Weekend high: Sydney nearly sets heat record

Thermometers in greater Sydney, Australia, touched 47.3 degrees Celsius on Sunday, nearly setting an all-time record.

Residents attempt to escape the extreme heat at Sydney's Bondi Beach. Photo by EPA-EFE
Residents attempt to escape the extreme heat at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. Photo by EPA-EFE

The high, 117.14 degrees Fahrenheit, marked the highest temperature ever recorded in the western suburb of Penrith, and the second-highest temperature recorded in greater Sydney. The near-record just missed topping the high of 47.8 Celsius recorded in the suburb of Richmond in 1939.

Inner Sydney didn’t get quite as hot as the western suburbs. A high of 43.4 degree Celsius was recorded at Observatory Hill.

An afternoon breeze helped cool the city a few degrees. The winds are expected to move west, providing some relief to Penrith, Richmond and other suburbs to the west.

“That may just trickle into the western suburbs this evening, however the west is still expected to remain very hot for the rest of the day,” said Andrew Haigh, scientist with the Bureau of Meteorology.

Some 9,000 properties were left without power throughout the region. Heightened demand on the power grid due to the extreme temperatures was at least partially to blame for the outages, according to a spokesperson for local electricity provider Ausgrid.

Officials issued a fire ban for the region. Wildfires are common during southern Australia’s arid, hot summers.

“One of the common things we see people do is throw cigarette butts down,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. “People should understand that the fine is around $1,300 if we catch you throwing a lit cigarette in a total fire ban.”

Professionals at an international tennis tournament in Sydney were forced off the courts after temperatures crested 40 degrees Celsius at 10 o’clock in the morning. The heat caused the cameras of several photographers at the sporting event to malfunction.

Cricket players participating in the Ashes Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground struggled through the stifling heat.

Climate scientists say rising sea and land temperatures as a result of global warming explain the hundreds of weather records broken or nearly-broken over the last several years in Australia.

By Brooks Hays