Summer in central Australia normally is both hot and dry, while tropical cyclones often drench the coastal areas. Even in a land of extremes, this summer has been exceptional.
For much of the summer Australia has experienced a widespread heat wave. On January 7, the nation suffered the hottest day ever recorded, with average maximum temperatures hitting 40.3°C (104.5°F). On January 18, Sydney set a record with a high of 45.8°C (114.4°F).
With temperatures trending hotter, and the highs soaring, the government re-wrote forecast maps. Released on January 8, the new maps include colors for temperatures from 50°C to 52°C (purple) and for 52°C - 54°C (pink). Although it’s been a blistering summer, Australia’s has not yet broken the all-time record of 50.7°C (123.2°F), which was set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta.
While the heat wave was fueling fires across Australia, especially in New South Wales and Tasmania, Tropical Cyclone Oswald hit Queensland on January 21, then bounced away, reformed and inundated New South Wales on January 26-28. According to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the flooding in Queensland was the worst the state has ever experienced, claiming at least six lives.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this true-color image of a hot and sunny summer day across central Australia on February 3. Black boundary lines have been overlain on the image to delineate state boundaries. The Northern Territories lies at the north of the image, with Queensland in the northeast. The northern coasts of both states are green, reflecting vegetative growth fed by recent rain. New South Wales lies in the lower right corner, South Australia due south, and a bit of Western Australia can be seen along the left edge of the image.