Canberrans are sweltering through their hottest day on record today (Saturday, 4 January) while smoke from the NSW bushfires continues to push air quality well above hazardous levels.
The Air Quality Index in Florey hit 512 at 3:00 pm this afternoon, more than two-and-a-half times the hazardous threshold. An hour later at 4:05 pm, the city set a new maximum of 43.5 degrees at Canberra Airport according to Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) data, which was more than a full degree higher than the predicted maximum of 42.
The previous record was set in 1939 at an Acton site, which recorded a maximum temperature of 42.8 degrees, while the Canberra Airport site recorded a maximum temperature of 42.2 degrees in 1968.
However, there can be some discrepancies between sites according to a BOM spokesperson, who added that the hot temperatures are a result of high-pressure systems.
“We have a weak trough in the western parts of NSW and west of the ACT, and a high-pressure system in the Tasman which is dragging all the hot, dry air across NSW, so we have prolonged heat conditions,” the spokesperson told Region Media.
An east to southeasterly change is expected to move over southern parts of NSW and the ACT late on Saturday, bringing temperatures down for tomorrow (5 January), with the maximum set to drop to 28.
Easterly winds are expected for Sunday, bringing no ease to air quality as smoke from coastal fires continues to be blown inland towards the capital.
Today’s temperature sits against a backdrop of tumbling records, with Canberra experiencing its hottest January last year since records began in 1939, and its hottest December day, which broke a 25-year-old record.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says the latest information out of Canberra Health Services is that there has not been a spike in presentations due to the heat at this point.
“People are being sensible and heeding advice about not being outdoors in this weather,” he said.
“If anyone is in need of medical help, our walk-in centres are available and if you are extremely unwell, then of course, use the Emergency Department.”
ACT Health is advising Canberrans to drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can worsen dehydration, and check on family and friends.
For more information on how to beat the heat, visit ACT Health.