SYDNEY - With temperatures of 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit) in the New South Wales outback, records are falling as an extreme heat wave grips eastern Australia.
Even in a land used to nature's extremes, this heat wave is punishing. The blistering conditions are affecting much of eastern Australia, but New South Wales has felt it most.
Last year was Australia's third-warmest year on record, and 2019 has got off to a scorching start.
Residents in White Cliffs, 1,000 kilometers northwest from Sydney, have endured heat of 48.2 Celsius. Other parts of Australia have also set new heat records, including the town of Noona, which hit a nighttime temperature of 35.9 Celsius (96.6 Fahrenheit), the highest ever documented across the nation.
"The heat wave across New South Wales over the past week has actually broken 14 all-time maximum temperature records,” said Graham Creed, a TV weather expert. “It is all a combination of weather patterns that have led to the buildup of heat, including the influence of climate change increasing the potential of these events.
“Now we currently have (a) near-record late start to the monsoon across northern Australia. That is leading to the clear skies and very little rainfall that is allowing the heat to continue to build across the northern and central parts of the continent," he added.
Heat waves are Australia's deadliest natural hazard, but there was relief for a distressed sheep found abandoned in the New South Wales outback. It was rescued by the police, and allowed to recover in an air-conditioned patrol car.
Cooler conditions this weekend are expected to give way to more extreme heat in the coming days. Authorities say the hot weather will worsen the risk of serious bushfires. Emergency crews in drought-hit New South Wales continue to battle about 80 blazes.
Australia's hottest recorded temperature was 50.7 Celsius (123 Fahrenheit) in South Australia in January 1960.