Heatwave a hotter topic 


IT is almost impossible to go about your daily business without being dominated by the weather - or weather predictions and news, to be more accurate.

It has become an industry that almost fuels itself. This week was a classic example. The Bureau of Meteorology released a new map of Australia that measures the heat over the nation.

There was great hype about a first-ever new "purple zone" to reflect temperatures of 50 to 52 degrees and it received plenty of publicity. It was one of the barbecue stopper moments - a real talking point at the local pub that Australia was under the control of this purple haze.

It would be interesting to know how many people noticed that the purple haze never happened and was attributed to a forecast that was "a little too emphatic".

Sure, Australia is enjoying a heatwave, but history will tell us that it is not that unusual.

We are told that the hottest average maximum temperature recorded across Australia reached a record 40.33 degrees on Monday, however, it was more interesting to note that this broke a record set in December 1972 - yes, 1972.

That was the year that Gough Whitlam rode to power on the "It's Time" slogan (not "It's Hot"), and probably the only thing that matched the temperature in 1972 was Abigail steaming up our television screens in the show No. 96.

Or maybe someone simply couldn't add up - after all, it was the year that we swapped from Fahrenheit to Celsius for recording temperatures and those conversions can be tricky.

As predictions of hot weather continue, it was even more interesting to look at historical data. Sydney hit 42.5 degrees this week and sent everyone into meltdown but it wasn't a patch on Sydney's record 45.3 degrees set in 1939 - the year that World War II started.

And, that record in 1939 beat the previous record set in 1896.

In terms of Australia's hottest day, well, that record of 50.7 degrees was set at Oodnadatta Airport in 1960.

This column isn't about denying climate change but it might throw a bucket of cold water over some people who think we have entered unchartered territory.

The world's climate has been constantly changing and, in many ways thanks to the Bureau of Meteorology and communications, we know more about what is happening around the world than ever before. It was only 10 days ago that China recorded a record cold snap and and an entire fishing fleet was ice-bound - 25 years ago, we would not have known and would not have cared.

In many ways it comes down to living with the climate that we have inherited in Australia and we simply haven't learned from our forebears.

There is plenty of debate about the lack of fuel reduction burns and their ability to subdue major fires. These burns have become politically incorrect in these environmentally sensitive times when, in fact, cool autumn burns are good for safety and good for nature.

Perhaps Tasmanians might view some smoke on the horizon in future autumns and springs as communities being smart.


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