It's winter here in the northern hemisphere, but it's summer in the high latitudes below the equator. As I noted on Saturday, 2012 Was The Warmest Year On Record here in the United States, but our recent hot weather pales in comparison with what's happening in Australia.
See that deep purple in the middle of this acne-red weather report from Down Under? That right there represents 129.2° F or 54 °C — it's a brand-new shade that the Australian bureau of meteorology was forced to add to its heat index because their country is, you know, kind of on fire. "The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau's model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees," David Jones, head of the bureau's climate monitoring and prediction unit, told The Sydney Morning Herald, which notes that the previous record high was 50.7°C (123°F), recorded in 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport in the southern part of Australia — right around where the new shades of hot are showing up today.
To give you an idea of just how uncomfortable this Australian heatwave really is, consider that it's just past midnight there right now ... and it's 95°F in Sydney. Doubly scary are the giant fire risks that come with the heat — risks so severe Australian officials are taking no chances and labeling the warning "catastrophic." "A 'catastrophic' warning carries the risk of significant loss of life and the destruction of many homes, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service," reports CNN.
Let me say aloud what everybody is thinking... Global Warming!
Extreme weather events occur more frequently as the Earth's surface temperature rises ... blah, blah, blah ... yadda, yadda, yadda...
I'd say that large swathes of the Earth are well on the way to becoming uninhabitable.
Kinda puts that recent "fiscal cliff" brouhaha (and the current "debt ceiling" brouhaha) into proper perspective, doesn't it?
The technophile website Wired had an interesting take on the record setting heat Down Under. Get a load of this—
Let’s put [the heatwave] in a different perspective. In Sydney, temperatures reached 108ºF (42ºC) yesterday. According to Apple, that’s too hot to safely use your iPhone (they want you to keep it under 95ºF or 35ºC) and edging into being too hot to own an iPhone (113ºF or 45ºC).
A couple years ago, after a series of massive snow storms in the United States, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal reflected on the prospects of cities as they find themselves in a new world.
“What you need to know is that your city — pretty much wherever it is — was built for a climate that it may no longer have. That’s going to mean tough commutes during the winter and spending more money on air conditioning in the summer. It’s going to mean that your city shuts down more often because some freaky thing happened that no one can remember happening in their lifetimes.”
In Australia, these record-breaking temperatures raise the prospect of gadgets designed for a climate that they may no longer have, either. They already had to redesign the map.