Purple alert! Australian heatwave forces climate experts to use new colour to represent extreme temperatures

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Australian Bureau of Meteorology adds two entirely new colours – deep purple and pink – to show the new extreme range on its interactive weather maps

Australia’s giant and record heatwave, which is sparking hundreds of bush fires across the land, has forced the country’s meteorologists to redraw their national temperature scales – upwards.

In an unprecedented move, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has extended the temperature range on its charts from the previous cap of 50 degrees Centigrade – 122 degrees Fahrenheit – to 54 degrees C, which is more than 129 degrees in Fahrenheit terms.

At the same time, it has added two entirely new colours – deep purple and pink – to show the new extreme range on its interactive weather maps. A patch of purple, indicating 50+, is now visible on one of the temperature charts for next week.

This is thought to be the first time that any country in the world has actually redrawn its charts to take account of temperatures which are thought likely to go off the scale which had been previously applied, and climate scientists indicated it was a warning for the future.

'”The current heatwave - in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent - is unprecedented in our records,” said the Bureau of Meteorology's manager of climate monitoring and prediction, David Jones.

''Clearly, the climate system is responding to the background warming trend. Everything that happens in the climate system now is taking place on a planet which is a degree hotter than it used to be.''

The scorching temperatures could last into the weekend and beyond, Dr Jones said, potentially breaking the country's all-time high of 50.7 degrees C – 123.6 degrees F – set on January 2, 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in South Australia.

Bob Ward, spokesman for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change in London, said tonight: “It is a measure of just how extreme this heatwave is that a national meteorological organisation is struggling to re-calibrate its monitoring methods by adding an extra four degrees to its scale. It is a sign of things to come.”

Hundreds of bushfires raged across southern Australia today as the country sweltered in what was almost certainly its hottest day on record, although, in what one politician called “a remarkable escape”, no lives were lost, and relatively few properties destroyed.

Worst affected were New South Wales, where more than 130 fires were still burning tonight, 30 of them out of control, and Tasmania, where fires flared up again, threatening a clutch of seaside towns on the already hard-hit Tasman Peninsula.

Records are tumbling daily as Australia endures the same “catastrophic” fire conditions which prevailed in rural Victoria during the 2009 infernos in which 173 people died. Yesterday was the hottest day nationally since records began, with an average maximum of 40.33C – 104.6F – and today looked set to overtake it once calculations were completed.

The heat was so extreme that Outback roads melted. "It’s like someone put the hairdryer on your face,” said Eva Toth, a motel owner in Tarcutta, one of several NSW towns under threat, as she packed up a few belongings and prepared to flee.

Searing heat, strong winds and low humidity have combined to create lethal fire conditions across southeastern and central Australia, exacerbated by an abundance of fuel. “You don’t get conditions worse than this,” said Shane Fitzsimmons, head of the NSW Rural Fire Service.

In the southern NSW town of Bega, it was already 37.8C (100 degrees F) at 9am today, the mercury having risen nearly15 degrees in an hour. In Sydney, where thousands of homes suffered power cuts thanks to soaring demand for air-conditioning, it was still 34C- 93F -  at midnight last night.

The hottest place in Australia was Warburton, in the Northern Territory, which recorded 47.2 degrees, or 117 Fhareinheit. “The bitumen road’s melting, but you don’t really blame it,” said one local, Lynnie Plate.

In the cities, people sought refuge yesterday in air-conditioned libraries and cinemas. Extra surf lifesavers were on duty at beaches. At Sydney’s busy railway stations, staff handed out bottled water. At the city’s Taronga Zoo, keepers hosed down the animals and fed them on frozen carrots and meat ice block.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us