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January 15, 2014
Heat Wave Stifles Australia

Dark red dominates this NASA Terra satellite image, indicating temperatures that were significantly higher than average between Dec. 27, 2013, and Jan. 3, 2014, especially in Queensland and New South Wales.

2013 was Australia’s hottest year ever, and the heat continued into the new year, with nearly 9 percent of the country’s cities and towns citing record temperatures between Jan. 1-4, 2014.

The heat baked the Earth’s surface, raising the land surface temperatures (LSTs) monitored by NASA’s Terra satellite. LSTs reflect how warm the ground would be to the touch, a measurement related to but not the same as air temperatures.

Jan. 3, the final day of temperatures included in the range reflected by the accompanying Terra image, was the hottest day of the heat wave for most places, with about 10 percent of Queensland and 15 percent of New South Wales setting new heat records. The highest air temperature during the week was in Moomba, Queensland, which reached 49.3° Celsius (120.7° Fahrenheit) on Jan. 2. Temperatures reached 48°C (118°F) or higher at 12 locations throughout Australia during the heat wave.

Australia wasn’t the only Southern Hemisphere country dealing with unusually intense temperatures. Late December brought a two-week heat wave to Argentina that led to power outages and water shortages. In the Northern Hemisphere, Europe and Asia enjoyed a stretch of warm winter temperatures, while North America went through a severe cold snap.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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