19 January 2018

Heat wave warning issued as Canberra sizzles

| Ian Bushnell
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Boo the otter cools off with a pilchard ice block at the National Zoo and Aquarium today. Photos: Supplied.

Canberra is bracing for the first real heat wave of the summer with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting searing temperatures over the next four days.

The Bureau is warning of severe heat wave conditions across the weekend and into next week for NSW and the ACT, with only coastal parts receiving some relief from sea breezes.

Today’s swelter is but a taste of what is to come, with tomorrow and Sunday set to be a repeat dose with tops of 38 and 37, followed by 38 again for the start of the working week.

Relief of sorts will come on Tuesday with a maximum of 35 and on Wednesday down to 32, with Thursday still warm at 31 but not the fierce heat that will force many to take refuge into Canberra’s air-conditioned shopping centres, institutions and cinemas, cool off in the capital’s swimming pools and waterways, or head for the coast.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) is warning of the potential for heat-related injuries, and Very High fire danger ratings over the coming days.

“It is vital that residents take responsibility for their own safety and bushfire preparations and look out for each other,” a spokesperson said. “Yesterday’s bushfire anniversary is a timely reminder of the importance of the community and emergency services working together to keep our city safe – it is a shared responsibility.”

For more tips on how to prepare for bushfire, or to check if you live in a bushfire prone area, and to see real-time alerts and warnings visit the emergency services website www.esa.act.gov.au.

Authorities are warning people to keep hydrated, limit strenuous activity during the hottest part of the day, eat fresh, check on others, seek shade when outside and dress down.

Cars can heat up quickly and children and pets should not be left in them at any time.

Go here for advice on how to beat the heat from ACT Health.

For the animals at the Canberra Zoo and Aquarium, the heat wave means an iced treat to keep them happy and safe.

Keepers handed out the specially prepared ice blocks, ‘fruitcicles’ for the capuchin monkeys, made from berries, beetroot and mealworms, while the otters were given pilchard.

The heat wave comes as an analysis by the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed 2017 as one of the three warmest years on record and increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases as the likely cause for the continuing streak of warmest years, with 2017 joining 2015 and 2016 in the record. The global record is still held by 2016, however, 2017 was the warmest year without an El Niño, which can boost global annual temperatures.

Research Principal for the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures, Dr Rebecca Cunningham said the findings would not be a surprise to people living in SA, Victoria, NSW and the ACT, who yet again are preparing to swelter through another run of 40-degree days.

“Extreme heat in summer is a new normal, particularly for urban populations. Sydney and other Australian cities need to urgently focus on ways to help people cope through extreme heat,” she said.

Professor of Environmental Change Biology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Tasmania, David Bowman said the record-breaking warming was contributing to a spate of globally extreme fires. “The bushfire risk situation is deteriorating and Australians remain poorly prepared. We need to urgently start adapting to this new reality.”
Stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts and warnings on the Bureau’s website, the BOM Weather app and Twitter.

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