Unrivalled heat in central Australia

Ben Domensino, 4 January 2019

Alice Springs is forecast to reach 45 degrees on Friday afternoon, extending a record-breaking run of oppressive heat in central Australia.

A large mass of hot air has been lingering over Australia since late December, causing temperatures to soar in the Red Centre.

Alice Springs Airport has exceeded 40 degrees every day since Christmas Day, including eight consecutive days above 43 degrees. This spell will be extended to nine days on Friday, which is a new record at the airport weather station, which opened in 1941. The previous record was four days over 43 degrees, which occurred in 2004 and 1960.

Image: Alice Springs

There was one other case of nine consecutive days over 43 degrees at the old Alice Springs Post Office site, back in 1887. However, temperature observations were not standardised by the Bureau of Meteorology until the early 1900's, so data from the late 1800's can be erroneous.

As of 9am on Friday, Alice Springs Airport had only exceeded 45 degrees five times since the site opened in 1941. Three of those have occurred during the last week. Friday's forecast top of 45C would take this tally to six.

The standout days at Alice Spring Airport during the past week were Thursday, January 3rd and Saturday, December 29th. Both of these days reached 45.6 degrees, which is the highest temperature on record at the site.

Central Australia's oppressive heatwave will be brought down a notch from this weekend, with slightly milder southerly winds pushing up from the Bight. Alice Springs is forecast to reach tops of 39-40 degrees over the weekend and should see similar temperatures into the start of next week.