast and southwest Australia,” the website said. “High temperature extremes, such as hot days and heatwaves, are likely to be higher and last longer” due to the warming climate.
Extreme Weather - Climate CommissionEffects : Extreme Weather Changes to our climate are likely to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These even…
While global warming is being treated as a co-conspirator in the heat and fires, there are other factors at work too, such as increased human development near areas that are prone to fires. This piece in the Australian academic website, The Conversation, makes the case that human encroachment on wild lands was a key factor behind massive wildfires in Tasmania.
A history of vulnerability: putting Tasmania’s bushfires in perspectiveThe town of Dunalley in south-eastern Tasmania was ravaged by bushfires. AAP Once again, bushfires are laying waste to Australian homes a…
Here is another thought-provoking piece from The Conversation, on the need for Australians to “accept the reality of bushfire as a constant presence in our lives.” 
Adapting to bushfires means accepting their place in AustraliaThe rush to rebuild is understandable, but our attitude to bushfires will bring us more trouble in the long run. AAP Image/Rob Blakers It…
This image, of a family struggling to escape one of the wildfires in Tasmania, has come to symbolize this disaster.
Australian wildfires: clinging to life, a family defies wall of flameThe tornadoes of fire came from two directions. They quickly engulfed the small Tasmanian fishing town of Dunally, and swept towards the ...
The Guardian published an interview with the family, which explains how they managed to survive.
How the Tasmanian family escaped the Australian wildfireAs the wildfires that have swept south-eastern Australia continue to burn, tales of survival and miraculous escape have begun to emerge. ...