Australia baked in its hottest month ever in January
Australia sweltered through its hottest month on record in January, and the summer of extremes continued with wildfires razing the drought-parched south and flooding in expanses of the tropical north.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology confirmed the January record yesterday as parts of the northern hemisphere had record cold.
Australia's scorching start to 2019 - in which the mean temperature across the country for the first time exceeded 30C - followed Australia's third-hottest year on record. Only 2005 and 2013 were warmer than 2018, which ended with the hottest December on record.
Heat-stressed bats dropped dead from trees by the thousands in Victoria state and bitumen roads melted in New South Wales during heatwaves last month.
New South Wales officials say drought-breaking rains are needed to improve the water quality in a stretch of a major river system where hundreds of thousands of fish died in two mass deaths during January linked to excessive heat.
A South Australia state government report on Thursday found that too much water had been drained from the river system for farming under a management plan that did not take into account the impact of climate change on the river's health.
The South Australian capital Adelaide on January 24 recorded the hottest day ever for a major Australian city - a searing 46.6C.
On the same day, the South Australian town of Port Augusta, population 15,000, recorded 49.5C - the highest maximum anywhere in Australia last month.
The main contributor to the heat was a persistent high-pressure system over the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand that blocked cold fronts from reaching southern Australia.
Rainfall was below-average for most of the country, but the monsoonal trough has brought flooding rains to northern Queensland state in the past week.