Record-breaking heatwave to hit Australia’s south-east, restricting sporting events | Australia news
The route of cycling’s Tour Down Under has been shortened and players at the Australian Open will be given 10-minute heat stress breaks as south-eastern Australia braces for a five-day heatwave.
Parts of central Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania are forecast to experience a severe heatwave until Thursday, with the hot weather contracting to New South Wales and Queensland on Friday and Saturday.
Tour Down Under organisers announced a plan to shorten the second stage between Norwood in Adelaide and Angaston in the Barossa Valley on Wednesday by 26.9km due to extreme heat.
They have also cut 3.4km out of the end of the first stage on Tuesday due to severe winds.
Temperatures are forecast to top 40C, which race director Mike Turtur said would create “extremely challenging” conditions for both riders and spectators.
“The safety and welfare of the riders, spectators and everyone involved with the race is always our primary concern,” he said.
The hottest spot in NSW will be Menindee, near Broken Hill, with forecast temperatures of 45C on Monday rising to 47C on Thursday, and Friday expected to contribute to more fish deaths.
As many as 1m fish are believed to have died in two mass fish kills in the Menindee Lakes since December.
The heatwave is caused by a strong high-pressure system that has dragged hot air from the Pilbara in Western Australia, where temperatures in Marble Bar have been above 40C since mid-December, said Ashleigh Langey from the Bureau of Meteorology.
Temperatures in Sydney are expected to peak on Friday at 34C, with overnight temperatures remaining as high as 22C. Penrith in the western suburbs is forecast to reach 45C on Friday.
“It will be quite hard to sleep,” Langey said.
Players in the Australian Open will struggle through temperatures of 35C in Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday, but BoM senior forecaster Michael Efron said a combination of afternoon sea breezes and weak northerly winds would protect the city from the worst of the heatwave.
But he said the UV ratings would remain extreme over much of the state, “so if you’re outside watching the tennis, do slip slop slap”.
The tournament introduced a new heat policy this year after players suffered from heat exhaustion in 2018, which includes suspending play on outside courts and allowing players in men’s singles matches to take a 10-minute break during extreme heat.
Efron said hot weather records could be broken in northern Victoria, with temperatures of 46C forecast for Mildura on Tuesday and Mildura, Swan Hill and Echuca on Wednesday. Albury-Wodonga, Shepparton and Wangaratta are also forecast to be very hot.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Mildura is 46.9C.
“If we get to 47C in the next couple of days then we will be breaking not just January records but all-time hot weather records as well,” Efron said. He warned people in the north and north-east of the state to keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours, as overnight temperatures were expected to remain in the low to mid 20s.
The fire danger rating in Victoria has been set as severe in some northern districts from Tuesday to Thursday, with Tuesday afternoon expected to be the worst, but Efron said the lack of strong northerly winds had prevented the fire danger from tipping over into extreme.