Australia records first 123.26°F day since 1960

60 Minutes archive: A Continent on Fire

Australia recorded one of its hottest days on record, with a coastal town reaching a temperature the nation had not seen since 1960. Onslow was 50.7 degrees Celsius (123.26 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, a temperature that was last recorded in South Australia’s outback in on January 2, 1960, according to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology.

Since Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, its summer is opposite the Northern Hemisphere’s. Summer is from December 1 and ends February 28, which is why Australia is experiencing hot temperatures now.

Still, more than 123 degrees Fahrenheit is extremely hot. For comparison, the day before, the highest temperature recorded in the country was 46.5 degrees Celsius, nearly 116 degrees Fahrenheit, in Western Australia. 

So, the jump to 50.7 degrees Celsius is rare, and the country has only reached the 50s a few times, the bureau’s daily extreme records show. 

The the maximum temperature for the seven-day forecast in Onslow this week was expected to be 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) according to bureau’s forecast for the area. 

The agency has also instated fire warnings for parts of Western Australia. Last month, a large bushfire near the region’s Margaret River destroyed more than 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) of land, forcing evacuations, according to BBC News. 

People in the region should take “extra care to stay indoors with air conditioning, or if they have to be outdoors, to stay in the shade and keep up with fluids,” the meteorology bureau’s Luke Huntington told BBC News. He said the lack of thunderstorms in the region have caused a build up of hot air.

Temperatures are expected to rise slightly on Friday, but will cool down, BBC weather forecaster Chris Fawkes. CBS News has reached out to the meteorology bureau for more information and is awaiting response. 

Heat waves are also occurring more often in the U.S., a symptom of climate change, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Heatwave frequency has steadily increased, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s.

Climate change has also caused Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.14 degree Fahrenheit per decade since 1880, and 2020 was the second-warmest year on record according to NOAA. The 2020 surface temperature was 1.76 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than the 20th-century average of 57 degrees.

Caitlin O’Kane

Caitlin O’Kane is a digital content producer covering trending stories for CBS News and its good news brand, The Uplift.

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