The average maximum temperature across the country on Tuesday was 40.9 degrees Celsius (105.6 Fahrenheit), according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology
— beating the previous 2013 record of 40.3 Celsius (104.5 Fahrenheit).
That’s just the average nationwide figure — the heat has spiked even higher in some places, like the town of Ceduna in South Australia, which hit 45.5 degrees Celsius (nearly 114 Fahrenheit). Earlier this week, the city of Perth in Western Australia experienced three consecutive days above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) — which had never before happened in December, according to CNN meteorologists.
The bureau warned on Tuesday
that temperatures were likely to climb even higher as the heat wave continues to spread east into Victoria and NSW states over the course of the week.
State authorities are now urging residents to plan for the heat, stay indoors, and avoid outdoor activities until the weather has cooled.
The heat wave comes as deadly bush fires continue to ravage NSW, exacerbated by the heat, wind, and the worst drought in decades. According to the state’s Rural Fire Service
, 100 active fires are still burning across the state, of which 54 are not yet contained. A total fire ban remains in place statewide until midnight on Saturday.
“More country has been burned, more homes lost, three times more homes lost than our worst previous fire season in history and the fires are still burning,” said Greg Mullins, former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner, on Tuesday.
“The driving force behind this is climate change,” he added. “In our decades of service, we’ve seen Australia become drier, hotter and extreme weather conditions far more severe.”
The drought and the fires are the most urgent symptoms of Australia’s climate crisis
. Disasters like the fires and floods have devastated the livelihoods of farmers and wrought millions of dollars’ worth of damage. As the heat and drought ramp up, water may be running out
— the city of Sydney, home to more than 5 million people, could see its dams run dry by 2022.
The greater Sydney area is now under level 2 water restrictions,
which limit the outdoor use of drinking water. It is the first time the restrictions have been implemented since 2003, during a drought that lasted until 2009.