If you, like many in the northern hemisphere, walked carefully over ice during your morning commute, you might like to know that people on the other side of the globe are suffering much more, as the Sun is scorching Australia with record-high temperatures averaging about +40C. An incredible high of +48.2C (over 118F) was registered in the town of Tarcoola, making it Australia's hottest reading.
This summer is now officially the hottest in the history of Australian weather recording, and is the first year to feature air temperatures above +35C for 10 days in a row. State officials have issued a nationwide fire ban, citing "catastrophic" conditions.
At least three children were hospitalized due to the extreme heat. Horse races at Randwick Racecourse Saturday were postponed and, in Sydney, where temperatures reached +44C Friday, the best they can hope for is a "cooler" +38C over the weekend.
Relief is not expected to come until the beginning of the next week. While New South Wales and South Australia areas will see less heat by the end of Sunday, those living in Queensland will have to wait, weather forecasters say.
The persistent heat is the result of hot air trapped between areas of high pressure around the continent with nowhere to go, according to Stephen Wood, a senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology.
"This basically keeps the heat sitting in the centre of Australia. It really is quite an incredible heat. We are used to getting 2-3 heatwaves a summer but this has just been ongoing," Wood said.
The heat poses a real and significant threat, not only to people's health, but to all forms of life, experts say, urging Australian citizens to take the warnings seriously.
Fire services are urging people who live in areas that are prone to wood fires to have an evacuation route prepared, while health authorities have strongly recommended that people to stay indoors.
The heat has led to a significant spike in energy demand, and energy companies are bracing themselves for blackouts across the country. New South Wales Energy Minister Don Harwin is urging citizens to turn air conditioning systems up to a +26 setting and turn off all unused appliances to reduce energy consumption.
Unfortunately, urban dwellers will not be able to seek refuge in the ocean, as east coast authorities have closed beaches one after another, citing strong winds and dangerously rough surf, while the real reason might be a severe biological contamination of city beaches. According to News.com.au, coastal waters are contaminated by large amounts of fecal matter, and other forms of biological waste, which, combined with extreme heat, is causing rapid bacterial proliferation. Unpopulated north coast beaches, however, are believed to be clean enough for swimming, authorities say.