Australia had hottest month on record in January: Weather bureau

A man cools down in front of a mist fan during an Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, on Jan 25, 2019.

MELBOURNE - Australia endured its hottest month on record in January, with sweltering conditions expected to persist through April, the country's weather bureau said on Friday (Feb 1).

The heatwave, in which temperatures rose above 40 deg C for several days straight in some areas, was mainly due to a high pressure system off the south-east coast that blocked cooler air from coming in, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

A delayed monsoon also kept cooler, moist air coming in from the north, and a warming trend that has pushed Australian temperatures up by more than 1 deg C in the past 100 years also contributed to the heat, said Dr Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist at the bureau.

Scorching weather last month triggered power outages in some areas and sent electricity prices soaring, while bushfires destroyed homes in the southern island state of Tasmania.

"For maximum temperatures, for minimum temperatures and for mean temperatures, it's not only been our hottest January on record, it's actually been our hottest month on record, and those records go back to 1910," Dr Watkins said in a video on the bureau's website.

"Odds are favouring that heat continuing at least through February into March and April," he said.

The mean temperature for January across the country exceeded 30 deg C, the bureau said.

The two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, recorded their warmest average, low and high temperatures for January.

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At the same time, New South Wales suffered one of the driest Januarys on record, while Victoria had less than 20 per cent of its average January rainfall.

Tasmania, which depends on hydropower, experienced its driest January on record.

Western Australia had its driest January since 2005.

The weather bureau said on Thursday that the west coast faces hot, dry weather over the next three months, which will dent the outlook for wheat production in the world's fourth-largest exporter.