Weather News

Dry heatwave breaking records and fuelling fires in Qld

Ben Domensino, Monday November 26, 2018 - 13:20 AEDT


Record-breaking November heat and unseasonably dry air are causing severe fire danger ratings in parts of Queensland today, with more on the way during the week ahead.


A broad low pressure trough located near eastern Australia caused hot and unusually dry air to flow across parts of central and northern Queensland on Monday. Westerly winds carried this torrid air all the way to the coast, where some places experienced unprecedented late-spring temperatures.


Mackay Airport had already reached 39.7 degrees by 10:24am on Monday, setting a new maximum temperature record for any month. Mackay's tops of 37.8 and 37.6 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, were also higher than the city's previous November record of 36.6 from 2008.


In addition to the heat, the air is notably dry for this time of year. Late spring is typically when more humid air starts to spread over Queensland from the northern tropics. This moisture-laden air provides fuel for seasonal thunderstorms and helps limit maximum temperatures due to cloud cover. However, the air is starved of moisture this week.


Cairns Airport's 42.6 degrees shortly after midday was also a new November record, beating 37.2 degrees from 1971. This is also a new record for any month at Cairns Airport, although an old Cairns Post Office site had reached as high as 43.2 degrees in January, back in 1923.


The air's dryness can be monitored using the 'dew point temperature,' which is the temperature air would need to cool to for it to become saturated, at which point condensation occurs. The lower the dew point temperature, the drier the air.





Image: Forecast dew point temperatures in Queensland on Monday, according to ACCESS-R model.


Mackay's average dew point temperature at 9am during November is 19 degrees. At 9am on Monday, it was just eight degrees and by 10am it was down to just 3.6 degrees.


The dry, hot air will combine with moderate to fresh winds on Monday to elevate fire danger in some central and northern parts of the state. Severe fire danger ratings have been forecast for the Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central Coast and Whitsundays, and Capricornia Districts.


A Watch and Act alert was in place this morning for a bushfire near Deepwater, located to the north of Bundaberg. As of 10:25am, this fire was out of control and threatening properties in the Deepwater community, with residents advised to evacuate to nearby Miriam Vale.


After some brief respite on Tuesday, another surge of dry air will spread over Queensland, elevating fire danger ratings again from Wednesday. 


Visit https://www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au/map/Pages/default.aspx for the latest information on bushfires.


- Weatherzone

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