EVEN by Australian standards, last summer was a scorcher. January 2017 was the hottest ever recorded in Sydney and Brisbane, and great swathes of the south-east endured temperatures that often exceeded 40°C for weeks on end. In South Australia, soaring electricity demand caused an outage that left 90,000 homes sweltering through a blackout with no air conditioning. Across New South Wales, 87 bush fires blazed. It was so hot that dairy cows dropped dead in the fields.
This kind of heatwave isn’t a blip. It is part of a trend that saw Sydney’s temperature climb to over 47°C earlier this month – the highest recorded in the city for 79 years – and could see both it and Melbourne experiencing mega‑heatwaves with highs of 50°C by 2040.
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