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While summers in the world's driest inhabited continent AKA Australia can get a little uncomfortable, this year seems to be starting out a little more extreme than usual. On Monday January 8th, the Australian meteorological dept reported an average continent temperature of 104.6°F (40.33°C) - Surpassing a record set in 1972. And, the forecast for the rest of the season looks even worse.
So much so, that it has forced the Australian Bureau of Meteorology to amend its interactive weather chart and add two additional colors - deep purple and pink to indicate the increase of its temperature range by more than 7° from the previous cap of 122°F (50°C) to a new maximum of 129.2°F (54°C). If their predictions are accurate, some areas of Southern Australia will need the purple color by Monday, January 14th, when the temperatures are expected to exceed the previous high of 122.7°F (50.4°C).
Besides being uncomfortable, this excess heat is also resulting in other catastrophes - Over 200 wildfires raged through the South Eastern part of the continent including the tiny Island State of Tasmania where it torched 100 homes in the town of Dunalley. Fortunately, no lives were lost. While cooler weather on Wednesday allowed the firefighters to gain some control, with temperatures set to soar again next week, fears of additional fires are rampant.
If that wasn't enough, a powerful thunderstorm which packed little rain but lots of lightning and winds of up to 102km/h caused a massive sandstorm in Western Australia's Pilbara region about 1,500km from the State's capital Perth. The January 10th, sandstorm appears even more dramatic because of its vibrant color - A result of the red dust and iron ore that covers the Pilbara region. Fortunately, since it occurred off the coast and largely into the Indian Ocean, it did not cause any damage. It did however provide for some dramatic pictures!
Referred to as Haboob (from the Arabic word habb meaning wind), dust storms of this magnitude are created when air is pushed down and forward by the front of a traveling thunderstorm cell, which drags with it dust and debris. If the winds are strong enough, which was certainly the case here, they can stir up enough sand and dust to create sand walls, as high as, 10,000 feet!
If all this freakish weather is not enough, the residents of Western Australia are now bracing for another natural disaster - Tropical Cyclone Narella, which is rapidly heading toward them. The good news is that it has veered away from the coast and hence will not be causing as much damage had originally been feared. However, it is still a category-4 system and therefore expected to bring very strong winds and heavy rains to the coastal town of Exmouth, that lies at the tip of the North West Cape.
In all fairness, none of these weather occurrences are unusual for the continent this time of the year - Summer temperatures do run high, sand storms are not uncommon and tropical cyclones are a way of life between November 1 and April 30th. However, this time around they all seem to be a little extreme or maybe it is the fact that they are all occurring simultaneously, causing many people to cry out 'Global Warming' warnings again! Whatever it is, we sure hope things go back to normal soon!