AS AUSTRALIANS swelter in soaring temperatures a climate change researcher has warned the unbearable conditions could now be the seasonal norm.
Sydney topped 40 degrees on Tuesday and extreme fire danger and blazing bushfires forced some residents out of their homes in NSW.
The Bureau of Meteorology released a climate statement revealing that from September to December the average Australian maximum temperature was the highest on record with a national anomaly of +1.61 °C.
Many towns have broken records for the hottest temperatures in more than 30 years. In Hobart, the temperature reached 41.8 degrees, the hottest in 120 years.
Eucla in Western Australia broke a 53-year record after reaching 47.9 degrees last week.
University of NSW Climate Change Research Centre postdoctoral research fellow Dr Markus Donat said studies had shown extremely hot days had become more frequent in Australia.
"In recent studies we have analysed how extreme temperatures have changed globally," he said.
"For most regions, including Australia, we found that extremely high temperatures have become more frequent and more intense, while extremely low temperatures are occurring less frequently than they did in the middle of the 20th century.
"Counting the number of very warm days (in this specific case defined as the warmest 5% during the 1951-1980 period) we found that during the most recent three decades 1981-2010 the frequency of days in this warmest category has increased by 40% globally."
Dr Margaret Loughnan of Monash University said high risk groups during the heatwave included the elderly, chronic disease suffers and babies.
"People should avoid exposure - stay indoors as much as possible. Use air-conditioners, if available, and fans to circulate air," she said.
"On hot days do essential jobs early before the hottest part of the day.
"Avoid cooking, eat small light meals."
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