Canberra's 2012 might have been the coldest since 1996, but things are already heating up for the capital's centenary year as temperatures look to climb close to 40 degrees this weekend.
If the ACT reaches the forecast top of 39 degrees on Saturday it will be the hottest day in three years. If it reaches 40 degrees, it will be the first time Canberra's mercury has risen that high since February 2009.
The summer warmth is part of a heatwave rolling across parts of the inland to an extent not seen in decades. A major swath of central Australia stretching from Oodnadatta to Coober Pedy and Birdsville is preparing for maximum temperatures of 45 degrees or hotter to last for at least a week.
Some backyard summer fun in Isabella Plains. Photo: Aniruddha (Rudy) Kalele
Canberra will be spared the full force of the blazing heat, with maximums slightly tempered by very light easterly breezes keeping the hot air from the north west at bay, according to Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Magda Galos-Lorenc.
“Definitely it will be hot. The temperature for the whole week will be above average,” Ms Galos-Lorenc said.
“We will have easterly onshore flow, which will bring cooler temperature from the ocean, and also a little bit more cloud.”
Summer Photo Comp
Some of the entries for the 2012-13 Canberra Times Summer Photo Competition. Send contact details and JPEGs to email@example.com. Photo: Pat Gallagher
Ms Galos-Lorenc said it was these breezes that quickly cooled the capital Wednesday evening, sending the temperature down to a below-average minimum of 12 degrees overnight.
“It's quite common for Canberra to get this easterly wind change. We call it the easterly surge … the temperatures drop significantly and quite quickly.”
But Ms Galos-Lorenc said the same cooling breeze wouldn't be felt as drastically Friday evening, with the warmth of a 37-degree day expected to linger into the night.
After forecast tops of 37 and 39 degrees over the next two days, a weak change will bring some minor relief to the capital.
The sizzling start to 2013 comes after a 2012 that swung quickly from wetter to drier-than-average conditions across the country.
The Bureau of Meteorology said 2012's close-to-average rainfall and temperatures concealed “a year of contrasts” – the year began cooler and wetter than average, before a hot, dry finish.
Canberra's 2012 was the first cooler-than-average year since 1996, with the capital shivering through its coldest nights since 1972.
There were 88 nights in 2012 where the temperature bottomed out at 0 degrees or colder, 28 nights more than average.
It was the driest December since 2006 in Canberra, with just 37 millimetres recorded at the airport, about 17 millimetres below average. And despite above-average maximum temperatures, Canberra also had its coldest December night ever, when the mercury dropped to 0.6 degrees on December 6, and the coldest Christmas day in more than 30 years.