While all you North Americans are having white Christmas, and skiing, and ice skating, and drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace… all of us here in Australia are sweating our balls off.
Did I mention it’s fucking hot here? All of y’all are in front of the fireplace and we here might as well be in it.
Last summer in Sydney was a wash – literally. It wasn’t all that hot, but it was one of the wettest summers on record. And the humidity. Don’t even get me started on the humidity. It wasn’t even that hot and I was still dripping with sweat constantly. Thank goodness I could pass it off as rain. “No, no, I swear it’s water! I had an umbrella malfunction!” But leading up to this summer, the meteorologists kept saying it’s going to be a hot, dry one. Not that they’re ever right about these things, but I was hoping they would be for once.
And they were somewhat right. January 8th rolled around and, well, this happened:
Yes, that says 108 degrees Fahrenheit. And yes, I’m using Fahrenheit because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and 100 degrees sounds a lot more impressive than 40. Seriously. Tuesday, January 8th was the hottest day ever in Australia based on the average of high temperature readings taken at several hundred spots around the country. While it wasn’t the hottest day ever in Sydney, I believe it was in the top 5 since records began being kept a century ago. Furthermore, the heat persisted into the night. The temperature was still above 100 degrees Fahrenheit at 10pm. 10pm! Those looking for respite from the oppressive heat were still swimming at Bondi Beach after midnight. Why don’t more houses have air conditioning in this city? With temperatures like that, only a bunch of crazy people would live without a frosty blast of air constantly streaming into their apartments.
And I suppose I’m crazy because I’m one of them now.
The dry heat sparked a rash of bushfires across the country, most notably in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Bushfires are the major natural disaster in Australia. The fires are necessary in some ways – they are a vital part of Australia’s ecology as they help certain native plant species to germinate and they encourage new growth of grassland plants. Controlled burns – started by professionals in the right conditions for containment – are common in Australia. But when natural fires breakout, they can easily get out of control. High winds on hot days can spread fires rapidly, killing humans and wildlife and destroying homes and other buildings across hundreds of square miles. Fires of any sort are banned statewide on these days, and anyone who starts a fire purposefully is prosecuted and shunned by the media. Major highways are closed, whole regions evacuated, and news coverage is pretty much non-stop, giving regular updates on evacuations, homes destroyed, and lives lost. In Tasmania, major fires at the top of the Tasman Peninsula stranded thousands of residents and tourists until ferries could be sent from Hobart to rescue them. The Hume Highway, the major highway between Sydney and Melbourne was closed down in parts for fear of fires crossing the road, or because the smoke was just too thick and visibility was impaired or eliminated altogether.
And just when the heat had subsided and the bushfires were getting under control, Mother Nature dropped a surprise on us – and on meteorologists. They didn’t forecast it, and we weren’t expecting it, but on last Friday, January 18th, Sydneysiders were treated to a lovely day of this:
The hottest day ever on record in Sydney. EVER. But at least it only felt like 111 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the full 115 degrees, right?
It broke a 74 year old record set back in January 1939. Unlike the week before when we knew it was coming and could prepare, this took everyone by surprise. Many people were hospitalized due to the unexpected temperatures, and buses and trains were overheating causing some major transport headaches. Work let us out a bit early due to the heavy traffic conditions. And although I live only a 10 minute walk from the office, I was completely drenched in sweat by the time I arrived home.
And then, that evening, I went for a 6 kilometre run. On the hottest day ever. What a feat!
Actually, a cold front came through just after 5pm and dropped the temperature dramatically – by 30 degrees Fahrenheit or something ridiculous like that. So I wasn’t so crazy to do it. But that just exemplifies how crazy the weather has been here lately.
Oppressive heat, record high temperatures, and out-of-control raging fires one day, and then cool and rainy the next. It was hot as hell for Australia Day celebrations on Saturday – my shirt was so sweaty that it had nearly completely changed colour. How embarrassing. And today, on Monday, just two days later, it’s pissing down rain across the entire eastern half of the country and they’ve pre-empted The Ellen DeGeneres Show to give full coverage to the massive floods currently engulfing Queensland yet again.
Why can’t Mother Nature just make up her mind? Or is she just fucking with us for a cheap thrill?
What a bitch.