Last month was not just the hottest January on record for Australia – it was also the hottest for any month, smashing peaks that had stood since January 1932.
Figures out this afternoon from the Bureau of Meteorology show Australia’s average daily maximum for January came in at a sizzling 36.92 degrees, 2.28 degrees above the long-term norm and 0.11 degrees more than the previous record.
The mean of daily maximums and minimums came in at 29.68 degrees, 1.77 degrees above normal and 0.27 degrees more than the previous high, also set in January 81 years ago.
There was also little relief from the daily heat, with the average minimum coming in at 20.43 degrees, 1.26 degrees above the norm, and the third highest on record for that measure.
January's records add to a lengthening stretch of exceptional warmth for Australia. The September-January period, for instance, is also the hottest on record. Many regions, such as Victoria, have also turned dry during these months, adding to the fire dangers with summer far from over.
Much of Australia broiled in the first half of January, with eight days of national average maximums above 39 degrees – seven of them in a row, easily beating previous measures for heatwave duration.
All states and territories reported above-average temperatures for the month. The Northern Territory recorded 31.93 degrees and Queensland 30.75 degrees, also the hottest mean temperature on record for January for both regions.
The national average maximum temperature of 40.33 degrees on 7 January was the highest on record, the bureau said.
“Numerous stations set records for the most days in succession above 40 degrees, including Alice Springs (17 days) and Birdsville (31 days),” the bureau said.
“A large number of stations set all-time record high temperatures during the January heatwave, including Sydney (45.8 degrees on 18 January) and Hobart (41.8 degrees on 4 January).
Moomba in South Australia registered the highest temperature recorded during the heatwave of 49.6 degrees on 12 January.
The heat was complemented by extreme rainfall and flooding over coastal areas of Queensland and New South Wales as remnants of ex-tropical cyclone Oswald tracked south. Many of the affected communities are still coping with high river flows and inundation.
Upper Springbrook in the Gold Coast hinterland received 1496 millimetres of rain in eight days, and Boolaroo Tops, south-west of Gladstone, copped 1426 millimetres, the bureau said.
“Gladstone received 820 millimetres of rainfall in four days, which exceeded its previous record for a whole month, and more than the annual rainfall recorded in 2011 or 2012,” the bureau said.
“Area-averaged rainfall for the Burnett catchment on 27 January was 204 millimetres, exceeding the previous record by more than 80 millimetres. One-day catchment rainfall records were also set for the Mary, Logan-Albert, Kolan and Burrum catchments.”