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Environment, Medical Health Aged Care

HIGHEST TEMPERATURE RECORDED THIS YEAR IN ONGOING WA HEATWAVES

Climate Media Centre 4 mins read

Perth has already recorded six 40ºC+ days this February, as much of Western Australia swelters through its fourth heatwave so far this summer.

 

A record temperature of 49.9ºC was recorded at Carnarvon Airport over the weekend, marking the world's hottest day for this year and the warmest day in the country this summer.

And, Bunbury had its hottest ever night this week reaching a scorching 27.3ºC. The previous record was 26ºC.

 

For Western Australia as a whole, the extraordinarily hot February follows months of unrelenting heat. September 2023 broke the monthly temperature record by a very wide margin, and every month since has seen well above average temperatures.

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The extreme heat has also made for a tough fire season. Outer suburbs of Perth have been threatened by large fires on three occasions this season.

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Other recent extreme weather events of note for the state include record high temperatures in the Pilbara, very large grassfires in the Kimberley, and residents of Kalgoorlie and surrounds being left to weather a heatwave without power after storms damaged electricity infrastructure.

 

“This extreme heat is made worse by climate pollution from the burning of coal, oil and gas,” Climate Council Research Director Dr Simon Bradshaw said.

 

A range of experts on the impacts of extreme heat on human health and wellbeing are available for comment.

 

To arrange interviews, please contact:

Dylan Quinnell, Media Manager, Climate Media Centre

dylan.quinnell@climatemediacentre.org.au

+61 450 668 350

EXTREME HEAT AND HEALTH

Chair of the HEAL WA Aboriginal Reference Group Mara West said: “Aboriginal communities are on the front line of climate change and governments have to include and ensure community reps are at the table when discussing this issue.”

 

Location: Perth/Whadjuk Nyoongar country

 

Perth GP and Doctors for the Environment Australia spokesperson Dr George Crisp said:Perth is currently experiencing an unprecedented heatwave with temperatures being smashed around the state and the very well-recognised risk of bushfires.

 

“Heat can impact all of us, but particularly vulnerable groups in our communities.

 

“Our bodies respond to rising temperatures by sweating and diverting blood to our skin, this process becomes less effective as temperatures rise.

 

“Even modest increases, for example night time temperatures above 24C and average daily temperatures above the high 20’s, are associated with significant increases in deaths, heart attacks and cardiac arrests, and other serious heath impacts.

 

“Some people are particularly vulnerable to heat exposure. The elderly and those with existing chronic illness are far more likely to die or require hospital admissions. Small children have less capacity to thermoregulate and maintain hydration and present to emergency departments in far higher numbers during heatwaves. Pregnant women experience higher rates of stillbirth and premature delivery as temperatures rise with attendant risks for premature infants (one Australian study found a 4% increase in premature labour for every 1C increase in monthly average temperature). 

 

“People with or at risk of mental ill health are particularly susceptible to the effects of heat. There is a direct correlation between heatwaves and mental health presentations, as well as a demonstrated increase in suicides in some cities. Many of the medications we use to treat depression, anxiety and psychosis reduce heat tolerance by reducing sweating. The social networks on which people rely also can be compromised during heatwaves. 

 

“We can only survive temperatures in the 40s (or wet bulb above 35C). Above these temperatures, healthy adults will be able to withstand conditions longer than vulnerable groups, but how long they can do this depends on the temperature / humidity. It can be as short as minutes once you get to 50+C.

 

“Our bodies will overheat within hours resulting in heat exhaustion, heatstroke and death.” 

 

What we can do

  • Avoid or limit heat exposure, by ensuring adequate hydration and avoiding alcohol.

  • If you have air conditioning, you can reduce energy costs by cooling one room or using it in conjunction with a fan.

  • If not, try and find refuge in a cool public space like a library, cinema or shopping mall.

  • Make contact with vulnerable people in your family or neighbourhood to make sure they are OK

  • At a higher level, we need to start vulnerability mapping so that we can identify at-risk populations, educate them and monitor them in extreme heat events.

  • We also need to phase out fossil fuels which are the main drivers of a warming planet.  

 

Location: Perth/Whadjuk Nyoongar country

 

Conservation Council Western Australia President, Dr Richard Yin, said: “It cannot be debated that the relentless heatwaves we have seen this month are the result of a changing climate. We must leave fossil fuels, like coal and gas, – and their climate-wrecking emissions – behind if we want to prevent more extreme weather events. Urgently reducing our emissions is essential to preserve our natural environment and ensure a safe climate for everyone.” 

 

Location: Perth/Whadjuk Nyoongar country

 

Sweltering Cities Executive Director, Emma Bacon, said: “Perth has faced record temperatures summer after summer for the last few years. Beyond what's reported in the news, we know that it means people in the community are suffering, and that people will more than likely die due to the effects of the heat. The people who are most at risk will include older people, people with disability, young babies and people who live in hot homes or work outside.

 

"Sometimes when we talk about climate change, it can seem like a distant problem. Unfortunately, what Perth is experiencing now is what climate change will feel like for many people. It's important that we take these signs seriously and stop approving more coal or gas projects if we don't want our future to be record breaking summer after record breaking summer."

 

Location: Sydney/Gadigal Land 


Contact details:

Dylan Quinnell, Media Manager, Climate Media Centre

dylan.quinnell@climatemediacentre.org.au

0450 668 350

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