Hottest ever day in Australia — especially if you ignore history

Tuesday was Australia’s hottest day on record sayth the Bureau of Meteorology.

And perhaps it was. But look at the temperatures reported in newspapers across the country during the month of January in 1896 when people were going mad with axes, dropping dead in coaches and railway stations and birds were falling lifeless from the trees? Emergency trains were ferrying people from the country to the mountains. Panic stricken people fled the outback on special trains and the death toll was in the hundreds.

Fifty years later scientists would publish papers talking about how Australian summers had cooled since then.

How does the BOM know for sure that it was not hotter on any one of these days?  Perhaps they don’t. Wouldn’t it be more honest of the BOM to mention that? It’s not like billions of dollars depends upon it…

Seems the only time the ABC or BOM suddenly discover our historic weather records is when we get unseasonal snow or freezing cold.

The heatwave started in the West on Jan 1st and travelled eastwards, as most heatwaves do. The hottest day was possibly Jan 23 or 24 in 1896 which is when most of the Eastern States maximum temperatures shown above were recorded. And there are hints that this was both widespread and long — some of these towns recorded three long weeks of ultra high temperatures close to and over 110F (43.3C) like Nannine in WA (near Meekatharra) and Cunnamulla in Qld. Both reported peaks as high as 120F (48.8C). In Bourke temperatures were above 102F (38.9C) for 24 days in a row.

The BOM will say things were not entirely standardized or approved back then. But why would they care? Many of the BOM’s current sites fail their own standards:  thermometers may sit for 30 years over bitumen, or right next to incinerators. They plough around sites, move them, build walls next to them and forget, even next to their own offices. The BOM accept one-second records from new electronic gizmo’s in small screens, and adjust old temperatures down by as much as two whole degrees. Sometimes modern BOM sites need mysterious calendar monthly corrections, or get corrected by thermometers across the Bass Strait, and sometimes they are incredibly detailed but repeat robotically year after year. Remember those temperature maps of our deserts in WWI? There are sites where there are no thermometers which record exactly the same temperatures as they did the year before (and the year after). Just “made up”? The hottest day ever recorded was probably calculated with maps like that.

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