Multi-week Australia heatwave is blasting through records, threatening wildlife |

Multi-week Australia heatwave is blasting through records, threatening wildlife

The Washington Post
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Brutus the hippo gets hosed down in the heat at Adelaide Zoo in the South Australia city of Adelaide. Temperatures in southern Australia topped 120 degrees on Jan. 24, shattering previous records as sizzling citizens received free beer and heat-stressed bats fell from trees.

A multi-week heatwave in Australia has parched the landscape, triggered damaging wildfires, pushed the demand on the power grid to the brink and has toppled at least two significant records as of Thursday.

The first record was broken twice in one night Jan. 18, when the low temperature in Noona, New South Wales, dropped to 96.6 degrees, and Borrona Downs only fell to 96 degrees. These were the warmest overnight lows recorded in the month of January anywhere in the world. The previous record was set by a remote weather station in South Australia more than three decades ago, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The second significant record was broken Thursday when Adelaide, Victoria, climbed to 116 degrees — now the highest temperature for any Australian capital. Victorians are cranking up the air conditioning to deal with the heat, which is putting pressure on the electric grid. The South Australian Government fired up its temporary diesel generators Thursday to deal with the extra load, according to the ABC.

Adelaide’s Red Lion Hotel promised free beer if the mercury topped 113 degrees but only while it exceeded that benchmark. Bar manager Stephen Firth said the pub ran dry after giving away more than 185 gallons of beer over more than two hours.

“We probably thought it would come around one day, but we didn’t think it would be for such a prolonged period,” Firth said.

The heatwave’s toll spreads beyond city limits. Dozens of horses were found dead in the dried-up beds of former watering holes around the Alice Springs community in the Northern Territory this week, killed by apparent dehydration or heat stroke. According to the RSPCA, horses require eight to 13 gallons of water per day — and more in hot weather.

The Central Land Council opted to euthanize more than 50 wild horses that appeared to be dying of starvation and dehydration near Santa Teresa in the Northern Territory. Around 120 feral horses, donkeys and camels are dying near another remote community, the council said in a Thursday news release.

“With climate change well and truly upon us, we expect these emergencies to occur with increasing frequency, and nobody is truly prepared and resourced to respond to them,” the council said in the release.

January’s heat wave follows Australia’s hottest December on record — Christmas in the outback was particularly scorching — and the third-hottest year on record. Globally, 2018 is likely to have been the fourth-warmest year on record according to Berkeley Earth, which released its findings on Thursday.