January 19, 2014 - Central Australia
The red sand region which encircles the town of Alice Springs has been called the physical and spiritual heart of Australia. Nicknamed the “Red Center”, a heat wave in late December, 2013 - January 2014 was so intense that the region could have been called “the red-hot center”.
On January 8 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a clear-sky, true-color image of a sweltering summer day. The Northern Territory, encompassing the Red Center, sits in the northeast. Western Australia lies to the west and Southern Australia to the south.
Alice Springs, home to about 20,000 residents, sits on the northern side of the MacDonnell Ranges. In this image, those mountains appear as dark, parallel, curving lines. Here average maximum summer temperatures are 35.6 °C (96.1 °F) and average minimum winter temperatures are 5.1 °C (41.2 °F). Rainfall varies, but the annual average is 286 mm (11 in).
But 2014 is starting out as anything but average – it is likely to be the hottest January on record, already setting out to beat the previous hottest January (2013), and following the hottest year on record (2013), according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
On January 3, 2014 ABC Rural reported that Alice Springs had experienced 13 consecutive days over 40°C (104°F). Nearby Tennant Creek had lived through its hottest day ever – at 45.4 °C (113.7°C), beating the all-time record set last year of 44.2°C (111.6°C). Cattle stations east of Alice Springs saw the most brutal heat in Central Australia, with Jervois Station reaching 46°F (114.8°F). It’s not just heat – the lack of rainfall is also extreme of late. Jervois Station, with an average annual rainfall of 290 mm (11.4 in), received only 95.8 mm in 2013, and the opening days of 2014 were dry.
The January swelter wasn’t restricted just to Central Australia. Temperatures have soared across much of Australia in early 2014, with several localities nearing the 50°C (122°F) mark. On January 2, in Moomba, South Australia, the temperature reached 49.3°C (120.7°F), and on January 16 the U.N. World Meteorological Organization declared Adelaide the world’s hottest city, with temperatures of 46°C (114.8°F).